This is one of the quintessential cruise-ship / Vegas CDs, a splashy classy hi-toned collection of kick up your heels repertoire designed to get people drinking, dancing, cheering, talking, and, as the night winds down, remembering what it was to be young and in love or hoping for it. I'm not sure how to relate such an ilk of music to non-Boomers because this sort of Tin Pan Alley sonority is all but dead in this or any new skin, though the revival spirit is exceedingly strong of late, and I even see some very heartening indications of a second wave as the 60s and 70s are mined for their own post-Tin (um, Alumminum?) virtues. Maybe if I say Solitary Moon comes across, to those who lived through the British Invasion era, as a combo of Burt Bacharach, the Fifth Dimension, Average White Band, Classics IV, the Mamas and Papas, and ensembles of that ilk, that will get across an echo.
Though the M*A*S*H theme is what later generations most remember the guy for, Johnny Mandel is indeed one of the greats (and still with us, it should be added!), even though his Wikipedia entry is shockingly curt. Mandel wasn't just a composer, though, and had, early on, played trumpet and trombone with Dorsey, Rich, Basie, and many others. After that, he was in high demand as an arranger for Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Anita O'Day, Barbara Streisand, and a star's roster of A-listers. Johnny wasn't a writer of lyrics, though, and so relied on other high talents to supply those: Dave Frishberg, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Arthur Hamilton, etc. The result was always unusually solid and highly popular.
The solo and duet vocals on this disc are of course the true feature, Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield tackling them all (though The Modernaires appear on a cut, hooray!). Whitfield, however, plays a helluva trombone as well, oft with chandelier bravura, and plenty of it. His band is a rotating aggregate of highly skilled individuals numbering cats like Pete Christlieb and Roger Neumann among 'em along with guests Airto Moreira, Ken Poplaski (who puts in an over the top set of clarinet solos in El Cajon), and many others.
Berglund worked for Steve Allen, has sung with Kenny Rankin, and arises as a cross between Lani Hall and Julie Andrews. Whitfield was a member of the Mandel Orchestra and has a lot of Torme in him. When the two get together, the pair-up is exactly what you'd expect. My favorite track is the title cut, Solitary Moon in just about the best take I've ever heard, El Cajon coming in second. The entirety of the release, though, acts, as I said, as a front seat at The Sands…except you don't have to pay two billion dollars to get in. Who the hell can afford that in this economy anyway?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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