The Golden Age of Light Music series from the Guild label in Switzerland (of all places) resurrects a tradition that 50 years ago was ubiquitous but now has disappeared from almost everywhere except junk shops. Such traditions are often ripe for revival, and Amor Amor: Music for Romance offers a good case that this one is, too. Many of the musicians on display here were runaway successes in their own time (the 1950s, give or take a few years). Britain's Frank Chacksfield Orchestra made some 150 LPs, and Canadian-born American bandleader Percy Faith held his own on pop charts with light music; for U.S. and Canadian listeners many of the recordings here would fall under the label of easy listening. However they are classified, they have various traits in common. All are short, mostly the length of a single 45 rpm or 78 rpm record. All are instrumental. Most use popular rhythms in very fixed, almost mechanical ways. And all follow certain conventions in the arrangements used -- orchestral strings are highlighted in a lush sound with winds and brasses used to create layers of sound and accents coming from such instruments as a harp. Within these conventions, though, are details that are hard to resist once one puts aside the traditional preconceptions that come from classical music's doomed quest for a sphere unto itself or from rock music's doomed quest for authenticity. The bandleaders and composers get the billing, but the arrangers were the unsung stars. Sample Vision of Delia (track 23) by the Melachrino Strings and notice how the piano's role is expanded beyond simply the provision of the beat; it washes over the music in big Chopin-esque chords, sometimes trading off with a harp. Melachrino, who was British, is one of several names who will be familiar to listeners in the Western hemisphere; others are Faith, Chacksfield, Robert Farnon, Hugo Winterhalter, and perhaps a few others. But one of the major insights to be found in Guild's series is the international nature of this repertoire. The romantic theme of the music here makes this a good place to start with the series -- or just a good disc to put on the stereo for an in-home date. The techniques used to give these 1950s recordings a special string sheen don't result in particularly pleasant digital sound, but the problem is a difficult one to solve.
The Golden Age of Light Music: Amor Amor - Music for Romance Review
by James Manheim