Apparently, there are no limits to the RCA Victor Stereo Action series (a collection of stereo demonstration releases by RCA Victor). The die cut cover suggests nothing short of ear-popping, Space Age Pop explosions of mid-century goodness, and the talent is second to none (Ray Martin, Marty Gold, The Guitars Unlimited Plus 7 to name only a few). Stereo Action Unlimited! is a high-quality easy listener with plenty of candy for your mind’s eyes, because after all, Stereo Action is “the sound your eyes can follow.”
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.
This 1958 demonstration record is something of stereophonic lore. Capitalizing on the space age pop theme of the time, RCA Victor took it upon themselves to showcase, complete with narration, the dramatic differences between the older, far-less superior monophonic, single-channel sound recording (this, of course, depends on who you ask), and the brand-spanking-new stereophonic technology. Sounds in Space is a wildly fun journey through these vastly-differing recording techniques, and if you’re a fan of classic, space age pop covers, this record is a no-brainer.
Rustling beneath the cover of midnight shadows lives the crippling dangers of the unknown. Blood-stained wingtips disturb calm and reflective puddles, while silence strangles the throat of innocence with a conservative necktie. This is Murder, Inc.. 12 mischievous anthems of criminal intent and strong-armed justice tussling with the nicotine-stained hands of fate. This Series 2000 release from Time Records (1960) was composed and conducted by Irving Joseph, and makes for an alluring inner monologue soundtrack for those restless nights when stress and suspicion creep gingerly beneath your window. If Sam Spade owned a jazz club, Murder, Inc. would be served every Sunday morning… with a mimosa and a side of ham-and-cheese waffles.
(Sigh) Yes, another Arthur Lyman album post. Don’t call it an obsession… call it a fixation of grand proportions. Bahia was one of Lyman’s six (yes, six!) releases from 1959. (Have a look at his discography at Discogs for the details.) Though “more of the same” could be argued, early Lyman records saw more of an adventurous approach from this esteemed island God. Honestly, and this is what I did, if you dig this type of Pacific Space Age Pop, you could nab up the bulk of Lyman’s studio releases for dirt-damn cheap. I’m talking like, $4 a pop if you’re looking in the proper corners. This fixation, I’m sure, will reach its pinnacle, but until then, it’s nothing but exotic bird calls and vibraphone grooves for this coconut-cocktail-sipper.
I was a bit hesitant about this post as my overwhelming shame for not having owned Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space would be exposed. This kitchy novelty album from 1967 sits next in our office rotation, and is sure to please, if the cover is any indication. Tracks like A Visit to A Sad Planet, Beyond Antares, and of course Music to Watch Space Girls By should make for a rather interesting “easy listening” spin. My shame is now a distant shadow in a vibrant nebula of time and space.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase Yma Sumac’s Voice of the Xtabay, as a 12″ nonetheless! What the hell would have stopped ya’? You may ask. Well, Nosey Neil, I’d already been the proud owner of the original 10″, so my inner money-saver began prodding with “reasonable” questions… that was until I discovered that the 12″ not only contained all 8 tracks from the original 10″, but also all 8 tracks from 1953’s Inca Taqui. Pimped as A Capitol Records Value (sticker in top right corner), the clear and correct decision to obtain was swiftly and promptly applied. Let’s not forget that legendary Space Age Pop-per Les Baxter composed and produced Voices, so you pretty much know you’re getting quality music. The 12″ is a steal at any price, and comes highly recommended.
Time Records and their Series 2000 collection is a great partner (or competitor) to the early Command Record albums. This self-proclaimed “demonstration record” is a perfect introduction to the series and contains choice selects from Jim Tyler, Hugo Montenegro, Maury Laws, Al Caiola, and Kermit Leslie (among others). If you’re looking to expand your Space Age Pop chops (and who among you isn’t?), check out Music with Sound.
1961’s Ping Pong Percussion by Chuck Sagle and His Orchestra is branded as a jazzy, Space Age Pop-like competitor to the famed Persuasive Percussion series. I’ve found it to be a bit too dixieland, and less percussion-savvy as the glowing cover suggests. Still not a bad listen for $4, just two pennies over the original retail price.
Latin, jazz, pop, space-age, and easy listening are just a few terms to describe Les Baxter and His Chorus and Orchestra’s 1955 classic, Tamboo!. If songs like Cuchibamba, Zambezi, Mozambique, and Oasis of Dakhla aren’t enough for you, the mid-century exotic cover should do the trick. A deal at $2.99, a steal as a free gift. Thanks, choch.
Good things often come in pairs… socks, cocktails, pears, and as far as I’m concerned, exotic bird caws and mysterious xylophone melodies are no different. Presented here are Arthur Lyman’s 1958 smash Taboo, and his 1960 follow up, Taboo Vol. 2. The former had been sitting in the collection for three or so years, but the latter just showed up at our doorstep (he shudders in the attempts to contain his excitement). Now, I’m slowly beginning to realize that drunken bird calls aren’t necessarily for everyone (though I’m not entirely sure why), but both Taboo volumes do a phenomenal job of uplifting the listener to bygone nights of exotic, island bliss (think dirty feet, tiki torches, and a lot of rum). For you newbies, start with Taboo (obviously), and when you’re ready for that perfect paired compliment, hunt down Vol. 2. Like with all other space age pop albums, the exotic sounds of Arthur Lyman come highly recommended.
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?!
Arthur Lyman’s 1962 classic, The Colorful Percussions of Arthur Lyman, is a festive little listen that showcases, yet again, the many and varied talents of this Space Age Pop legend. Sandwiched between 1960’s Percussion Spectatular! (a reissued as Yellow Bird) and Many Moods of Arthur Lyman (also 1962), The Colorful Percussions of Arthur Lyman is as vivid and explosive as the title and cover art suggests. This, like with any Lyman album, comes highly recommended.
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.
Originally titled Percussion Spectacular!, Arthur Lyman’s 1961 “haunting melody” track, Yellow Bird, became a major hit, and Percussion Spectacular! would bow to its rereleased name, Yellow Bird. Whatever the hell you call it, L-1004 (catalog tag release name from HiFi Records) is another classic space age pop release by the master of ethereal delight, Mr. Arthur Lyman, and should be strongly considered for your next social gathering.