Posts Tagged ‘Ray Conniff’

Saturday Single No. 161

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 28, 2009

I’ve mentioned over the last couple years how my musical tastes were sculpted in part by the music my sister owned and listened to during her high school and college years. When she got married and moved away from St. Cloud, she took with her a small collection of LPs, many of which I’d come to love. If I wanted them close at hand again, I’d have to go find them.

The most important of those records were (and this is a slightly odd list):

Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane
Tapestry by Carole King
Music by Carole King
Teaser & the Firecat by Cat Stevens
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her by Glenn Yarbrough
The Lonely Things by Glenn Yarbrough
Wildflowers by Judy Collins
Whose Garden Was This by John Denver
Mudlark by Leo Kottke
Circle ’Round the Sun by Leo Kottke
Traditional Jewish Memories by Benedict Silberman
Invisible Tears by Ray Conniff and the Singers

I was never systematic about finding them. I could have gone to Musicland in the mall or downtown to Axis in the months after my sister left home and found most of those, I think. I didn’t do that. Instead, I looked haphazardly over the years at flea markets and used record shops, finding a record every now and then, and replacing poor copies with better copies when I found them. (I’m currently on my fourth copy of Yarbrough’s For Emily.) It wasn’t until I began collecting vinyl in earnest during the 1990s that I also began to look seriously for those ten records.

By the time I went online in 2000, I had all but the Leo Kottke albums on vinyl. Eventually, I found and entered the world of music blogging, where I found some of the albums as digital files, most notably the John Denver album and the two Leo Kottkes. (Vinyl versions of those two Kottke albums now reside in my collection as well, thanks to Mitch and Bob, friends of mine and readers of this blog.)

As I entered last evening, the only albums from that list above that I did not have in digital format were the Ray Conniff and Traditional Jewish Memories. Even having a USB turntable was of no help, as my vinyl copies of those two albums are too worn to make for good listening, much less to make good rips.

So, as I do occasionally, I went to Captain Crawl, one of the two best search engines I know for music blogs (Totally Fuzzy being the other), and cast out my net for the Ray Conniff album. I found three blogs that had posted it recently, all – it appeared – from CD. I’d never seen a CD of the album in print, so I checked some online retailers. As I expected, the CD is out of print, but the album is available as a digital download here.

The music on the album is, of course, light and a little sappy. Some of the selections – “I Walk The Line” for one – don’t work well with the Conniff formula (though none of the tracks are as utterly clueless as Conniff’s version of “Photograph,” which I posted some time ago). But as sappy as the tunes are, they’re still old friends, and wandering through the album last evening was a pleasure. So here’s the Conniff version of “Singing the Blues,” the song that Guy Mitchell took to No. 1 for ten weeks in 1956. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

“Singing the Blues” by Ray Conniff and the Singers from Invisible Tears [1964]

Saturday Single No. 146

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 22, 2009

Having spent two Saturdays this month looking at acquisitions during Julys past, I now turn my attention to Augusts gone by. This morning, we’ll wander from 1970 into the late 1980s, the years when my vinyl collection grew only a little.

In 1969, a few months before I began to spend most of my evenings listening to Top 40 radio, a song came along that sparked my interest in an unlikely choice of musician. Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” got radio play all over and at all times of the day. Cash’s recording of the Shel Silverstein-penned tune went to No. 2 and spurred me to buy – or pester my folks to buy, more likely – Johnny Cash at San Quentin, which only turned out to be one of the great live albums and the first country LP I ever owned.

The next August, it was back to the world of pop and rock. I picked up Best of Bee Gees and the Beatles’ Hey Jude (marketed some places as The Beatles Again.) In August 1971, as I spent my evenings scrubbing and polishing floors with my pal Mike at St. Cloud State, I picked up Stephen Stills and the original version of Jesus Christ Superstar. And I started college in late September that year.

In 1972, August saw me finishing my Beatles collection. And I find this morning that I misread a line in my database when writing about it earlier this month. I did in fact complete the Beatles collection with the purchase of A Hard Day’s Night. And I did buy a Beatles’ record during my trip to Winnipeg with Rick and Gary. But the record I bought north of the border was Beatles VI. No real harm done, I guess. It’s worth noting, though, that having started at the beginning of May 1970 with one Beatles album – Beatles ’65 – I got the seventeen remaining albums by the Fab Four in only a little more than two years.

