Top Five Albums in my Parents’ Record Collection

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

What makes people like music? More particularly, why does a person chose one genre over another? Or, within a single genre, why does someone prefer one song to another? I do not have definitive answers to these questions, but I do know that what I listen to today is greatly influenced by what I was exposed to growing up in my parents’ home. Like a salmon fry imprinted by the stream he was born into, I must return to it. My mom did not collect records but my dad did. He was a talented musician and his tastes embraced classical music (including opera), jazz, calypso and popular music—especially show tunes from Broadway musicals. Whether through nature or nurture I acquired a taste for all of the above, except opera. My main passion, however, ever since hearing (of all things) Eddie Hodges sing “I’m Going to Knock On Your Door” in 1961, was rock and roll, which my dad couldn’t stand to hear.

The selections below are taken from my dad’s collection, which my mom inherited when he passed away in 1971 and which I now have. The collection is surprisingly small, which is probably why I am so familiar with it. My dad was not averse to playing the same record over again (and again) in the same evening—all at high volume.

[You will notice a bit of a change in both form and substance with this week’s post. Please thank my friend Gordon who is guest blogging this week].

Next week: Top Five Acrimonious Breakups in Rock and Roll.

1. Michael Rabin: Paganini Concerto No. 1 in D major

Even though he passed away in 1972 when he was only 35, Michael Rabin is still considered to be one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. I treasure this recording, which was issued in 1960 on the Capital label, number SP 8534. When CDs became available I searched for a CD version of this record and was delighted to find a 6 CD compilation of much of Rabin’s recorded music, including his interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, which to my mind is the greatest piece of music ever written (of course, a completely subjective judgment). Rabin’s performance of Paganini is dazzling and on Tchaikovsky he surpasses himself. No one—and I have listened all of the greats-moves me as much as Rabin. He imprints his own unique signature on every piece he plays.

2. Shelly Manne & His Friends: modern jazz performances of songs from My Fair Lady

This mono recording, issued by Contemporary Records in 1956, is the first album ever made consisting entirely of jazz versions of tunes from a single Broadway musical. It falls into the West Coast sub-genre and became one of the best-selling jazz albums of its day. On piano is a young Andre Previn. He really sparkles. In later years Previn became associated with film music, racking up 4 Academy Awards and 11 Grammies. In this clip someone has added an intro by Julie Andrews which is not part of the recording. So skip ahead to 31 seconds. Very cooool.

3. Camelot: Original Broadway Cast Recording

I heard this album (released in 1960 on Columbia KOS 2031) so often that I almost know it note for note. Featuring Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, Camelot introduced the world to Robert Goulet. “If Ever I Would Leave You” became his signature tune.

4. Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody On a Theme From Paginini

The famous composer performs his own work on this album, which was issued in 1950 by RCA Victor Red Seal under number LCT 1118. I find the 18th variation especially moving. At a performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra earlier this year it brought tears to my eyes. For those of you who think that you’re not familiar with it just go to 5:30 in the clip and listen for 2 minutes or so. I expect you’ll recognize it.

5. Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra: Calypso Man

Edmundo Ros passed away last year just shy of his 101st birthday. In the 1940s and 1950s he was part of the huge calypso craze that swept across Europe and North America. Ros owned his own nightclub in London and often played at Buckingham Palace. “Calypso Man” was issued in 1957 as Decca LK 4202. The song “Magistrate Try Yourself” was one of my favourites as a little boy. The concept of a judge trying himself for speeding appealed to some part of my formative brain.

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