Recent reviews of Crystal Stream Audio CDs
Memory Lane, England
"Your Return Ticket to Musical Nostalgia"
AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA - Decca Recordings, Volume Two IDCD274
It is good to get Volume Two so swiftly after Volume One with the recordings this time dating from 1935 to 1937. I doubt that many readers will be unaware of just what a superb band Ambrose could put together at this time for recordings and broadcasts. Even mundane compositions became class items once Ambrose, his arrangers, musicians and vocalists got hold of them - although I did not spot anything mundane on the play list of this CD. Jack Cooper takes the bulk of the vocal choruses but once Sam Browne had settled his differences with Ambrose he took over from the October 1936 recording sessions. Meanwhile, the effervescent Evelyn Dall was proving a big hit as Elsie Carlisle’s replacement - especially in live shows. But her personality also shines through in many recordings as can be heard on I’m All In and Swing Is In The Air on this CD. Jack Cooper never puts a foot wrong and is heard to good effect in My Red Letter Day with Danny Polo tootling away on the clarinet in support. Sam, the ultimate professional makes the relative unknown Until Today his own. Ian Dodds' remastering makes listening a special pleasure. - Gordon Howsden
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra Recordings from 1927 to 1935 IDCD278/9
...is a superb collection of recordings consisting in all of 51 tracks over two CDs. about half of which are Ellington compositions. Whilst there have been many CDs featuring Duke Ellington there will be very few that better this selection as an introduction to what became one of the most influential orchestras in the history of popular music. Track one is Creole Love Call which has some extraordinary vocal gymnastics from Adelaide Hall with Bubber Miley also prominent on trumpet. It sets a standard that rarely wavers. One of my favourites, The Mooche, is included as are Cotton Club Stomp. Saratoga Swing and Rockin' In Rhythm. There is an excellent solo from Barney Bigard on the tune he co-wrote. Mood Indigo, and although he did not take too many solos the Duke’s piano sparkles on That Lindy Hop. The second CD provides more of the same including the classic It Don't Mean A Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing), a gorgeous version of Drop Me Off at Harlem, a lovely relaxed vocal from Ivie Anderson on Ebony Rhapsody and even Bing Crosby taking the chorus on St Louis Blues. The Duke’s key soloists Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney and Cootie Williams, in addition to those already mentioned, are regularly featured throughout. It all adds up to a sumptuous feast of first class music. - Gordon Howsden
The Dorsey Brothers and Their Orchestra, Recordings from 1928 to 1934 1DCD277
Crystal Stream have put together 25 excellent tracks that start appropriately with their earliest hit Coquette. Whilst there are many gems among the other numbers I was particularly excited to find no less than five original compositions by Jimmy Dorsey included. Listening to Beebe and Oodles of Noodles it is easy to understand why his virtuoso playing inspired such greats as Charlie Parker. Tommy’s lyrical trombone is heard less often hut needless to say he is on top form with a 1932 recording of I'm Getting 5entinienta Over You. Various eminent vocalists were employed at this time including Smith Ballew, Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey. An almost exact contemporary of the Dorsey Brothers was trombonist Russ Morgan and remarkably he came from a similar coal mining background.
Russ Morgan and His Orchestra Volume Two ‘Does Your Heart Beat for Me’ IDCD28O
...is a selection of 25 recordings, a few of which are transcriptions, that Russ made between 1936 and 1937. The title track which he co-wrote had become his theme tune during a very successful residency at the New York Biltmore Hotel. His band, whilst always musical, was not over helped by Russ’s occasional ‘wah-wah’ interjections on trombone. Russ also liked to sing and the vocals included here show that whilst his voice was not the greatest he did have a good feel for the music. His girl vocalist Linda Lee is not someone I recall hearing before, but impresses on I Can't Escape From You and the other tracks on which she is featured. Another new name to me, Lewis Julian, is equally assured on the Dubin/Warren ballad I'll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs. Crystal Stream’s sound quality is among the best available as emphasized by these two CDs. - Gordon Howsden
Hildegarde - Recordings from 1935 to 1946 IDCD246
This is a fascinating and very welcome CD. Hildegarde, the American cabaret star, was very popular in the UK during the 1930s and made several recordings in England. The first track is a delightful version of her signature tune ably supported by Carroll Gibbons & His Boyfriends. But I was especially pleased that two tracks feature her singing with an orchestra directed by Clive Richardson, who was her accompanist and musical director for much of her stay in Europe. Possibly some of the unknown accompaniments were also directed by him. It is always good to hear Hildegarde’s piano work and two good examples appear on tracks 8 and 9. Another absolute gem is the series of eight tracks (16-21) That are from the Cole Porter show Lets Face it. Finally, a wonderful curiosity in the two Rodgers & Hammerstein numbers backed by Guy Lombardo. The transfers as ever are superb. - Gordon Howsden
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra - Recordings from 1930 to 1935 IDCD248
Their music, mostly inspired by the compositions and arrangements of Gene Gifford, was far ahead of most white bands of the early thirties. Many of Gifford’s originals are included here including two different takes of Casa Loma Stomp and Wild Goose Chase. The much recorded White Jazz and Blue Jazz are also included in their original versions. At this period the band’s output was mostly instrumental but when needed trombonist Pee Wee Hunt and saxophonist Kenny Sargent handled the lyrics with some style. The latter’s version of Two Cigarettes In The Dark shows why he often featured highly in vocalist polls of the l930s.
