Before I share this week's EP, I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this blog knows that I posted an entire song-poem album to the WFMU blog over the weekend. That post can be found here.
And now, on with the countdown:
The Film-Tone label is one of the murkier ones in the song-poem world. I posted a single Film-Tone song early on in this project, but today we have a full EP. ASPMA has documented a link between this late '50's label and the 1960's Star-Crest label. There's no suprise there - both feature arrangements which were long out of date, sung in a sort of sterile style.
But Star-Crest tended to feature a soloist singing what were clearly demos, often barely rehearsed, backed by a pianist or at best a minimal combo (I posted a full Star-Crest album here, a few years ago). At Film-Tone, on the other hand, they went in the other direction, featuring a small combo (piano, guitar and sax, here), and almost always (on the records I've owned and/or heard) a mixed trio of voices - usually fairly intricate in arrangement and (almost) well rehearsed, even - as you'll see - when the choice to use this vocal combo clashed with the lyrics.
Every Film-Tone record I'm aware of is a 45 EP, and although some actually have a name of the orchestra on them (plus "vocal trio"), the three I own do not, reading just "vocal trio". There are a couple of winners here, if you're willing to wade through two others which are quite tepid. The final track, in particular, should prove very entertaining.
The first one, "I Don't Think I Could", does feature some heartfelt, painful lyrics, but the performance is fairly soulless, and it's perhaps my least favorite of the four:
With "The Moonlight, The Prairie, And You", things take a definite step up, in my opinion. Maybe I'm just a sucker for this sort of thing, but this actually sounds like something one might hear on a nostalgic album of "songs from long ago". That it was actually written in the late '50's, commissioned, song-poem style, adds a level of weirdness that I enjoy.
Herve LaPlume's "Send Me Away with a Smile" is notable mostly for the melody, which seems to have been constructed almost entirely from random notes, and I'm amazed that the trio gets through it with as few errors as they do. I don't think I could have sung it:
The award winner here, though, has to be "Steppin' On the Gas". First of all, am I wrong, or do these lyrics make no sense, particularly the line after he's been stopped by an officer: "I had to do some speeding or pay a fine, you see"? Also, what is the line after "the car sped down the highway"?
Those specifics aside, these lyrics are an endless source of pleasure to me, as is the peculiar decision (alluded to above) to use the mixed trio - with the two women on lead for most of the performance - to sing a song which is written from the view of a man.