I knew little-to-nothing about Sid Bass prior to his 1956 release on RCA’s Vik label, titled From Another World, but I was instantly sold by its engaging space-themed cover art. I mean, look how happy this space lass is! Doesn’t it just scream space age shenanigans? The upbeat mix of jazz-pop-easy-listening intertwined with hints of atmospheric warbles has both feet firmly planted in 1956, and its head far beyond the silent stars. Another space age pop acquisition for a (very) reasonable asking price.
Category Archives: 1956
The Sound of Tomorrow Today! (Well, Sort Of)
Though yesterday’s sound of tomorrow sounds more like yesterday’s sound of yesterday, Ferrante and Teicher’s 1956 out-of-this-world classic, Soundproof, is pure, space-age jazz, complete with 50’s sci-fi, invaders from other planets cover. Actually, the cover photo is taken from MGM Pictures’ 1956 staple, Forbidden Planet, for those keeping score. What gets me scratching my head is that Ferrante and Teicher also release an album the same year on the same label with the same tracks as SoundBlast – The Sound of Tomorrow, but with a different, non-Forbidden Planet cover. Those cats in the 50s, am I right?!
On This Day, 61 Years Ago
Storms of rumors surround this “historic” day in Memphis, TN some 61 years ago. It is alleged, with some photographic evidence (take the cover, for example), that during a Carl Perkins recording session at Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis (then a young-fresh-fellow on the brink of superstardom), Elvis Presley, and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash recorded 30+ minutes of (mainly gospel) material for what turned out to be dubbed, The Million Dollar Quartet. The recording is heavy Elvis, and sounds much more like an unscripted, haphazard practice session of studio musicians than anything resembling a million dollars ($9,068,492.65 today). Johnny Cash’s presence is all but nonexistent, which raises questions to the album photo’s legitimacy (the official Sun Records release from 1981 has Marilyn Evans, Elvis’ then girlfriend, removed from the photo altogether). This bootleg version was released a year earlier by OMD, and is the only known release by the unknown label. Regardless of the recording’s legitimacy, it’s an educational spin and a gem of a find. Take it with a grain of salt, but enjoy nonetheless.
Blues & Brass
After the success of The Man with the Golden Arm (Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score), Mr. Bernstein ventured away from the silver screen and into the modest world of long play analog media storage. His first album is this 1956 release on Decca, Blues & Brass, which captures what the back sleeve describes as “city blues” throughout 12 dramatic and late-night-comforting tracks. If Mr. Bernstein’s film scoring career wasn’t as hugely successful as it was (he scored The Ten Commandments the same year as this album’s release, mind you), he could have easily notched out a Space Age Pop, lounge-infused, groove-based career as a successful studio musician. Find this album. You’ll thank me later.
This 1956 reissue of Duke Ellington’s 1951 classic, Masterpieces, was one of the first records to take full advantage of the (then) new long play (LP) format. Previously restricted to about three and a half minutes on 78rpm records, Mr. Ellington and his partners in crime liberated listeners with Mood Indigo, the 15-minute opener of jaw-dropping proportions. Though I much prefer the cover art to this reissue, the 1951 original is something of recorded music history, and therefore one I shall hunt down. But seriously, this album is amazing in any format, and as with any Ellington release, comes highly recommended by the feeble minds here at The Prudent Groove.
Mood Music in Hi-Fi
Moonlight Becomes You by Paul Weston and His Music From Hollywood isn’t just a kitchy cover featuring some no-name model and a hammock. By no means. Moonlight Becomes You is mid-century baby-making music with a kitchy cover featuring some no-name model and a hammock. I Remember You from Somewhere, Almost Like Being in Love, and I Should Care carry this wistful collection of moods through “360” hemispheric sound. It’s a perfect circle of moods for any and every occasion. Check it out.
Everyone knows the iconic cover to Elvis Presley’s debut LP, but what few may recognize, outside of those who own, is its subtle back cover. Released on RCA in 1956, I present to you, for the first time on this site, Elvis Presley’s debut self titled back cover art. Disregard the purple pen scribbles.
Calypso, Harry Belafonte’s third album, is an exciting and turbulent ride. It precedes Jump Up Calypso, my personal favorite, by about five years, and is pure, unquestionable, Belafonte gold. Both figuratively and literally, having officially reaching Gold status, and it was the first LP in history to sell over one million copies. Don’t believe me? Check the cover. “One of the Biggest-Selling Albums of All Time… Says it all, mate!
Havana, 3 A.M.
