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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.

Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Dec 14 2011 by Greg
I have to admit to being more than a little misty-eyed after finally getting a chance to watch the original, live 1956 musical, The Stingiest Man in Town, now on DVD. I had first seen the Rankin/Bass animated remake in 1978, then found the 1956 Columbia cast album and listened to it for 30 years, never expecting to actually see the live show itself -- unless maybe I got to visit the Paley Center and they had it in their library.

To my delighted amazement, Video Artists International located an astonishingly nice-looking kinescope with excellent sound -- and that sound is largely due to a certified Disney Legend: Tutti Camarata.

Tutti was the conductor of this special 90-minute live presentation on The Alcoa Hour. His ear for acoustics surely influenced how distinct the instrumentation come across, even in this vintage kinescope. In 1956, Disneyland Records had just begun, with Tutti as artists and repertoire director. You can hear his style in The Stingiest Man in Town, as well as what was likely some arrangements by Maury Laws, whom Tutti told me could have likely done some chart work for the special (the soaring violins in "An Old Fashioned Christmas" are just like the ones Laws created for such Rankin/Bass specials as Rudolph and Frosty).

You have to get a feel for the temporal context to fully appreciate how ambitious this live show truly was for its period. This was the day of Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and other vaudeville-type live variety shows, as well as legendary live dramas on Playhouse 90 and Studio One. Walt Disney's filmed series was less then two years on the air, Mickey Mouse Club was in its second season and Howdy Doody was still an NBC staple.

Mary Martin's TV tradition of Peter Pan had begun a year earlier (as live shows until it was taped in 1960) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella would premiere a year later (live with Julie Andrews, then taped in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren). I can't confirm this for sure, but that makes The Stingiest Man in Town very likely the first -- or at least one of the first -- original musicals created especially for television.

Director Dan Petrie (A Raisin in the Sun, Sybil, Eleanor and Franklin) worked with in what appears to be a very limited space, with tight, elemental, movable sets. (Notice the clever transitions, such as Basil Rathbone sinking off camera in the graveyard while a "stand-in" hand grasps the tombstone, enabling Rathbone to race back to the bedroom set for his next scene.)

The cast, crew and orchestra clearly had a short rehearsal time to perform a show of this scope -- and that's what makes live TV so amazing. The cast, orchestra and chorus are right there, and if the singer misses a cue or changes tempo, the accompaniment has to keep up. Keeping all of this in mind, what unfolds is a remarkable achievement that was largely forgotten for decades, unless you happened to have the cast LP -- or this superb CD reissue.

Young audiences may not sit still, at first, for the black-and-white, low-def, leisurely paced kinescope experience of the original Stingiest Man -- more akin to a filmed stage show than a modern recorded and edited production. But if you can impress upon them the importance of these programs, how they paved the way for what we take for granted today (especially technical advances) and just enjoy the pure talent involved, they may find themselves beguiled.

These are some of the greatest Broadway talents of their day, top popular singers and of course, the great Rathbone, with a truly memorable musical score conducted by one of the most respected names in the music industry.

It might be fun if you watch this along with the Rankin/Bass animated remake (available in the above 2008 DVD set) and listen to the cast album. In an ocean of Dickens Christmas Carol adaptations, this particular version is one of the all-time finest.

Blog, Music, Records
Posted on Nov 12 2011 by Greg
Thanks to Kritzerland Records, there's a landmark soundtrack SPECIAL EDITION CD release of the Sherman Brothers classic score to CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG with expanded songs, tons of extra material, just a dream come true for fans.

From the Screen Archives Entertainment site:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was originally released on LP on United Artists Records (the film was distributed by UA). As was usual back then, songs were truncated, the mixes were occasionally weird, and no underscore was used. There have been two previous CD releases -- one on Ryko, who added dialogue snippets throughout the album, and then on Varese Sarabande (who omitted the dialogue snippets but basically used the Ryko master).

For our Very Very Special Special edition, we went back to the first generation album master there was, of course, no way to change the mix or the generous amount of reverb used, but our masterful mastering engineer, James Nelson, has worked as much magic as humanly possible to optimize the sound present on those original album masters.

We've also included the film's "Entr'Acte," the original "Main Title" (much longer than the album version -- presented here with sound effects, which are actually fun and sort of go with the music), and the film mix of the  'Exit Music. ' Following that, we give you the complete song and picture book album tracks, released concurrently with the soundtrack, and which features Richard M. Sherman himself singing, along with other vocalists, all conducted by Leroy Holmes.

On CD 2, we're very pleased to present all the film's demo recordings by Richard Sherman. Finally, we had access to all of the playback tracks used during filming. These were all in mono and not that great sounding, but we've included several of them because they were material not included on the original album. These include another version of the title song (with quite a long instrumental), an instrumental called  "The Vulgarian Anthem," an instrumental of the "Chu-Chi Face" waltz, and a bit of the "Doll On A Music Box" not included on the original LP. Again, the sound on the playback tapes had distortion and not optimal sound, and mixes that were prepared specifically to be lip-synched to on set. But we thought they were of enough historical importance to include them.

