Friday, July 4, 2008

The Lawrence Welk Show (Record Review)

I decided to hook up my record player to the computer to see if it'd work. Then when it did work, it was time to choose a favorite album or two to transfer to my Ipod. And I couldn't think of a better one to get me going than this great one from 1978, put out by the Kellogg's cereal company, "The Lawrence Welk Show." Record buffs will remember it, RCA Special Products DPL 1-0318 Stereo. I can't remember exactly where we got it, but it's too big to have come in a cereal box. We must have sent in for it with boxtops, or, I'm thinking they had them at the grocery store.

I will be listening to it and live blogging it as we go along. There's 10 songs. And I think we shall start with song number 1, if you think that would be all right. Then we will proceed along from there in chronological order. For one reason, it's common sense. And, two, it honors Mr. Welk, in that one of his well-known trademarks was "And a one, and a two..."

Bubbles in the Wine (Theme Song) - Who can forget this happy song, his theme song? It takes me back. Wow, it has a great sound! The stereo separation is really nice, like sitting in with the orchestra, trying not to get a bubble in your eye. It's definitely infectious, intoxicating even, and puts me in mind for great things. The bubbles are floating about, filling the house, so realistic there are literally soap stains all over my wall, or at least there would be if I weren't listening with earbuds. A very crisp and clean song. It even makes me tipsy!

Moon River - A very intimate song, and very close to my heart. The orchestra has a kind of water lapping sound they're working up, with some runs up and down the bank as well. So simple a tune but so precious. So realistic are the water effects you'll have to pee, so make sure you keep a toilet handy. The strings give it a very lazy feeling, and the piano is insistent in its progress. Finally, there's a very subtle choir with ahh's rounding off this atmospheric and very wet song.

Baby Elephant Walk - One of my all time favorites and a big hit for Mr. Welk as well. As playful a tune as there is, yet with a steady, forward march feel. You can see the elephants dancing, very graceful, prancing for one another, dressed perhaps like the Chippendales. There's a powerful brass in there, too, and some delicate tinkling for extra delight. This is a tune everyone would like, with the single possible exception of some goth pothead in prison. Maybe he wouldn't care for it.

Born Free - Powerful, inspirational song, with a little bit of everything. The full sweep of emotion for one, and enough voices and instrumentation to lift your soul to new heights. This is one to return to over and over. I'm up in the air, close to Heaven. The ultimate freedom is in sight! I'm riding a happiness high that's out of this world. If you actually are addicted to stimulants, try this song. It's a natural high, and there's absolutely no letdown, until it ends. Great one.

It's All in the Game - In my opinion, the greatest song ever written ("Hey" to KIOA there, a nod to Dic Youngs, the old Youngster). This is a straightforward instrumental of the Tommy Edwards classic, with a choir making "doo doo" sounds. You know, your heart can fly away on this one, too. If you have a "main squeeze," maybe squeeze her somewhere very discreetly, like on the elbow. This song brings back tender memories of my own very private fantasies of being at the malt shop with my "Wild Thing," who, of course, orders whiskey.

Calcutta - Mr. Welk's greatest hit. Like "Baby Elephant Walk," one to cherish for the time it evokes, when we were young and dancing on a Saturday night so long ago. Even now I'm attempting it, but what I'm managing is a slow shuffle not in time with the beat. I need to get my exercise bike going again, I guess. But this tune is one I have a real love for. I'm thinking back to Grandpa cutting the rug, and Grandma canning beets or doing some other work around the house. Clean sound, thrilling instrumentation.

Yellow Bird - Slower paced song. Sparse instrumentals to get us started, as simple as can be. It becomes very familiar, bringing a smile to my face when we get into it. For those into trivia, this song has nothing to do with Big Bird from Sesame Street. It has a Latin America vibe, like what they play at the Mexican restaurant without the huge guitar, overbearing horn section, and all the insane yipping.

On the Street Where You Live - Here's a swing-uh, Broadway style. This one swaggers, yet keeps the Welk cheerfulness. It hints at moroseness, but that can't last long, and we're happy and gay once again. This is a street I'd love to live on. Everyone's happy to see you. "Hello Mr. Baker, Hello Mr. Butcher, Hello Mr. Fruit Guy," I'm just peeking in to wish you 'Pleasant day, sir,' and get something to eat, now that you mention it! I'm happy-go-lucky, like Georgy Girl, with a strident beat!

To Each His Own - This song always has an autumn feel to me. I think of a lone person wandering, maybe seeking to end it all at an interstate overpass, and the title sounds like that, too. You're looking up at the naked trees for the last time and feeling wistful. A very strong horn carries that sense and the piano keeps it at the fore. Yes, there's some gaiety in the lighter instruments, but nothing can keep it from expressing the seriousness of a suicide attempt. The goth pothead in prison, referred to earlier, would probably dig this one.

Last Date - The Floyd Cramer classic, an instantly likable song. Piano driven, of course. A strings section eases into the mix. There's a real Nashville flair going on here. Midway, the strings take over, and some voices present themselves. But the piano tops it off and carries it to its heights, repeating the song's main theme. It's been a while since my last date. It was high school, if memory serves, a party with about 20 kids, and I went home alone. Kind of like every night since, except now I don't even know 20 other people. Maybe I need to listen to "To Each His Own" again.

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