Two Must-Have Albums (Outstanding easy-listening collections you can make at home.)

 
For most people, their first taste of wine isn't a pleasant experience. Unused to the alcoholic aromatics and tannins their taste buds cringe. Yet, if these same people persist in trying new and varied wines their palates quickly learn to appreciate the subtle nuances of different types and vintages. In time wine becomes an integral part of their existence and greatly enriches their lives, in spite of the fact that they may have gagged upon their first taste.

The same is true of many sensual experiences. Coffee may taste unutterably bitter the first time but after many cups the drinker comes to cherish that first morning cup and quickly learns the value of premium brands. Modern art makes many people's eyes water, yet in time and with repeated exposure they begin to understand and enjoy it.

In each of these cases something that was initially distasteful becomes extremely pleasurable after the individual gets used to it. The lesson here is that for anyone willing to take the time to embrace something new that may not at first be enjoyable, they may expand the horizons of what they value and in so doing greatly enrich their lives. The same is true of music... as I personally learned.

Born in the early 1950s, I grew up in the rock and roll era and became musically mature in the hard rock of the sixties and seventies. That was the type of music I was used to and everything else, whether it was classical, jazz or country, was almost painful to listen to. Then one day I happened to be driving in an area where the only radio station available was playing songs from the 1940s. Although the lyrics sounded sugar-sweet and the performances artificially polished, my choice was to listen to it or nothing. I left it on and it changed my life.

After several tracks of similar songs my musical prejudices began readjusting to the point where my skin stopped crawling from the sound of the tunes. By the time I'd driven into the range of a more contemporary station I'd begun to wonder if I wasn't musically short-changing myself. Then I recalled a scene from the Banacek television series.

In this scene Banacek's guest in his apartment noted that most of the furnishings and art were old. Banacek explained that he liked owning the best of everything. Since there was more old stuff in the world than new stuff it stood to reason the most of the best stuff had to be old. Musically, this suggested that if I liked listening to the best music, much of it might be old. If I invested the time and effort to develop a taste for older music a new and wider world would be opened to me. It worked.

After sampling many pre-rock era performers my music prejudices began breaking down. In time I found several I enjoyed. I picked the two best of these, made best-of CDs of their songs and began listening to them. Then something remarkable happened.

After forcing myself to listen to these CDs several times, almost instantly my musical ear clicked over to a different mode and the songs on these two CDs no longer weren't only not painful to listen to, they had become some of my very favorites. The more I listened, the better they sounded. Within a couple of days I found myself reaching past Jefferson Airplane and other old favorites for them. Now I can't image ever not having them to listen to, which brings us to the purpose of this page.

If you listen to only one flavor of music, I invite you to give the following two CDs a try. Listen to each three or four times while striving to appreciate them on their own merits. Remember, in the eras from which they came, these were the very best: the multiple #1 hitters that dominated the music scene. I warn you in advance that they are so completely different in both style and technique from today's recording superstars that you are surely going to cringe the first time you listen to them. Unlike contemporary vocalists, who only need to scream approximately on tune, these are natural singing talents trained and practiced to produce the smoothest vocalizations possible. Accompanying singers are in precise harmony and the instrumentation is of orchestral quality. All this may sound artificially affected to the untreated ear. But, for anyone willing to make the effort to give them an honest, unprejudiced hearing, these qualities quickly become appreciated and in sort order, cherished. After three or four listenings new music grooves will be created in your mind, into which these songs will begin to settle. When this happens you'll have opened the door to a whole new world of music. Even better, you will have taught yourself how to embrace something completely foreign and in so doing increase your enjoyment options.

I couldn't find a single CD of either performer that had all the songs on it I wanted. To obtain them I used that font of everything music: Napster. With it I was able to obtain good copies of all the songs I wanted. The resulting CDs are now the most-used in my collection. (By the way, I don't own stock in Napster. I've just had good luck using them.)

 
First up I'd like to introduce you to the greatest night club singer of all time. This was someone who was so good at what he did that even though his music was over a decade out of style, one of his songs knocked the Beatles out of the number one spot on the popular charts in 1964. His name is Dean Martin.

Deano was enormously popular from 1948 to 1978 in movies, radio, recordings and even on television. His universally popular voice and style made him a hit and major influence in both the late swing and rock and roll eras. The songs in the following selection are so light and cheerful that it's impossible to stay in a bad mood while listening to them. They are listed in an excellent listening order.

Memories Are Made Of This..............................1955.... #1 for 6 weeks

That's Amore.......................................>........ 1953.....#2 for 5 weeks

Return To Me................................................. 1958.....#4

You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You.......>. 1965... #25

Sway ............................................................1954... #15

Volare................................................../....... 1958... #12

On An Evening In Roma...................................never charted

I'll Always Love You....................................... 1950... #11

Remember Me................................................1965... #32

Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.............1964... #1 for 1 week

Houston........................................................ 1965... #21

I Will............................................................. 1965... #10

In The Misty Moonlight.................................... never charted

Send Me The Pillow You Sleep On..................... 1965... #20

Somewhere There's A Someone For Everyone... 1966... #32

The Door Is Still Open To My Heart................... 1964... #6

Mambo Italiano.............................................. never charted

 
If you don't want to jump in the deep end right away by making the entire album, try a smaller sampling. Five of what I consider his best works are the hauntingly rhythmic and sensual Sway, the wonderfully lilting In The Misty Moonlight, the perky Mambo Italiano, the romantically plaintive Return To Me, or his theme song Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. I challenge you to give them a try. You won't be disappointed.

