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.
. The folks at Verse Music, with the input of
, 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
). For the younger set,
) 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,
. In addition, a marvelous musical version of
, originally told by Howdy Doody and later, the aforementioned Captain, is now told in "Toy Story's Rex" style by his voice,
Two additional albums of completely restored Golden Records selections, with such vintage artists as
DON'T HIDE FROM HANNA-BARBERA'S "HEIDI'S SONG"
Blog, Movies, Music
Posted on Oct 16 2012 by Greg
Timing is everything, especially when a feature film is released. When Hanna-Barbera
released Heidi's Song
in 1982 through Paramount, family films had become more edgy and sophisticated, while this warmhearted musical was something that might have been more widely embracned in the mid-60s, when The Sound of Music
was a Hollywood smash.
It's very possible that Hanna-Barbera had Heidi's Song
in the production pipeline for many years, assigning artists to it between TV series projects. I do recall a 1982 cover story in Millimeter
Magazine in which director Robert Taylor
(DuckTales, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Men in Black: The Series
) was attached to the film and some of it being redone.
Clearly it was a difficult film for Hanna-Barbera to complete. They were clearly hoping for a Disney-type classic that would perhaps live on as an example of what they could do with the right amount of money and time. Heidi's Song
does show a lot more loving care -- and a much higher frame rate resulting in above average animation fluidity by HB standards -- than most of their animation of the 70s and 80s.
Story must have been a challenge, too, but Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera
, Taylor and cowriter Jameson Brewer
really gave it their best shot. Like so many children's tales, Heidi may not have enough plot to sustaio an animated feature in the Disney tradition. Like Walt Disney
, they and their artists came up with many clever ways to keep things moving and add to the plot, including subplots with dogs and cats which are, of course, Hanna-Barbera specialties.
Among the films biggest strengths is its score. Any lover of movie or show music will want to play this DVD on a stereo system to fully appreciate the scope of the music of Burton Lane
(Finian's Rainbow) with lyrics by Sammy Cahn
(Disney's Peter Pan, among many others). This is also the only major HB feature film arranged and conducted by HB musical director Hoyt Curtin
. It's a joy to hear what he could do with a gigantic orchestra and chorus (including Hollywood's best singers including Gene Merlino
and BJ Baker
There are so many songs, though, that some of them advance the plot ("A Christmas-sy Day," for example, covers the time in which Heidi adjusts to mountain life and bonds with her Grandfather), while others suspend the story. These are delightful, but not always crucial to the story. As Disneylike at Heidi's Song
is, the film has roughly twice the amount of songs and musical set pieces than the average Disney fairy tale feature.
By the way, the box claims that there are 16 original songs and there are indeed 16 musical pieces but some are reprises and instrumentals, as I have noted here:
Overture (Orchestra & Chorus)
Good at Making Friends
Heidi's Nightmare (Orchestra)
A Christmas-sy Day
An Armful of Sunshine
She's a Nothing
An Armful of Sunshine (reprise)
Monkey Theme (Orchestra)
An Unkind Word
That's What Friends Are For
Ode to a Rat
End Title, including "Wunderhorn" (Orchestra & Chorus)
The voice cast is not star studded, but rather filled with the superstars of Hanna-Barbera and cartoons in general, like Janet Waldo, Michael Bell, Joan Gerber, Pamelyn Ferdin, Fritz Feld, Frank Welker
and others. Stage star Margery Gray
(spouse of Fliddler on the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick
) voices Heidi.
On the celebrity side, Lorne Greene
bellows nicely as Grandfather and Sammy Davis Jr.
brings the film to an even higher level with the excellent "Ode to a Rat," a spectacular example of design, animation and especially the dazzling brass section so associated with Hanna-Barbera theme songs.
The rat sequence near the film's end, as well as the nightmare sequence near the beginning, could be scary for the very young children. Therein lies the dilemma with films like Heidi's Song
, Annie and others with a primary appeal for girls but not for boys. Knowing this, HB's team added the darker moments as well as the dog, cat, and monkey mayhem. This only makes it harder to decide if Heidi's Song works for everyone.
It sure does for me, because I love it when Hanna-Barbera reached higher than the usual level of TV animation. Personally, I think Charlotte's Web
was their crowning achievement in theatrical films, but each one is a fascinating experience.Heidi's Song
makes a particularly great listening experience. The 1982 K-Tel soundtrack album, released on vinyl, was a story record that emphasized dialogue and edited the music. A full-fledged musical soundtrack album was not released.
Now that this DVD is available, it's like having a soundtrack album. Okay, the movie can be as sticky as microwaved Jujubees, but c'mon now, that "Wunderhorn" tune is pretty magnificent in full stereo! Maybe if this DVD-R does well enough, the picture can be fully restored for Blu-ray.
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
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
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
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.
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