I’ve never understood why music’s nature is so often inexorably linked to generational trends, both historically and culturally. Why does popular culture expect create this notion that someone in their forties or fifties who happens to care for contemporary music—especially if it is music considered to be “hip”—is to be held suspect, or viewed with amusement as someone desperately trying to fit in where they don’t belong? Furthermore, why is a kid in their twenties instantly pegged as “ironic” if they happen to like what is deemed as music for older generations?
It’s a question I’ve pondered over the years. For years, I watched The Lawrence Welk Show broadcasts on PBS, often being jokingly accused of irony. No, no irony here—I loved the show as a kid, and I loved it as an adult. There’s something about standards and interpretation of the classics that appeals to me. It’s one of the reasons I love El Records and cover them so much here—the music they release is sophisticated, intelligent, and easy on the ears, because it was music that was intended to be that way.
This latest release from El Records finds them compiling the esteemed Ray Conniff. Even narrowed down to recordings from the fifties and early sixties, this is no easy task—over the course of his life, the man released literally hundreds of records and thousands of songs. The man was prolific, to say the least. That he was also means that the man was successful in his own way—even if the world doesn’t acknowledge him as anything but easy listening fluff.
The Ray Conniff Hi-Fi Companion, originally released in 1962 and expanded slightly here, is a collection of recordings showcasing the best of Conniff from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The twenty-nine songs featured here are sophisticated listening, interpretations of popular song and modern standards done in a way that focuses not on the lyrical content, but on the intricacy of arrangement. The singing is male-female vocalizing, often done in a head-spinning way that can only be fully appreciated by headphone listening, channel circling that is complex and innovative in a way that is often forgotten.
Diving into the collection, one finds wonderful versions of classics such as “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “As Time Goes By,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Laura,” and “In The Still Of The Night.” These versions are gorgeous, of course–Conniff’s arrangements are never short of beautiful–and are the pinnacle of hi-fi recording. This edition adds a few extra numbers from the era, including takes on then-contemporary numbers “Volare” and “Deep Purple,” giving the listener even more wonderful music to savor.
Ray Conniff–check him out. Not familiar with his work? The Ray Conniff Hi-Fi Companion is a perfect place to start your journey into his world. His music is soothing for the soul, perfect for relaxing after work with a nice drink and a good book. Easy listening? Yes. Just don’t dismiss him because of it.
Categories: Album Reviews