Saturday, January 07, 2012

2011 album collection part 2

Lola Albright, Dreamsville (1959). The name on the jacket is Lola Albright, but the photo is Edie Hart, P.I. Peter Gunn's regular love interest & singer at Mother's, the intimate waterfront club visited by Gunn in nearly every episode. Over on the right, peering at Edie, is Mother herself, played in the first season by Hope Emerson & the second by Minerva Urecal (they looked remarkably similar). This was one sophisticated TV show. At 30 minutes, the plots weren't much; the show was mainly noir atmosphere & attitude. With a band  directed by Henry Mancini (his touch is all over it), & featuring six numbers adapted from the P.G. score (placed together up front on my playlist), Dreamsville  is as much an Edie Hart album as a Lola Albright album, & is one of the five albums fans of the Peter Gunn music must have.* I hadn't even known it existed. It doesn't show up on Mancini discographies, & never occurred to me to search Lola Albright, who clearly was doing her own singing on the show.

Albright/Hart had a pleasant, relaxed voice & sang in the non-ornamented, cool style favored by fifties hipsters. Most people probably think of Julie London, but Jeri Southern & Chet Baker excelled at it. Albright was very good actress & a modestly talented singer portraying a modestly talented singer, one who never over-reached, respected the music, & had a fine relationship with the house band. She received an Emmy nomination.

Henry Mancini, Summer Love (1958).One of the last scores Mancini did as a staff composer at Universal Studios. There, credited & uncredited, he arranged or composed for big band biopics, monster flicks,  silly precursors to '60s beach party movies, & a classic Orson Welles film.  Unlike many other film composers, Hank didn't feel demeaned when called upon to supply something approximating  rock & roll. He used it as an opportunity to have some fun, brought in a honking sax player (usually Plas Johnson), & recorded some instrumental R&B (Here credited to Jimmy Daley and the Ding-a-lings).  The music is bemused with itself, but it doesn't smirk.    Hank also slipped in a couple of nice band numbers pointing toward the music for Peter Gunn & Mr. Lucky that made him rich & famous.  (The "Peter Gunn Theme" itself is an ingenuous composition somewhere between jazz & rock &  roll that became probably the most well-known rock instrumental after "Rumble.") Mancini never knocked his time  at Universal (he received his first Oscar nomination there), considered it an invaluable apprenticeship, & even retrieved some of the monster movie music later on for concert suites. Get past the harmless title song  & you'll be rewarded with entertaining early Mancini compositions,  with the playful little  twists & tricks that became his signature ways  of juicing up a  12 bar blues. Bonus at the end is an early Rod McKuen song composed for Summer Love,  "Calypso Rock,' in which Rod implies the calypso comes not from Trinidad, but  from Cuba.

* Henry Mancini:  Music from Peter Gunn & More Music from Peter Gunn. Shelly Manne and His Men Play Peter Gunn and Shelly Manne and his Men: Son of Gunn! Lola Albright: Dreamsville.

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