Disc 1
1. Main Title
2. You Two
3. Toot Sweets
4. Hushabye Mountain
5. Me Ol' Bamboo
6. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
7. Truly Scrumptious
8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (reprise)
9. Entr'Acte
10. Lovely, Lonely Man
11. Posh!
12. Hushabye Mountain (reprise)
13. The Roses Of Success
14. Chu-Chi Face
15. Doll On A Music Box & Truly Scrumptious
16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale
17. Exit Music

Bonus Tracks
18. Main Title (Film Version with sound effects)
19. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale (Film Mix)
20. Exit Music (Film Mix)
Soundtrack Conducted by Irwin Kostal

The Song and Picture Book Album - Richard Sherman & Lola Fisher
21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
22. You Two
23. Toot Sweets
24. Hushabye Mountain
25. Me Ol' Bamboo
26. Lovely, Lonely Man
27. Posh
28. Doll On A Music Box & Truly Scrumptious
29. Chu-Chi Face
30. The Roses Of Success

Disc 2
The Richard Sherman Demos
1. You Two
2. Toot Sweets
3. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
4. Truly Scrumptious
5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
6. Lovely, Lonely Man
7. Posh
8. Hushabye Mountain
9. The Vulgarian Anthem
10. The Roses Of Success
11. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (children's reprise)
12. Hushabye Mountain (Grandfather's reprise)
13. Fun Fair
14. Lovely, Lonely Man/ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale

The Playback Tracks
15. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1
16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
17. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 3
18. The Vulgarian Anthem
19. Chu-Chi Face Waltz
20. Doll On A Music Box Parts 1-3

TV, Music
Posted on Dec 21 2010 by Greg
Even though it had one of the best musical scores in the business by the songwriting team behind Funny Girl (which they wrote at about the same time), with a superb cast and impeccable orchestrations and choral arrangements, done to such a level of perfection that to only listen once was to hear it for a lifetime, there was never a soundtrack album for the first animated TV special in history: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Until this year.

Now you can own ten rare restored recordings intended for the soundtrack record that was never produced both dowloading it on amazon or iTunes.

Not only that, but several songs are extended so you'll hear them as never before. The haunting "Winter Was Warm" contains a musical bridge that faded out in the special, followed by Jane Kean singing a portion again. Jim Backus' touching reprise of "Alone in the World" includes the entire song, rather than the last few bars. And there is an additional refrain in "The Lord's Bright Blessing," or as it is also known, the "razzleberry dressing" song.

The finale is missing the choral section, perhaps because the final album was never mixed for release. But you can still hear that on the DVD, which has also been reissued this year as a DVD/Blu-ray combo set which includes EVERY bonus feature on BOTH discs.

The new DVD/Blu-ray includes a new audio commentary by veteran animator Darrell Van Citters, who also wrote the recently revised "making-of" Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol book and is to be thanked profusely for his years of dedicated work spearheading the release of all this material for the first time. On the commentary are Jane Kean, Laura Olsher and several others associated with the special, even a clip of Jack Cassidy's recording session.

The DVD/Blu-ray also has a never-before-released overture created for the soundtrack album by musical director Walter Scharf (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). With the overture and the ten downloaded songs, it truly is the gift of the year for fans of this classic production.

God bless us, everyone!

Music, Records
Posted on Oct 17 2009 by Greg
If you're shopping for just the right music or stories for Halloween creepiness, allow me to recommend:


This 1963 LP is the granddaddy of all creepy sound effects records, much imitated but never equaled. Laura Olsher (Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol) narrates the first set of stories in sound, followed by the sounds themselves, compiled over decades of Disney Studios and Hollywood history by legendary Jimmy MacDonald. It's on iTunes.

When some of us were kids in the 60's and 70's, this is all we had. But it's still entertaining, and very interesting as pop curio as well as a who's-who of Hollywood voice actors and singers: Thurl Ravenscroft, Peter Renaday, Eleanor Audley, Robie Lester and yes, a teenaged Ron Howard. It's a little corny but it was produced before the attraction opened so it includes omitted details like the raven and the fabled Hatbox Ghost (he's on the front cover). The CD also includes an abridged soundtrack so you also get the voices of Paul Frees, Bill Lee, Loulie Jean Norman and many others, since the album recreates some elements. PLUS, the CD cover includes the storybook in Liliputian form AND you can access the original Collin Campbell art from the disc (did you know that the crystal ball now floats because of inspiration from this art?). Well worth having and bargain priced.


Producer/Historian Randy Thornton once again outdid himself by revising and expanding the soundtracks to both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland attractions and adding in the new features, plus "Ghost Host" Paul Frees' voice sessions, organ music by Gaylord Carter, new music box music and a magnificent full suite from Phantom Manor by Joel McNeely. This album was created to be sold in Disney Parks and was also being sold at the D23 Expo as part of a box set with a vinyl version of the story album.

I found this at Target a few weeks back and cannot find it online. It's kind of fun, tongue-in-cheek stuff with the Count, Frankenberry and Boo Berry in a "theater of the mind" comedy.

You can play this one through the living room window and creep out the trick-or-treaters -- it's hours of chilling music from the unique ABC gothic soap, composed by Bob Cobert, who also wrote the "Password" TV theme!

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