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Pops. No, not Gramps. Nor Satchmo. Nor the alternate plural of soda. Pops, as in Boston Pops, as in anything-goes, orchestral versions of rock, jazz, or classical music. And every genre in- between. The late Arthur Fiedler, the most popular leader of the aforementioned BP's, was a master maestro of the form; his suc- cessors, however, film composer John Williams and current conduc- tor Keith Lockhart, have been *far* less memorable. At least on the recorded output front. (What can I say, I neither travel to Boston nor watch PBS enough to advise on their *live* efforts.) One person (plus ensemble) that *has* successfully kept the ball rolling is Baton Twirler Erich Kunzel and his Cincinnati Pops Or- chestra. For close to twenty years on the Telarc label, they've scored (ha!) both critical *and* financial hits, recording every- thing from western themes to baseball music to a full-cast record- ing of "The Sound of Music." If you don't know Kunzel from Repun- zel-- or are *already* a seasoned Cincy fan-- here's ten of their best, as lovingly gushed-about by a longtime listener. Enjoy! FIESTA! (1990) - Senor Kunzel goes South of the Border for twenty-one Latin classics, ranging from "Tico Tico No Fuba" to the "Chiquita Banana Song." (The famous jingle and La- tin parody song was first published in 1946, note the lin- er notes.) Nearly all are instrumentals, save for the Los Caminantes Mariachi Band that appears on the live-sounding "El Carretero." (Complete with crowd and fireworks noise!) Or those occasional moments when the orchestra members col- lectively shout "Tequila!" No Muzak on this one; these are infectious, mucho-energy renditions that'll turn any nearby surface into a bongo, conga, or timbale. Even Barry Mani- low's "Copacabana" rocks! DOWN ON THE FARM (1991) - Country-style Pops, including kid's songs ("Old MacDonald Had a Farm"), folk songs ("On Top of Old Smokey"), TV themes ("Andy Griffith"), square- dance calls (!), and Roy Clark singing Hank Williams in a Ray Charles-style, big-band rendition of "Hey Good Look- in'." (The grinnin' picker also performs the more-solemn "Yesterday, When I Was Young.") Tom Wopat is the other guest; he joins on "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." There's also a fiddle medley, an audience sing-along, not one but two duelin' banjos, and authentic barnyard sound-effects. Play it for your pet. MEREDITH WILSON'S THE MUSIC MAN (1991) - Concert-style cast recording compiling songs from several successive versions of the show, plus one added for the 1962 film, *and* the first public bow of a couple counterpoint duets as origin- ally conceived by Wilson. Timothy Noble plays the Profes- sor. No, he's no Robert Preston, but no one is. Kathleen Britt as maid Marian. And Doc Severinsen, of all people, appears as Marcellus Washburn. The crystal-clear digital recording makes one of the Great American Musicals sound even *more* great. With the Indiana University Singing Ho- osiers as the stubborn townsfolk of River City. BIG BAND HIT PARADE (1988) - The best of Miller, Goodman, Ellington, et al, as arranged for full, swingin' orchestra and recorded with superstar guests Ray Brown (bass), Dave Brubeck (piano), Eddie Daniels (clarinet), Buddy Morrow (trombone), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Doc Severinsen (trumpet), Ed Shaughnessy (drums), and the late Cab Callo- way, singin' likely nobody else on "St. James Infirmary" and a long, improvised-sounding "When the Saints Go March- in' In." If it gets any better that this, I can't imagine how... Sixteen tracks total. YOUNG AT HEART (1992) - Children's music! Bob McGrath and songs from "Sesame Street." Patti Page asking about that "Doggie in the Window." And the late Mel Torme crooning the ever-popular title track. ("Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you...") Three choirs accompany the Pops on such all-ages fare as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?," and the "A-B-C Song." There's also a keen medley of (mostly) baby boomer- era cartoon themes. Plus Brahms' "Lullaby," that jazzy mu- sic from "Charlie Brown," and... "The Muppet Show" theme. What more does a grown child need? EIN STRAUSSFEST (1985) - Why wait for New Year's Eve? Waltzes, marches, and polkas from that wacky Strauss fam- ily, most of 'em accompanied by digitally recorded sound- effects. Translation? Johann Strauss' "Explosions Polka" includes... an explosion. And his "Champagne Polka" pops corks. And his "Thunder and Lightning Polka" rumbles. You get the picture. Also present is the overplayed "Blue Dan- ube" waltz, heard in countless movies, TV shows, and "Bugs Bunny" cartoons. Still, there *are* worse fates to suffer than hearing "Dun dun dun dun dun. Dun dun. Dun dun" one more time. WILLIAM TELL AND OTHER FAVORITE OVERTURES (1986) - Seven popular selections that are *still* good on the umpteenth listen: Franz Von Suppe's "Light Cavalry," Daniel-Francois Auber's "Fra Diavolo," Louis Joseph Herold's "Zampa," Franz Von Suppe's "Poet and Peasant," Emil Von Reznicek "Donna Diana," Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld," and Giacchino Rossini's "William Tell." Really, where else can you dance a Can-Can, sit through a thunderstorm, *and* ride with the Lone Ranger all in the space of a mere fifte- en minutes? AMEN! (1993) - Gospel! And rousing as Hell! Three choirs, the Pops, and special guests Jennifer Holliday, Maureen Mc- Govern, and, ladies and gentleman, Mr. Deep 'n' Sexy him- self, the one, the only Lou Rawls. (He smokes both the ti- tle track and a Christianized version of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World." Sample lyrics: "Jeremiah was a pro- phet; postman for the Lord.") The tracks range from cen- tury-old traditionals to contemporary pop songs, such as, yawn, "Lean on Me" and "Bridge Over Trouble Water." Don't worry; the rest of the album'll wake you up. Praise Kun- zel. PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ (1995) - Songs performed with vocals from "the great Hollywood musicals." Jeremy Davenport eyein' "Blue Skies" is good. Esther Mullens, Georga Os- bourne, and Valerie Wilson-- AKA The Osbourne Sisters-- tootin' the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is better. But it's Leslie Uggams ridin' "On The Atchison, Topeka, and The San- ta Fe" that stops the show. She wails as good as Judy Gar- land ever did. The ensemble is strong, too. They get ev- ery part perfect, from conductor to chorus girl. Just set your player on repeat and enjoy. Others include: "Cheek to Cheek," "Lullaby of Broadway," and "Thanks For The Memory." A DISNEY SPECTACULAR (1989) - Three choirs, two soloists, one barbershop quartet (His Master's Voice), *and* fuller- than-full orchestra performing both beloved songs and song medleys from "classic-era" Walt. Included are suites from "Cinderella," "Mary Poppins," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Plus a rockin', rollickin' "Jungle Book" medley that's a must-listen. The entire disc is simply splendid, but it's the big-finish finale that's the sock knocker-off- er-- a sixteen-song, "Disney Fantasy" medley that keeps ri- sing higher and higher until the nosebleed climax of "When You Wish Upon a Star" leaves you collapsed in a trembling heap of joy-tears. Wonderful. Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
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