THE GOLD STANDARD: CHILDHOOD TREASURES RETURN
Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Sep 29 2012 by Greg
There was a time when legends like Danny Kaye, Alfred Hitchcock, Soupy Sales
and Shari Lewis
sang songs and shared stories on vinyl records. Often Mitch Miller
directed the orchestra. This was the decades-long era of Golden Records--and now it's returning on CD and download in the form of classic original recordings as well as new versions featuring with celebrities like Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, Alicia Silverstone
and many more.
Golden Records started as 6" yellow 78 RPM records some of us played with steel needles on acoustic kiddie players. Along came 45 RPM and LP records from the Golden label in New York under the supervision of Arthur Shimkin
, who would also lead the Columbia and Sesame Street
The original Golden Records themselves may have been small in size, but their influence in the industry was huge. The first records for Mickey Mouse Club Records, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers,
you name it, they recorded or were distributed by Golden.
By early '60s, the Golden sound became more mellow under the baton of Jim Timmens
. A light jazz style was the usual sound of late 60s/70s producer Ralph Stein
, while at the same time Producer Howard Scott
brought original musicals, folk songs and rich London-based styles to the label.
In the late 70s, Golden Records became Wonderland Records, having added titles from the Riverside Wonderland catalog and some classic Capitol albums into the fold. By the 80s, two-time Grammy winning composer/producer Dennis Scott
provided some of his earliest work before moving to Sesame Street
Then there was nothing.
The label fell into a morass of legal issues and virtually vanished. Several companies made valiant attempts to reissue the records but the issues persisted until Shout! Factory released a handful of successful albums and compilations a few years back.
Now Verse Music Group has stepped up to reboot Golden Records as a brand, as you can see on their website
or Facebook page
, and created a two-tiered series that satisfies those of us who love the classic recordings and introduces them to today's parents and kids in a fresh new way with current showbiz names.The first album in this "Celebrity Series"
offers the distinctive musical style many of us cherish, but remastered to crystal clarity, with the stories read by the above actors, plus songs sung by Didi Conn (Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, Shining Time Station).
Two albums of remastered and restored original Golden Records are being released in the "Timeless Series"
and are budget priced, along with Halloween
collections in the celebrity series. Even if you and your young children have never heard Golden Records, there nothing else that sounds like them. For the price alone, you'd be much better off sharing these songs with your kids in this manner than hearing thin, synth versions often on current budget kids' CDs.
This is a very ambitious project indeed, with many albums coming soon in both series. If you fondly remember the classic sound of these discs--which sold in the multi-millions in their day--hearing it remastered in such a spectacular way is like striking gold.
WHY THE ORIGINAL "DARK SHADOWS" IS STILL COOL
Posted on Jul 28 2012 by Greg
My daughter and I approached the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp
big screen version of TV's Dark Shadows
with some caution, not because we were worried about the comic aspects promised by the trailers (which turned out to be deceptive), but simply because it may not have been very good, since the buzz was less than overwhelming.
It turned out to be a highly entertaining celebration of the original series, with exactly the touches you might expect from the parties involved - horror, blood, pathos, humor, goth and irony. Dark Shadows
was made into a feature film before, in 1970, when the series was still on the air. MGM, which was going through one of its many financial downturns, was buoyed by the film's success. Unlike the series, it was filmed in several real locations, but like the series, it starred many of the original cast members. The film was more graphic in its violent, bloody retelling of the Barnabas storyline, but did so with the kind of brisk economy a daytime soap could not have.
However, no feature film or series revival could ever capture the magnetic power of the original series. Looking beyond the low budget and relishing the occasional flubs and shaking tombstones, the original Dark Shadows
was able to dig deeper into its characters and pull viewers into the day-to-day "reality" of the lives of the denizens of Collinsport.
There were several kinds of characters, generally. The main protagonists were the supernatural creatures, and they all had a sort of awareness of each other, from werewolves, zombies, witches to of course, vampires. Like the witches and warlocks of Bewitched, they were a society unto themselves, either in opposition or alliance with each other.
Then there were the crossover characters who knew about the supernatural creatures but didn't necessarily have any powers of their own. Dr. Julia Hoffman was chief among them, moving and shaking among the Barnabases, Quentins and Angeliques.
Then there were what we like to call the "clueless" characters, who were drawn in and out of involvement with the supernatural people and events yet seemed to live on the periphery. Roger Collins, Elizabeth Collins and even Victoria Winters fell into this category.
Watching the series again on DVD is loads of fun, especially sharing it with your kids (I know it requires patience with the leisurely pace of the show, but they'll get drawn in).