The next two years, I added no albums to my small collection in August. In 1975, I found Ringo, almost certainly the best album by the former Beatle, and I received as a gift Joe Cocker’s spectacle of a live album, Mad Dogs & Englishmen. We skip a year and go to 1977, when two LPs came my way: I found in pile of radio station rejects at St. Cloud State an LP that offers an interesting performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and then won a copy of the soundtrack to Star Wars by correctly answering – four times – a trivia question about the soundtrack of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The late 1970s and early 1980s sometimes brought lean seasons for record acquisitions; summers were especially slow, and I have no idea why. Maybe because we spent less time indoors listening to music? I don’t know. But it took another seven years, until 1984, for me to add to my collection in August. One evening that month, I saw the time-travel drama Somewhere In Time on television, and the next day I went out and bought John Barry’s soundtrack for the film. That was in Columbia, Missouri; I learned a few years later, oddly enough, that in the book on which the film is based, Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, a key scene takes place in Columbia. I spent about two-and-a-half years altogether in Columbia, but I fell in love with no pictures of actresses from the late 1800s or early 1900s, and, sadly, no time travel ensued.

Back in Minnesota by August 1985, I received as a gift Bob Dylan’s Empire Burlesque. I was intrigued by the single “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love),” which ­All Music Guide tells me went to No. 19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

From then, it’s on to 1988, when I picked up sixteen LPs, about half of them in Minot, North Dakota, and half on a summer visit to St. Cloud. The best of the bunch? Maybe Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or Santana’s self-titled debut. The worst? Well, none of them were really bad; Dylan’s Shot of Love, is spotty, despite the presence of “Every Grain of Sand” and “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.”

August 1989 found me back in Minnesota, living just north of the Twin Cities. I added twelve LPs to the shelves that month, with another Van Morrison, Beautiful Vision, being the best. The worst? That’s hard to say. Blood, Sweat & Tears’ fourth album, simply titled B, S & T 4, was a little lame. But most folks looking at that month’s list would look askance, I think, at Ray Conniff’s work, and I bought two records by the man with his orchestra and chorus.

One of those Conniff LPs brought back memories of the basement rec room in St. Cloud, with a young whiteray reading comics, maybe, or playing a board game as the mellow music came and went. Ray Conniff’s Invisible Tears was one of the albums on the stereo during those days in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1964, the title track had gone to No. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, on its way to becoming today’s Saturday Single.

‘All I’ve Got Is A Photograph . . .’

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 31, 2009

Every once in a while, I find a cover version of a favorite song that absolutely demands attention. This week, the song is “Photograph,” the Ringo Starr tune I posted here last week. Ever since I first heard Ringo’s original version in 1973, it’s been on a long list of favorites; it’s not in my Top Ten or maybe even Top 50, but if I were to, say, program a juke box with a hundred records, I think it would show up.

But that’s the original recording, the one I posted last week. I heard “Photograph” in concert once, on the first All-Starr Band tour in 1989. As the band played the tune, and later, when I heard the version on the live album recorded at a different venue, I thought the performance was a bit lumbering and a bit drum-heavy. But should I have expected anything different? There were three drummers during that performance: Ringo, Jim Keltner and Ringo’s son, Zak Starkey. I did like Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solo, though.

There aren’t a lot of covers of the song, which was a George Harrison/Ringo Starr composition. All-Music Guide lists more than five hundred CDs with a song titled “Photograph,” but lots of those are different songs. Among the artists or groups that AMG lists as recording the Harrison/Starr song are: The BB Band, Camper Van Beethoven, David Hentschel, Engelbert Humperdinck (his name seems to show up on a lot of these lists of cover versions) and Ray Conniff.

Conniff, who died at the age of 85 in 2002, was a long-time veteran of the easy listening wars. In the 1960s, his role, and the role of his Ray Conniff Singers, was to take pop hits and rearrange them so the songs would be acceptable to the moms and dads and aunts and uncles who didn’t understand the newfangled music. Conniff’s music was pleasant, safe and often saccharine. He had one Top 40 hit: “Somewhere, My Love,” also known as “Lara’s Theme” from the film Dr. Zhivago, went to No. 9 during the late summer of 1966. (It was No. 1 for four weeks on the Adult Contemporary Chart, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits.)

Our late-1960s record collection in the basement rec room had one Ray Conniff album: Invisible Tears, on which Ray and his singers take on the title tune, which was a country hit for Connie Smith, and eleven other songs of love. That album provided me with my first exposure to songs like “Singin’ the Blues” (Guy Mitchell’s No. 1 hit from 1956), “Oh Lonesome Me” (No. 1 on the country charts for Don Gibson in 1957 and as high as No. 7 on the split pop charts of the time) and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” (No. 1 on the country charts in 1956 and as high as No. 17 on the various pop charts). And I find that the sounds of that album today still bring pleasant memories and a sense of a time – as clichéd as this has to sound – when life was much less complicated.

That’s what I get when I listen to music by Ray Conniff that I’ve known for forty years. What happens when it’s new to me? Well, somewhere in blogworld the other day, I came across a rip of a 1974 album, The Way We Were, credited to Ray Conniff alone – no singers. Included were, along with the title tune, songs like “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” “Top of the World,” “Loves Me Like A Rock” and, by golly, “Photograph.” Intrigued, I downloaded the album, and, to start, I clicked on “Photograph.”

I got no further, and I have no more to say.

“Photograph” by Ray Conniff from The Way We Were [1974]