I don’t have any serious designs on things to accomplish today aside from maybe coaxing HRH out on her bike later on. So far, all I’ve accomplished this morning was to prepare and crush a homemade Ironman breakfast and enjoy a very exciting Stage 9 of the Tour de France with Toby the “Morning Crack Cat” (albeit a very sleepy and lethargic Toby the “Morning Crack Cat”).
However, now that the beautiful morning bacon and bikes breakfast is over, I’m going to top of the morning now by revitalizing Round #3 of my “Core Project” (Day 1) to this ‘From Another World’ album as arranged and conducted by Sid Bass.
This is one of my own purchases from The Bop Shop in Rochester a few weekends ago …
Okay, May …
I’ve been doing stuff.
Anyway, this is a true cheese jazz classic from 1956 released on the Vik label. It is an attempt of orchestra leader and songwriter Sid Bass (1913–1993) to come up with a vivacious Space-Age album that both enchants and alienates the listener enough to make him or her feel uneasy and well-loved at the same time.
The surroundings work to the album’s advantage indeed. The 12 interpretations of well-known compositions here are all tied together by a common theme: weather phenomenons, moon-related serenades and otherworldly encounters, most likely with bewitching women. While ‘From Another World’ doesn’t feature one single original tune, Sid Bass is able to color the gold standards in his own particular way.
The large orchestra not only features the standard collection of strings, horns and woodwinds, there is also a healthy amount of various mallet instruments and bells on board. They make for varied sceneries of romance, nights out in the bustling city and pipe dreams. All of these encounters, alas, are earthbound. The tone sequences and harmonies aren’t overly weird once the textures of a tune are firmly in place. However, there is an interesting tendency that makes the album worth the Space-Age fan’s while: the prefix and ending of each composition feature very interesting conflations of acoustics, surface-altering effects and mysticism. They frame the symphonic and big band-oriented songs most of the time, though there are genuinely prolonged whole trips of excitement included as well, making ‘From Another World’ an accessible, euphonious artifact of the genre. A closer inspection is thus deserved.
And off we go with the title track that is already inspirational enough to keep the album spinning. ‘From Another World’ is originally penned by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, transmogrified here into an eerie nullspace of neon helixes … at first. The prelude is indeed delightfully spacy and eldritch, comprising of whirling strings of suspension, echoey cymbals and glistening crystals. After 35 seconds, this exciting reticulation is already over and leads to a more streamlined interpretation of the source material. The brass layers, harps and flutes are mellifluous, the swinging rhythm romantic, and only the occasional warped string cascade and scything brass propulsion bring back the galactic notion here and there. E.Y. “Yip” Harburg’s and Burton Lane’s ‘Old Devil Moon’ is even more streamlined. After a pulsating aureole of sub-zero frost, a perfectly earthbound guitar-centric cannelure opens up and lets the good old Friday night show tune atmosphere outshine all cosmic catenae. The xylophone and flute blotches are still offering a good punctilio in this setting.
Afterwards, a stellar two-part medley comes into play, comprising of two compositions by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler: ‘Stormy Weather’ is actually a delightful Space-Age escapade supercharged with clandestine turbulences, aureate brass protuberances, heavily reverberated timpani tentacles and oneiric-surreal flute-based mirages of the Orient, whereas ‘Ill Wind’ seamlessly connects to the tempestuous theme, although Sid decidedly focuses on the mellower, more languorous string cascades, therefore making this a rather horticultural, nondestructive appendix which eventually leads to Nancy Hamilton’s and Morgan Lewis’ ‘How High The Moon’: a weird-uneasy mélange of vibes and echoey trombones leads to a bustling fast-paced tunnel vision of gorgeously piercing brass volcanoes, euphonious leeways and squally strings. Bass’ interpretation here is mercilessly effervescent and upbeat, there’s no time for contemplation.
Maybe there is time for contemplation after all, as it takes time to flip the vinyl and allow Side B to enchant. But once it is spinning, a flurry of activity ensues again. Walter Donaldson’s and George Whiting’s ‘My Blue Heaven’ only fakes the quasi-cajoling dark matter susurration of purple strings, as this mellow serration eventually leads to a surprisingly jazzy situation with a lead trumpet amidst cavalcades of brass layers and silver hi-hats. The shift away from the strings is a nice touch, but it’s no trend at all, as Brooks Bowman’s ‘East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)’ greets the listener with an inter-mixture of strings and horns whose vanillarific entanglement is delightfully altered by echoey bursts within tawny glockenspiels and even benthic orchestra bells. It is a great arrangement, even leaving enough time for another cellar-like “circumambience”.
While Hoagy Carmichael’s and Mitchell Parish’s ‘Stardust’ is a Space-Age fan’s dream due to the plinking vibes, glasses and diaphanous diorama overall, Eugene Lockhart’s and Ernest Seitz’s ‘The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise’ returns to orchestra bell-backed tachycardia rhythms full of trombones and trumpets, also making sure that the song fades out in a dazzling, enigmatic string-infused manner. Vernon Duke’s and John Latouche’s’ Cabin In The Sky’ offers a standardized lilac waltz with trumpet protrusions in a particularly cosmic prelude and appendix, with W. Frank Harling’s, Leo Robin’s and Richard A. Whiting’s ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’ rounding the album off with buzzing strings which lead to an incandescently swinging brass serenade with glossy vibes and reduced string retrojections.
Shit, there’s even time for a Haitian fife which adds a vestibule to – the back then uncoined genre – Exotica, and not a minute too soon.
This album is both a gimmicky and a successful Space-Age record, reciprocating between the needs of big band aficionados and fans of cosmic music, the latter of which is still in its infancy stages back in 1956. The primary arrangement trick faces the danger of growing stale after a while: the first few seconds and the final afterglow of each composition usually contain a variety of alienating sequences comprising echoes, prongs, weird harmonies, you name it. The effect is well-intended and its ambiance cajoling to the ears, but these instances only serve as frames for the normalized compositions.
The material itself, however, is flawless and perfectly suited for a Space-Age album, as all the denotations of moons, skies and weather effects gracefully show …
… as for my core.
Well, that’s another story altogether but, “graceful show”?
Yeah, not so much.
Hey, at least I’m back officially back on the mat one week post-Ironman.
That’s definitely worth compliment.
As it is, I’ve had my seven days worth of rest and recovery time and downed more than my fair share of guilty pleasure calories so now, it’s time to officially get things back under control a bit beginning with these planks, crunches, etc…
… and, yes, more early(ish) morning records and core workouts, hopefully.
Toby will be pleased I’m sure.