Various Artists

The Golden Age of Light Music: The Hall of Fame, Vol. 3

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The Guild label, based in Switzerland, has performed an enormous service with its Golden Age of Light Music albums. This large and expanding series covers the genre known as easy listening in the U.S., and it includes recordings by British, American, and sometimes Continental orchestras. It's not at all clear what makes this (and the other two discs so titled) a set of "Hall of Fame" selections, as the title proclaims; the booklet notes (in English only) give the contradictory explanations that "recognition should already have been given for outstanding achievement" but that "if only the most famous melodies and orchestras are considered worthy for a CD such as this, the result would probably be a rehash of what may have been done many times before." At any rate, those in search of a sampler from Guild's series will not find it here; they might do better with one of the Four Decades of Light Music albums, or perhaps the two Musical Kaleidoscope releases. The music here is actually more specifically focused than on most of the other albums in the series. Most of it dates from the late 1950s, a period when light music was entering a final, sometimes mannered efflorescence in advance of its temporary eclipse by rock styles. There are especially brilliant orchestrations from this period; hear the uniquely heavy string pizzicato rhythms in counterpoint with maracas, and the subtle entrance of the main theme, in the version of Ernesto Lecuona's Love and the World Loves with You by Richard Hayman & His Orchestra. There are also, especially in the American selections, examples of the syrupy sound that helped do the genre in. Unusually for Guild's series, this album includes a segment devoted to a single orchestra leader, George Melachrino, represented not only with his own Melachrino Orchestra but with the San Remo Festival Orchestra. These date from between 1947 and 1958 (from the latter year comes a fine version of the Warsaw Concerto). With the proviso that it's not the right place to start, fans of Guild's series will find enjoyable items here.

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