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Buona notte, mi cara, mi amore...our Annette
Blog, Movies, TV, People, Records
Posted on Apr 08 2013 by Greg
My dad died at age 70 after decades of slowly debilitating illness. Today, so did Annette. She was an icon, seemed like a member of the family -- and yes, she was an extraordinarily talented woman with an appeal that was as undefinable as that of every legend.



Her impact on American culture -- and Disney heritage -- should not be underestimated. The world is a better place for her charming, unassuming presence.

I can only speak from my heart. Annette will still be with us through her films and music, and the memories of where we were when we enjoyed them. I am grateful for being able to have lived during the period in which she flourished, and have felt sorrow at her illness. Now she is free and i know where she is now. If I'm good, maybe I can say hello to her there someday.







MORE GOLDEN GOODIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Nov 19 2012 by Greg
One of the nicest things about the holidays is that music is allowed to have the variety it had when I was growing up. You have rock, blues, jazz, easy listening, you name it, all playing together in the form of various artists enjoying their spin on either favorite holiday carols, well known songs or original tunes. Musically, during the holidays, when something is "retro," that means it's "cool," to paraphrase Wreck-It Ralph.



That's the glorious appeal of the new CD, A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas. The folks at Verse Music, with the input of Tony Shimkin, son of Golden Records founder Arthur Shimkin, crafted a collection that spans over two decades of the 20th century yet has its feet planted firmly in the 21st.

Like those great Columbia, RCA and Capitol holiday albums many of us collected at Goodyear, True Value Hardware, Grants and other retailers, A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas features celebrity performers, many of whom may startle you with their versatility. Vintage Golden tracks have been lovingly restored, their charm given a modern touch with such names as Cheryl Hines, John O'Hurley, Missy Pyle and even Dermot Mulroney (who sounds somewhat like Eddy Arnold). For the younger set, Didi Conn chirps songs that were once sung by the likes of Captain Kangaroo and Anne Lloyd.

Speaking of the Captain, his sidekick Mister Greenjeans (Lumpy Brannum) returns in one of several unchanged (yet enhanced) recordings, "Crackerjack Christmas," a tune I remember seeing him lipsync on the CBS show.

Four stories, three from Golden Books, are presented with fully orchestrated backgrounds by Hines, Busy Philipps and Ed Asner. In addition, a marvelous musical version of A Christmas Carol, originally told by Howdy Doody and later, the aforementioned Captain, is now told in "Toy Story's Rex" style by his voice, Wallace Shawn.

Two additional albums of completely restored Golden Records selections, with such vintage artists as Mitch Miller, The Sandpipers, Anne Lloyd, Art Carney and others, are available as Timeless Golden Records, Volumes 1 & 2.









CINDERELLA: DREAMS (AND STEP-NIGHTMARES) ON BLU-RAY
Blog, Movies, Music, Records
Posted on Oct 08 2012 by Greg
What's the most nightmarishly terrifying scene in movie history? The shower scene in Psycho? Sure. Tippi and those pesky birds? Maybe. Moviedom's got an endless parade of horrors, most of them supernatural, many of the inhuman sort.

But I would venture that few movie viilains can quite match the level of cruelty contained in what is also one of the most beloved family classics of all time. It's that scene in Cinderella, in which the stepmother incites the stepsisters into ripping Cinderella's dress to shreds -- while she's wearing it. Moments earlier, we saw her all happy in anticipation of going to the royal ball and perhaps being treated more as a peer by her family.

Am I overdramatizing? Perhaps. But the story of Cinderella is eternal because so many of us identify with her. We've been in situations that allow others to inflict cruelty on us. Call it bullying, call it abuse, physical or mental. What Walt Disney's Cinderella did was to take a bare bones story and make us worry that it might not end happily, even though we know full well that it does. Walt Disney and his amazing artists did it by making the characters seem so real, this familiar fairy tale becomes downright riveting.



As a character, Cinderella is extraordinarily likable, a feat that cannot be said of all Disney animated feature lead characters. Usually we identify with the sidekicks -- and the Disney version has lots of them in the form of compassionate mice -- but in this film, they only reinforce our kinship with the leading lady.

As a film, Cinderella was crucial in reviving the Disney studio's postwar doldrums, so much so that its creators did as much as possible to assure its success, even to cutting the live-action model footage to match exactly what the animators had to produce, with little wiggle room (except for Ward Kimball, who apparently had relatively free rein with the mice and Lucifer, the cat).

Speaking of Lucifer, the meows and shrieks were provided by the radiant June Foray in her feature film debut. She just turned 95 last month.

The voice cast benefits also from Lucille Bliss as Anastasia (she was also Smurfette on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon), and Rhoda Williams as the stepsisters, Eleanor Audley as the stepmother (who also played Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion attraction), Verna Felton as the Fairy Godmother (also the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and star of TV's December Bride among countless others) and even narration by Betty Lou Gerson (Cruella DeVil in 101 Dalmatians).

2012 Blu-ray Bonus Features:
- Diane Disney Miller Introduction
- Personalized Digital Storybook "Bibbidi Bobbidi You"
- Behind the Magic - a New Disney Princess Fantasyland
- Tangled Ever After short
PLUS All the bonus features from the 2005 2-disc DVD except:
- Cinderella Stories Presented by ESPN
- A Dream is a Wish Video - DChannel Circle of Stars
- The Making of the Music Video
- Every Girl Can be a Princess video montage

2102 DVD Features:
- Diane Disney Miller Introduction
- Behind the Magic - a New Disney Princess Fantasyland
- Tangled Ever After

The Cinderella original sound track album has also been reissued in a Special Edition one-disc album and a two-disc Collectors Edition CD set that includes brand-new renditions of "Lost Chords" deleted songs.











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 children's labels.

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 and Christmas 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.







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.









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