Saturday, April 21, 2012


So I'm wallowing in nostalgia again.

It's my age. I blame it on... well, nothing really. Technology I suppose. If those guys at Vocalion weren't so good at their jobs, this would be no fun. But I've come across another couple of Syd Lawrence Orchestra CDs from the mid-1970s, and they sound superb.

I mean - I presume they've been remastered & cleaned up & had all kinds of stuff done to them, because they sound amazing. Phillips, who recorded these albums in Manchester way back when, had a very definite 'sound': the brass swam in reverb. Kind of unpleasantly so. And all of that has gone - these CDs sound crystal clear, brand new, and have a glorious roundness to the sound which modern big band recordings almost never have. It's as if people can't quite get it right now. The art has been lost. Anyone who wants to record a big band should listen to Vocalion's remastering of Holland Special/Welt Hits. Just for the sound quality.

And then there's the music. The Greatest Hits of the 1930s album was Syd's only album where he added strings to his usual big band; it means the whole thing is a bit more mellow, but it is glorious. When I was a teenager & collecting Syd's LPs on vinyl, I could never get a copy of this. Years later I found bootleg copies on CD, but now I have this re-issue and it is amazing. The band in its prime, full blooded and confident and beautiful. When I Take My Sugar To Tea, Little White Lies - glorious; and a spine-tingling Moonlight Serenade.

It's coupled with the Singin' & Swingin' album, and I haven't got there yet - but that has some great arrangements on it; I have other CD transfers of those tracks, but nothing that compares with what the Vocalion engineers have done.

And then the Holland/Germany double CD. I have never even heard these recordings before. Made for European tours, and using mostly Dutch & German tunes with very Miller-esque arrangements, these recordings are quite wonderful. I've heard the old guys, the long-standing Syd Lawrence Orchestra buffs speak highly of these recordings, and now I know why. It's like listening to an album of Miller music you never knew existed for the very first time - music played beautifully, recorded perfectly, arranged with style, care & occasionally wit, and this band at that time could do this like no other band before or since.

Yes, I'm wallowing. Wallowing. It's like sunbathing in sound. A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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