Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Classics For Now

Last time, I showed you what happens when classical music gets tangled up in rock 'n' roll. This time, the classics have a tryst with the "Now" sound.

The front cover's pretty much the same, minus the track listing.

What we have here, according to the liners, is music "utilizing modern instrumentation, tone colors, and the kind of rhythmic support to which our ears have become widely accustomed." Basically, it's classical rearranged for the modern ear. It's noted that "only rigid purists are likely to find anything but enjoyment, and a measure of discovery, in listening" to these pieces.

Speaking of discovery, the liners also reveal that many classical composers did the same thing Walter Raim did here: they rearranged and rewrote their own pieces according to purpose and the availability of musicians. In this case, Raim rewrote these pieces for the 65-piece 21st Century Orchestra commissioned for this album.

Divshare's been down for a few days, but when it comes back up, I'll have a couple tracks for you. I think you'll like them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Earliest in "Classic" Rock

What have they done to my song, ma? And don't get me started on the price tag stuck on this cover!
Now for a 180 of sorts from the last post. Here's that rock 'n' roll feel of the 1950s...applied to music from the 1750s. Or thereabouts.

101 Strings' Back Beat Symphony was famous for trying to meld the rock 'n' roll sound to classical music. This album, J. Gaines's Rockin' The Classics Suite, was not quite as famous for doing the same thing, but it does have a more interesting backstory.

Rockin' The Classics Suite was on Golden Crest Records, a Long Island label known mainly for its classical releases. But one major exception to that was a high-school-age group that Golden Crest's owner discovered on a trip to Washington state. The group was The Fabulous Wailers, and their hit Tall Cool One made rock 'n' roll history after the group drove cross-country to record it. If not for The Kingsmen, many say The Fabulous Wailers probably would have been the ones that made Louie Louie a hit.

The pieces here on Rockin' The Classic Suite were hits a couple hundred years before The Wailers. In fact, this album was released a couple years before The Wailers got their first national exposure. This 1957 Billboard blurb calls the album "very amusing," and if you're into stylistic mashups like this, it is. The liner notes (written by "Punk Cadenza") play the rock bit to the hilt. The last paragraph: "The guys on this date are some of the greatest. They really are. On one of the playbacks one of 'em thought he heard a funny whirring noise comin' outa the speaker. At first they couldn't figure out where it was comin' from - then one of them pinned it down. He said it must be the noise of these composers rockin' in their graves!"

J. Gaines gets the credit for this album, but the supporting players are lost to history since they went under names like Serge Sputnik and Mose Ligature.

As for Golden Crest, they're still around. Music historian and author John Broven married the founder's daughter and has great info on his site. Much of Golden Crest's back catalog is still available, but this album doesn't seem to be part of it.

Here's Liebestraum:

You might recognize this one from Allan Sherman's Hello Muddah: