Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The first song on the first side

In high school many of us made music mixes on cassettes. Now people use CDs. Junk Thief and moi went to Mixed-Up Disc Society CD swap at Francisco's Duck Creeke Tavern. I created my own LP record mix by using a butter knife to cut rings from fave 33 1/3 RPMs. Par example, from I cut the cut of Patti Page singing "Mockingbird Hill" then the Hi Lo's performing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" (fast scat version). Since this was the first song on the first side of Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's - Columbia CL-952 (LP), I simply trimmed around the edge of the record like I was whittlin scrimshaw. Then I assembled all the rings (sort of like ring-toss) with rubber cement.

Landron (Junk Thief) won best album design for his boxed 2-CD set and walked away with swag. The event was attended by a cool, small, but friendly group of cats. There is actually no Duck Creeke or Duck Creek in the city. There are several underground creeks that the city is exploring "daylighting." Is that like outing a creek?

Next time the Mixed-Up Disc Society meets, I suggest that everyone be required to have liner notes. Speaking of which, here, verbatim, are the liner notes to the aforesaid Hi Lo's album:

By Jose Ferrer
This is the Hi-Lo's first album for Columbia Records and as a former recording artist the brevity of whose career is unparalleled in platter history I have been asked to sort of welcome the boys into their new home by writing the notes for this album.

Being green at this sort of thing, I recently wandered into a music store and read a vast number of notes on other record albums. I discovered that for the most part, these notes seem to fall into a few very well-defined categories.
We have, for instance, the historical approach: "On September 23, 1951, Dwight D. Eisenhower, soon to become but not yet the thirty-fourth President of the United States, shot a birdie three on the seventeenth hole on the historical old golf course at St. Swithin's. It was not until two years, seven months and sixteen days later a new group called the Hi-Lo's etc . . ."

Then there is the sort of essay that tries to establish an aesthetic evaluation of the artist in philosophical terms: "Jubilant and serene in the soaring fervency of their affirmation, their voices proclaim man's essential faith in the universe and in his own destiny."
Still another method relies on a detailed analysis of the musical selections contained on the record: "The opening theme is stated briskly but without condescension. A petulant motif provides a mettlesome reply and briefly we are embroiled in the querulous Va-et-vien so wittily developed. Presently, however, wiser heads prevail and soon a quasi-elegiac aura bathes the erstwhile adversaries in a mood of contemplation bordering on the complacent."
I myself lean towards that aspect of the "story behind the story" school which stresses the human side, featuring the "They're just like people" theory. This method has many features to recommend it: for one thing the notes can be written without ever having to listen to the record.
Let me describe the Hi-Lo's to you. In appearance they are boyish, eager and sunny and might as well have called themselves "The Four Hair Cuts," "The Four Sophomores," "The Four Pigskins," or even "The Four Zippers." They affect the Brooks Brothers Ivy League type of dress without really understanding it...

We poke fun a the Hi Lo's, but they do, as Jose says, have perfect pitch. I think they are the best of the crew-cut quirky quartets to come out of the era.


John said...

Hey! No Poking fun at the Hi-lo's!

These guys, with the help of Gene Puerling's absolute genius arranging superpowers, pulled off some of the craziest jazz harmonies i've ever heard! I just showed my High School Instrumental teacher their track "Sixteen Tons" off their "folk" album, and he was blown away by their incredible voicings and use of timbre/balance to mess with your head!

These guys were simply a little too high pitched and way too ahead of their time.

Bryce Digdug said...

John - I agree that the Hi Lo''s were the greatest. The other quartets pale in comparison. - Bryce