You have to admire the clever way the writers protracted each storyline to maximum stretchability, but gave you just enough to keep hanging on, adding in wonderful moments that add more and more facets to each character. For example, the "B" story of Elizabeth's marriage to Jason McGuire is pretty tedious, but it brings out the gallantry of Barnabas and helps form him into the landmark sympathetic vampire that set the standard for all to come. Joan Bennett
and Jonathan Frid
have a fine scene in which she's thinking of jumping off a cliff and he talks about death -- each talking about different things, unaware of what the other is expressing, yet affecting each other. Those moments occur a lot on the original series, born of necessity to keep the series going, but also adding to the viewer's attachment to the characters.
There never was anything like it and there may never be again. But fortunately, all 1,225 shows are on DVD. You don't have to wait days between episodes like we did in the "old" days, and without commercials each show moves much faster and runs about 23 minutes.
As the series went on, things got more wild. There was parallel time in the present, trips back to 1795 and 1840 and parallels inside there, too. The cast was like a repertory groups, playing numerous roles. Keeping track of everything was part of the fun.
And yes, it was fun. Outlandish fantasy, but much like a fairy tale cut off from the real world for pure escapism. A getaway from the troubles of the day into a world of people with problems so off the wall that it's kind of cathartic. And it's often funny without meaning to be in its melodramatic fervor.
If you've never watched it before, start with Collection #1
, which picks up when Barnabas joined the show and it skyrocketed. Continue to the end of the series as you please, and then if desired, there's a DVD series called "The Beginning," which covers the less-successful, pre-Barnabas shows in which the pedestrian gothic story was given jolts by the entrance of a ghost and a phoenix.
How much you get into it is up to you. But you'll never experience anything like it in any other form, no matter how much CG and 3-D and dazzling digital stuff comes along.
NOW IT'S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE...DON GRADY
Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Jun 29 2012 by Greg
Some folks who remember Don Grady
as Robbie Douglas, the teen-turned young husband on the long running TV sitcom My Three Sons
, may not also know that he was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers
, joining the series later in its run under his real name, Don Agrati.
With his untimely passing this week, he not only leaves behind two iconic TV personas, but also an extraordinary music career that in sheer volume and scope, eclipses his onscreen work.
Don Grady was part of Yellow Balloon
, a feel-good late '60s pop group at the same time as he was still performing on My Three Sons
. He has written numerous scores for stage, TV and video (including a lot of Disney video bonus materials and games) and an acclaimed Las Vegas show called EFX
The items most overlooked in his various obits are some Disney albums that literally millions of families have listened to for years: Disney Princess Tea Party
and, ever more notably, Disney's Princess Christmas Album
Both albums feature the magnificent voices of such greats as Lea Salonga, Paige O'Hara, Judy Kuhn
and Jodi Benson
-- plus arrangements, production and original compositions by Don Grady. These albums will never really become dated and will surely be reissued in one form or another for untold generations. We can never know how many scores of children will be delighted by this fine work.
That's a mighty impressive legacy.
HEY...WHERE'S PERRY? HE'S ON THIS NEW DVD
Posted on Jun 21 2012 by Greg
If you've never watched, the Disney Channel animated hit Phineas and Ferb,
you're missing some inspired cartoon fun, expertly dished up. Speaking analytically, each half hour show generally consists of two story self-contained segments, each with two or more original (and very eclectic) songs.
Each segment has at least three story angles: brothers Phineas and Ferb come up with a very elaborate idea/enterprise/invention and their sister, Candace, is the "Mrs. Kravitz" who tries to expose them, while at the same time their pet playtpus, Perry, gets a mission to save the world in his secret identity as "Agent P" to thwart evil but feeble Dr. Hans Doofensmirtz's plan to conquer the world (and/or the tri-state area).
That's a lot to get into a short cartoon, but with the kind of wit, savvy and pacing that made Rocky and Bullwinkle
a classic, the creative team does it amazingly well -- tying the subplots together in either cleverly surprising or knowingly coincidental way.The new DVD, The Perry Files
, is a collection of seven show episodes -- so fourteen individual cartoons in all -- that best showcase the adventures of Agent P. My favorite is called "Misperceived Monotreme," which is highlighted by a Yellow Submarine
-like surreal sequence with more inventive touches than some TV shows have in an entire season.
I would have liked another fun documentary or a commentary in the bonus features, but there is a nice "Tour Inside the Playbus" and a collection of clips called "Nerves of Teal."
Inside the DVD package is a neat little "Activity Pack" containing character stickers with a background scene, a postcard, a "find the clues" card, mood magnets and even a 48-piece mini jigsaw puzzle! There's also a digital copy so you can watch on your mobile device.
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