Havana, 3 A.M. is another fundamental and necessary Space Age Pop album from the late 1950s / early 1960s, or so spaceagepop.com would have you believe from their 10 Basic SAP Albums, my current checklist. This Afro-Cuban collection, a “New Orthophonic” High Fidelity Recording, spans 12 Mambo-tastic tracks and is sure to get you on (or off) your feet, regardless of the time of day. Havana, 3 A.M. was Perez Prado and His Orchestra’s fifth album, released in 1956 on RCA Victor (LPM-1257), and is a perfect place for any up-and-coming Space Age Pop-stronaut to start. Happy hunting, kids.
I’m more a fan of rock n’ roll history than I am of Elvis, generally speaking, so this late 70’s reissue of Elvis Presley’s 2nd studio album, Elvis, was a no-brainer at the $5 asking price. Having purchased a dilapidated copy of his debut, Elvis Presley, several years back for a cool $3, my Elvis budget, more or less, mirrors my toleration of the man, but for historical purposes, I was more than willing to fork over my Lincoln in exchange for this 1956 classic. Anyway, Elvis… he spins tonight.
The Summa Cum Laude…
… of high fidelity, or so Columbia Records claims, circa: 1956. At a time when many lesser-than labels were pushing “high fidelity” as more of a general, blanket statement rather than something that could necessarily be guaranteed, Columbia felt the incessant urge to mark themselves above all others with their “360” SOUND symbol. Have a read below from the majestic wonders of “360” SOUND, in Columbia’s own words (as found on the back of Paul Weston and His Music from Hollywood’s Moonlight Becomes You):
The symbol “360” SOUND is the summa cum laude of high fidelity.
It is your GUARANTEE that each record so designated has been engineered and individually tested under the supervision of the Columbia Sound Laboratory.
Starting with the taping of the performance, through strategically placed wide-range microphones, every step in the manufacturing process is checked for peak efficiency — including an actual laboratory-calibrated playback of each disc before it is released.
Not only original masters, but stamper test-pressings are required to match, in A-B tests, the tapes from which they were derived.
Only such rigid control permits production of recordings covering the entire 30 to 15,000 cycle range within a plus or minus 2-decibel tolerance.
Like the 360 degrees of a perfect circle, “360” SOUND is the true spectrum of high fidelity.
For this reason Columbia Records, the oldest name in recording and creator of “Lp”, GUARANTEES without reservation the fidelity of this “360” SOUND record.
Editor’s note: Hot damn!
Music to Live By
Music to Live By… if you’re rich, Caucasian, and generally backwards-thinking. This Mercury Records “Demonstration” record offers a Werther’s Original to the mind’s creative sweet tooth. Mother curled up on the couch next to her older brother’s high school track & field buddy, now her husband of 19 years. Father, a successful plastics distributor fresh off a 3% annual salary increase for convincing his supervisors that Fred Hamlin’s work just wasn’t up to snuff. Fred was Mother’s suitor back in secondary school… poor Fred. Daughter, poised like a brazen hussy on the floor (apparently the kids weren’t allowed on the furniture), pretending to give a shit about the family photo album from their long-winded trip to Old Faithful. Son nervously watches a motionless fireplace, silently praying his overbearing parents don’t find out about his recent school expulsion.
Music to Live By, solving each and every family’s upper middle class problems one record spin at a time. Thank you, consumerism.
“The price of liberty, and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance.” – Aldous Huxley
I unfortunately don’t have in my possession the 1979 Pelican Records release of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World from the January 27th, 1956 radio broadcast featured on The CBS Radio Workshop, so I can’t accurately depict the subject of this post with the proper visual image. Instead, here is a 1974 Memorabilia Records, When Radio Was King! as a semi-decent stand-in.
Last night the Mrs. and I sat at the dining room table under a humming glow of candlelight and listened to Part 1 of Aldous Huxley’s brilliant broadcast. See, we’re trying to get into classic radio broadcasts to break up our workweek. If you haven’t already, get yer ass over to the Internet Archive and download every single CBS Radio Workshop broadcast that your local hard drive can store. You can thank me later.
Westminster! Pop! (wait for it…) Sampler! Is it as evocatively pleasurable as this cover suggests, that remains to be seen, or heard in this case, but to some, the soothing groove hisses are as rhythmically seductive as any a Saturday night. Westminster, I know you not… but thank you for a bit of your salty samples.
Records will sound better and last longer when tiny Dis-Charger, Fig. A, is clipped to record-player tone arm. Unit draws off static charge as record is played, releasing injurious and noise-producing dust clinging to record grooves. – Popular Mechanics, December, 1956 (page 157)
(photo courtesy of Popular Mechanics, and is used entirely without permission)