The Golden Age of Light Music: More Strings in Stereo!

Various Artists

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The Golden Age of Light Music: More Strings in Stereo! Review

by James Manheim

The Guild label has issued a large series of CDs covering the history of the music known as easy listening in North America and light music in the British Isles. The series is loosely but not exclusively chronological. This release is unusual in that the selections come almost exclusively from the year 1958. Thus the music is relatively late in the history of the genre, and the album, presumably (it is unclear how long the series will eventually last), is one of Guild's later releases. The interaction between the easy listening genre and stereo sound was a natural one, and some of the composers and bandleaders represented here, notably Morton Gould, clearly wrote with the new effects of stereo separation in mind. The music also bears traces of what would within a few years be called space-age bachelor pad music, with even the veteran Canadian leader Robert Farnon undertaking a fairly experimental sound in Stay with the Happy People/Violins from Nowhere (track 5). The genre generally became more North American as it went along, and the selections here are fine specimens of North American styles, somewhat less musically intricate than the British groups, but no less lush. The album features some almost unknown musicians in addition to stars of the genre, like Nelson Riddle and Canadian-American Percy Faith; Frank de Vol may be familiar to viewers of The Brady Bunch television series, but not much otherwise. Highlights of the program include the full-on exoticism of Les Baxter's original Harem Silks of Bombay (track 18) and the two tracks by perhaps the genre's sole female orchestra leader, Angela Morley. A high proportion of truly offbeat tracks may make this an odd place to start with Guild's series or easy listening music in general, but as usual much is worth hearing here. Guild's remastering of the top-notch original sound is impressive.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 03:00 SpotifyAmazon
2 03:05 SpotifyAmazon
3 03:13 SpotifyAmazon
4 02:27 SpotifyAmazon
5 03:44 SpotifyAmazon
6 03:24 SpotifyAmazon
7 02:57 SpotifyAmazon
8 03:05 SpotifyAmazon
9 03:03 SpotifyAmazon
High Noon
10 02:55
Windjammer
11 03:21
12 03:20
Around the World in Eighty Days
13 03:42
14 02:58 SpotifyAmazon
15 02:35 SpotifyAmazon
16 03:49 SpotifyAmazon
Work(s)
17 03:20 SpotifyAmazon
18 02:28 SpotifyAmazon
19 02:45 SpotifyAmazon
20 03:07 SpotifyAmazon
21 02:58 SpotifyAmazon
22 02:42 SpotifyAmazon
23 03:54 SpotifyAmazon
24 02:04 SpotifyAmazon
25 02:55 SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick