Sunday, July 3, 2016

SHG: Billy Vaughn: "Melody of Love"

Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra: “Melody of Love”
Entered chart on: 12/11/1954
Peaked on: 3/19/1955
Weeks at #2: 1

Here we go! An artist I have a history with! After a visit to her parents, Mom came home with a box of their records, including the La Paloma LP and the follow-up to this: “The Shifting, Whispering Sands.”

I wish I was reviewing that instead; an epic six minutes in which stentorian narrator Ken Nordine describes skulls bleaching in the desert sun. Vaughn’s syrupy choir-fueled orchestrations somehow make the whole thing that much creepier. On account of Nordine’s unsettling “what to do in case of emergency” narration, you could easily interpret this as subtext for a post-nuclear end-of-world scenario, not literally about the Southwestern desert.

This was played on the radio? In 1955?

I understand La Paloma is a lot more typical of Vaughn’s style, white-bread renditions of traditional Latin folk and dance tunes featuring his distinctive close-formation alto saxophones. The title song from the album was a huge hit in Europe and extremely influential on the German Schlager scene, reason enough to dislike Vaughn. Apparently the arrangement to ABBA’s “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” (one of their corniest and lamest early hits, in my opinion) was inspired by “La Paloma.”

Vaughn was, of course, the musical director of Dot Records, and responsible for the production and orchestration of its roster of artists, including all those cringeworthy Pat Boone records, more reason to dislike him. He was also responsible for the bizarre and inexplicable recording career of veteran actor Walter Brennan. If you ask me, “Old Rivers” is several measures creepier than “The Shifting, Whispering Sands,” and it isn’t even trying to be.

However, I will venture to keep an open mind while listening to “Melody of Love”...

This is a slow waltz. Really slow. Like really slow. Like “wading through syrup” slow. I don’t know if my ears are deceiving me, but it sounds like there’s a banjo playing the rhythm in the background. It could just be audio artifacts in the recording, it’s probably a piano. All those dreamy strings are drowning it out. That pinched-embouchure saxophone does cut through, so good call on that from an arrangement standpoint.

I’m guessing this is the sort of thing that Gramps used to slow-dance to. Fine, if that’s what you want, but I can think of better. There were a bunch of vocal covers (including one by Frank Sinatra, who we’ll discuss in a future installment) of this but it was Billy’s instrumental (his first single, fact fans) that charted highest.

But yeah, probably not going to listen to this again. I’ll go for “The Shifting, Whispering Sands (Parts 1 & 2)” if I need another Billy Vaughn fix.

Rating: 1

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