Saturday, December 27, 2008

Les Baxter

Les Baxter was one of those guys who was a conductor and arranger, and whose name showed up on other people’s records. But he made his own records also, in fact he made a few dozen albums of “exotica,” but the songs he put on the radio were straight MOR.

This was a best-of collection that I picked up on pre-recorded cassette, and I think it may only have been released in that format.

Les Baxter:

Tango Of The Drums – This is a tango, and it has drums. So I guess it’s aptly named. It was a kind of hit in the spring of 1956.
Because Of You – Features the chorus. This was a hit for Tony Bennett
Ruby – Features a harmonica solo with a lot of vibrato. Cool. We have this by Ray Charles also. This is from 1953
Blue Tango – This would be great to dance to, if you were in a 50s movie…
The High And The Mighty
The Poor People Of Paris – This was originally Pauvre Jean, which means poor John, but it got misrendered as pauvres gens (same pronunciation), which means poor people, and I guess to emphasise the French origin it became The Poor People Of Paris. It spent 6 weeks at number one in the late winter and spring of 1956.
Wake The Town And Tell The People – Another big one, from the summer of 1955. Ah, young love….
April In Portugal – Another tango…
Unchained Melody – This is the original hit version of the song; Baxter got it out ahead of everyone else. “Unchain me” sings the female chorus as Baxter sets up the beautiful melody, then the male chorus kicks in while the orchestra scales down to a bit of percussion, strummed guitar, then muted strings, then the women’s chorus with the full orchestration as the song draws to a close, much too soon. The song reached # 1 in the spring of ’55. Version No. 2. And oh how I would love to dance. Any volunteers?

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