SPEAKERS CORNER


Five records arrived from the Speakers Corner in Germany. The package consist of LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith, Joe Turner: Big Joe Rides Again, Chamber Music From Marlboro, Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf and Carla Thomas: The Queen Alone. In the article you will find the info with links, and I will follow up with particular sonic virtues in due course.

Prokofiev: “Peter and the Wolf” / Saint-Saëns: “Carnival of the Animals” - Beatrice Lillie, Animals of the London Zoo and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Skitch Henderson


For those who enjoy a pun, Saint-Saëns’s "Carnival Of The Animals" and Prokofiev’s symphonic tale for children "Peter And The Wolf" might well be described as “beastly”. And this recording makes no exception for it is, indeed, quite spectacular! Both works are introduced by the roaring and screaming of the inhabitants of London Zoo. The individual orchestral instruments are introduced during the course of the music and are commented upon by a human voice in a narrative.

The characters and animals are each given a characteristic theme which is presented by a particular instrument or register. While Prokofiev wrote his composition with a pedagogic purpose in mind, Saint-Saëns’s main aim was to create a piece of musical fun. The mischievous work not only offers a lively depiction of various animals and even hollow-sounding fossils (by means of the xylophone), but also contains numerous tongue-in-cheek references to works by great composers.

These two musical masterpieces combine humour with education in a thoroughly fascinating and enchanting manner and are equally loved by children and adults alike. The interpretation and sound of this DECCA LP certainly earns first prize for being 'beastly'!

This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under http://www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.

Recording: February 1960 at Kingsway Hall, London by Kenneth E. Wilkinson / Production: John Culshaw



Among all the majestic eminences in the music business, Carla Thomas reigned unmistakably as 'The Queen of Memphis Soul' on the Stax label with its special characteristics. The clear, dry and natural essential sound of this studio recording imparts the down-to-earth flair of the southern town Memphis and its musical tradition. With wonderful contemplation, the Queen begins her performance with a tautly arranged but pleasantly round and melting version of Burt Bacharach’s "Any Day Now". The reflective opening clearly signals that the human voice is of major importance here, no matter whether a restrained pulsating soul number ("Stop Thief") or a metallically ticking groove ("I Take It To My Baby") is on the track list. Even an occasional dip into the violin paint-pot ("I Want To Be Your Baby") is not an end in itself but serves exclusively to refine the diaphanous, gentle voice of the principal singer. In addition there is lush, groovy polyphony with a call-and-response concept ("Somethings Good") and intoxicating gospel-like antiphony ("Lie To Keep Me From Crying"), all good for keeping the soul of Soul together.

This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under http://www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.

Recording: 1967 at Stax Studios, Memphis (TN)
Production: Jim Stewart

"Chamber Music From Marlboro" Johannes Brahms: "Liebeslieder-Walzer" op. 52 / Franz Schubert: "The Shepard On The Rock" D 965 - Rudolf Serkin (p, dir); Leon Fleisher (p); Harold Wright (cl); Benita Valente (soprano); a.o.


The waltz was perhaps the most important thing that the rather level-headed and conservative Johannes Brahms from Hamburg brought back with him from his sojourn in Vienna. In addition to his purely instrumental waltzes for the piano, he also composed the "Liebeslieder Waltzes" – uniquely folk like and highly original vocal joyfulness in ¾ time. The lyrics are taken from real life and tell of love, longing, desire, and suffering but also of anger and derision.

Just how ideally this music fits in with the workshop atmosphere of the Marlboro Summer Music Festival is fully evident here. The musicians gathered around Rudolf Serkin sing the very finest Brahms – joyous, inspired yet completely relaxed – and reflect light upon all aspects of earthly existence. An excellent choice to complement these emotions is Schubert’s penultimate composition "The Shepherd On The Rock" D 965. This great and far-too-seldom performed lied is based on three poems, which are performed impressively and with brilliant musicality by the soloist Benita Valente. And last but not least, the addition of the clarinet, which functions both as a soloist as well as imitating the voice, lends the work its particular charm.

This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under http://www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.

Recording: August 1960 at Marlboro School of Music, Vermont (USA), by Fred Plaut
Production: Howard H. Scott

"Big Joe Rides Again" - Big Joe Turner (voc); Coleman Hawkins (ts); Jerome Richardson (as); Ernie Royal, Jimmy Nottingham (tp); Lawrence Brown (tb); Jimmy Jones (p); Jim Hall (g); Doug Watkins (b); Charlie Persip (dr); a.o.


That the experts inducted 'Big Joe' Turner into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, i.e. during his lifetime, is surely in order when one considers how he expressed his attitude to life with his 12-bar stylistic freedom. That he was additionally honoured by being posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, however, makes one wonder whether the incorruptible experts had made a mistake. No matter what: this giant of a man with his big, gentle voice had certainly earned a place of honour in the era of swing as well.
Turner, who appeared on stage with Goodman, Ellington, Tatum and – in later years – with Gillespie and Eldridge, offers his listeners many facets of the blues. The opening number, "Switchin’ In The Kitchen", is a fairly fast boogie-woogie where the vocal swings freely with sharp blasts in the background. Other swinging numbers, in which jazz champions such as Coleman Hawkins and Ernie Royal perform solos, include several ballad-like evergreens ("Pennies From Heaven"), which Turner and his band elaborate to become an imposing aria ("Until The Real Thing Comes Along").

The grooves of this LP are distinguished by means of the open, unfiltered Atlantic sound. The saxophone solos in particular, complete with the clicking of the valves and blowing noise, give one the feeling that the soloist is performing in your living room.

This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under http://www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.

Recording: September 1959 by Len Frank, Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd
Production: Nesuhi Ertegun

"LaVern Baker Sings Bessie Smith" - LaVern Baker (voc); Paul Quinichette (ts); Jerome Richardson (bs); Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green (tb); Buck Clayton (tp); Nat Pierce (p); Danny Barker (g); Wendell Marshall (b); Joe Marshall (dr); a.o.


It was 1958 when a passably successful R&B singer entered the recording studio with an all-star band to tape a dozen songs from the global repertoire of a legendary blues vocalist. The old-fashioned style in LaVern Baker’s tribute to Bessie Smith might seem somewhat strange in the midst of popular R&B numbers and the growing productivity of the Motown hit machines, but it certainly found favour with the public. And for a very good reason too! Right from the very first number, "Gimme A Pigfoot", the snappy bass line conjures up the ballroom atmosphere of the Twenties. A bluesy dialogue with the trumpet ("Baby Doll", "I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle"), alternating with robustly orchestrated swing rhythms ("On Revival Day"), and time and again cool, faltering blues ("Black Water Blues") guarantee great listening and entertainment. The great names in the band read like a Who Is Who of outstanding musicians – Nat Pierce, Buck Clayton, Paul Quinichette, Urbie Green and Jimmy Cleveland, all who crown the fantastic sound of their performance with relaxed and easy-going solos and finely balanced background playing that would hardly be more authentic on a live stage. And by the way, fans of traditional big-band swing will love this album too. 

This Speakers Corner LP was remastered using pure analogue components only, from the master tapes through to the cutting head. More information under http://www.pure-analogue.com. All royalties and mechanical rights have been paid.

Recording: 1958 by Tom Dowd
Production: Nesuhi Ertegun