Monday, August 28, 2006

God bless Lee Hartsfeld.

I have been remiss in not mentioning earlier the 'net's nutritional powerhouse of old music mp3s, recordings lovingly recovered from technical difficulty, delivered with bitter humor and a deep affection for abandoned musical strategies. His old blog, Vintage Lounge, held forth much evidence refuting the widely held canard that lounge music was born in response to the hi-fi boom of the fifties. There were recordings from the forties, thirties, twenties, and before, which bore striking resemblances to lounge archetypes of the fifties. If you've got any interest in the forgotten histories of recorded music, Lee's blog, "Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anywhere Else" will get you stuck in its corner of the web for quite some time. His own pan-stylistic series of midi realizations of "Stairway To Heaven" (polka? slaughter on tenth avenue?) are endlessly entertaining and deserving of critical study. (His Raymond Scott style arrangement of Ghost Riders In The Sky is hilarious, too.) What are you doing here? Check out the music on offer from Lee Hartsfeld of New Florida - I mean, Ohio.

Lee Hartsfeld's music blog: Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anywhere Else
I sent a friend an mp3 of "The House Is Haunted" by Mel Tormé, and mentioned that when he wasn't thinking up clever stuff for intros and endings Mel was about the best boy singer ever. He wrote back, credulity strained, what about Fred Astaire and the guy who sang Thank Heaven For Little Girls. Here's what I replied:

"I'm not talking about entertainment. I'm talking about singing, without the acting.

"Fred and Maurice were good at entertaining. Maurice had no other strength. Sang and danced with charm and no talent. It was easy to like him and enjoy his appearance. It was how comfortable he seemed at doing it that sold it as a performance. But I don't care about that half as much as I care about the pleasure I can get from hearing the sound of the singing. That's what Mel did best.

"Fred danced better than he entertained, and he entertained better than he sang. Mel danced well but sang spectacularly, and when he tried to be entertaining he was nearly unbearable. Buddy Rich once said that Mel's drumming was pretty good for a dancer.

"I'm not talking about liking the performer or the performance. I admire the work of all three but I don't expect personal accounts of their lives will give me a lot to cheer. I'm sure the loved ones of women they dated all dreaded what would become of the ladies.

"...the cute little intros and outros on Mel Torme records? I swear they got put there to make for a more entertaining presentation, but to me it's the part that makes it seem desperate.

"In closing I can only point out that "boy singer" is a category from which Fred and Maurice would have been denied entry. The standard of that category would be Merv Griffin.

"Show business is in our blood,
whether it makes us sick or strong."

Just hear how Mel Tormé could sing.

The House Is Haunted - Mel Tormé