 
For the second album I'm recommending selections from the man who was the most popular and successful singer of all time: Bing Crosby.

If you grew up in the rock and roll, rock, acid, or later eras you might assume this honor belongs to the Beatles or The King: Elvis Presley. Get ready for a shock: they aren't even close as the following numbers prove:

 
...........................................The Beatles.........Elvis Presley.........Bing Crosby

Number of songs in the top 30:........46.......................85.......................383

Number of number 1 hits:................20.......................18........................41

 
Although he may be all but forgotten in modern times, the fact is that in his era Bing Crosby was the most universally popular performer of all time. (For individuals wishing a more complete comparison between Elvis and Bing I refer you to ELVIS PRESLEY - BING CROSBY COMPARISON PAGE.)

Yes, Bing Crosby's singing has long ago gone out of style. But there had to be a reason hundreds of millions of people around the world loved him. The following album provides a sampling that will explain why.

Selecting songs from a megastar like Bing Crosby is fraught with problems. First, he made over 1700 recordings. How can anyone listen to all of them? Even if they did, which should they to choose? Additionally, many of his early recordings were made when the quality of recording equipment was so poor that even with the best digital enhancement they still sound tinny. Instrumentation in particular suffers, to the degree that an orchestra of the world's greatest musicians ends up sounding like a band of kazoos. Finally, while this page is about the exercise of breaking down prejudices to expand musical horizons, many of his songs are from such a different era that even after months of listening to them I still can't stand them.

The following list are of Bing Crosby's songs that have the highest recording value available, capture the full range and breadth of his career and are of a style that modern ears can, with a little work, learn to appreciate:

 
Love Is Just Around The Corner.....................1934... never charted

Red Sails In The Sunset................................1935... #1 for 2 weeks

I'm An Old Cowhand....................................1936... #2 for 4 weeks

Too Marvelous For Words.............................1937... #1 for 1 week

I've Got A Pocketful Of Dreams.....................1938... #1 for 4 weeks

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby...........1938... #1 for 2 weeks

Moonlight Becomes You...............................1943... #1 for 2 weeks

Ain't Got A Dime To My Name........................1943... never charted

San Fernando Valley.....................................1944... #1 for 5 weeks

Swinging On A Star.......................................1944... #1 for 9 weeks

I'll Be Seeing You.........................................1944... #1 for 4 weeks

On The Atcheson, Topeka And The Santa Fe... 1945... #3

It's Been A Long, Long Time......................... 1945... #1 for 2 weeks

How Are Things In Glocca Mora......................1947... never charted

Thanks For The Memories..............................1956...never charted

 
One of the things that quickly catches one when listening to many of these songs, like To Marvelous For Words, is that the words of the song themselves are beautiful in their lyrical order, independent of who sings them.

Bing Crosby fans may be offended that I didn't include many of his mega-hits such as Please (#1 for 6 weeks) Love In Bloom (#1 for 6 weeks) Pennies From Heaven (#1 for 10 weeks) Sweet Leilani (#1 for 10 weeks) Only Forever #1 for 9 weeks) Sunday, Monday, Or Always (#1 for 7 weeks) or the most popular song of all time White Christmas (#1 for 11 weeks, 14 weeks lifetime) just to name a few. The reason is that I couldn't find clean copies of these songs, they didn't fit in with the other songs on the album or I felt their styles were too far from modern norms to be accepted by even diligent listeners. These are all great songs and I encourage everyone to give them a try. However, I also believe the songs listed for the album are a better introduction to Bing's work. (Having said that, I have to confess that I am neither a music nor Bing Crosby expert.)

Regrettably, just about the time recording quality improved to acceptable levels, around 1943, Bing's age, overwork, and perhaps his drinking resulted in the loss of some of the rich resonance he had in his youth. Nonetheless, songs from the end of his career are still memorable. In particular: How Are Things In Glocca Mora. In this song you can hear not only the outstanding vocal control and richness he still commanded, but also the consumate professional managing his voice and music selection to make the most of his range. Even if you don't like his style it is impossible not to appreciate his technical expertise. It's a great piece of work.

 
In Conclusion:

This page hasn't been about just trying to introduce two classic artists to modern generations. It's also about showing how anyone can retrain themselves to embrace new ideas and values for their own enrichment. Most of our preferences are programmed into us by the time we're ten years old without our having any say about it. Family, friends and society force their values on us whether in the long run we want them or not. We don't have to be stuck with these prejudices. The principles of this page can be used to free us of this youthful programming and in so doing expand our horizon and help us enjoy the pleasures to be discovered there.

 

 
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