By contrast, I had previously heard hardly anything from The Meyer Davis Orchestra, Recordings from 1925 to 1933 IDCD245. Davis rarely fronted his bands, being primarily a ‘fixer’, much as Marius Winter was in the UK, with sometimes dozens of bands operating simultaneously. In his liner notes Ian Dodds suggests that for his recordings Davis used “some of the best instrumentalists in New York at the time”. The quality of the band on the evidence of this CD is not in doubt, with many of the popular tunes of the day played in the staccato ‘hot-style’ of the mid to late 1920s. The five tracks from 1933 reflect the more melodic style that had then become popular, of which Thanks and The Day You Came Along are good examples. Vocals on these are by Lou Conrad, with top session singers Smith Ballew, Scrappy Lambert and Dick Robertson also featuring on other numbers.
Henry King and His Orchestra Volume Two - “For All We Know” 1DCD247
26 recordings from 1934 to 1936. An accomplished pianist, King played the kind of sweet music that endeared him to American ‘society’ in the 1930s and 40s. Although there were no brass instruments in King’s orchestra the quality of his own playing plus an excellent rhythm section ensured that the music did not get too syrupy. His main vocalist at this time was violinist Joe Sudy whose light baritone complemented the band admirably. Among the livelier numbers are Dancing With My Shadow and Footloose And Fancy Free, and although Henry’s piano is prominent throughout a good example of his fine playing can be heard on Chasing Shadows. As with all these CDs we get excellent sound quality, tracks thoughtfully in chronological order and at least 78 minutes playing time. - Gordon Howsden
Leo Reisman - Volume Three “Sing Something Simple” IDCD22I
"This third volume of Reisman’s work from Crystal Stream is very much akin to a sweet smelling potpourri. Reisman never moved beyond the concert cum sweet music style that delighted his patrons for many years at the Waldorf Astoria. That accepted, the mixture on this CD of recordings made from 1930 to 1934 include five vocals from Fred Astaire, three from Harold Arlen,. two of which being his own compositions, and even one from the bandleader himself. The well respected Lee Wiley also sings on a single track whilst the always professional Frank Luther puts his mark on six, including the Dietz/Schwartz hit A Shine on Your Shoes. The generous helping of 26 tracks is rounded off with two popular light music classics, Vilia and Merry Widow Waltz" - Gordon Howsden
Jo Stafford “Smoke Dreams” 1DCD222
"Jo graduated from the Stafford Sisters to the Pied Pipers before enjoying a stellar solo career. Ian Dodds has managed to track down Jo’s first recording with her siblings, which was on the aptly titled Lets Get Together and Sing, a 1936 Louis Prima release. Naturally we get some of Jo's recordings with the Pied Pipers and Tommy Dorsey, and the latter was also astute enough to feature Jo as a solo artiste. They combine perfectly on You Took My Love and by the end I was purring with delight. With husband Paul Weston she recorded a string of hit records and although there are some hugely popular numbers included it is her recordings of the neglected classics that I enjoyed the most. Jo had a great sense of humour (those familiar with the Jonathon and Darlene Edwards records will know this) and the last of the 25 tracks is the comedy number, I’m My Own Grandmaw. Great sound quality and an altogether delightful CD" - Gordon Howsden