The other day I had on the Romantic Moods of Jackie Gleason CD playing while getting dressed in preparation for my daily descent into the salt mines.
Listening to The Great One’s surreal symphonic orchestra swirling its way around and through “Out of Nowhere”, “But Beautiful”, “From Russia with Love”, and “Tenderly” makes me think that I'm a Cold War-addled sap from, say, 1959-63 who’s listening to these soothing, yet slightly melancholy standards from the American (and British) Songbook.
Oh, how I love those easy listening orchestral albums Gleason released on Capitol in the 1950s. Swirling, surreal-sounding strings and cushy brass enveloping the Mid-Century listener who was hopefully and probably under the influence of some strong booze or better still, the allure of a woman.
Gleason's vivid, even explicit descriptions of what he wanted for any given song are highly amusing, but The Great One knew what he wanted and more importantly, what his middlebrow listeners wanted. I believe there is something subversive about this mood music, but not subversive in a "The Evil Government is in Control" kind of way, but rather "Mood Music" in the truest sense of the term in that any given tune has the power to create an environment. Gleason's arrangers and orchestra respect the melodies of the songs they recorded, but there's something more to those albums that enable them to create environments that are worlds unto themselves.
Thank you, Jackie (and once upon a time, we shared the same dentist...true story).
How much do you think Gleason actually contributed to these?
From what I've read from Joseph Lanza's fine book Elevator Music, Gleason was the dark figure holding the lit cigar in the control booth of the studio. I take this to mean that he oversaw the proceedings and served as the one who may not have known much about music, but who knew what he wanted; this may have had at least some impact on the finished product.
Whatever Jackie's input was or wasn't on those albums, the finished product remains a delight to behold. I've been listening to these albums for half my life.
I struggled to get to grips with the idea that this (late) actor who I knew from only one or two films also produced music ... and did wonder if it was simply a case of the same name.
So, a while back, I bought a two album CD release: Love Embers and Flame / Champagne, Candlelight and Kisses (1962/63) and the sleeve notes gave me a little info along the lines stated above. Did Mr. Gleason arrange or conduct any of these 24 tracks? Probably not but then the end result of many an album lies with the producer and maybe this was his role.
As for the music ... all very nice, the one album being somewhat more varied (and, to some extent, sounding more like a compilation rather than a themed work) but ... would I buy more? I won't say no, whereas I recently added to my collection of albums by Paul Weston and have many albums by other easy-listening artists, such as Mantovani, Geoff Love, Manuel & the Music of the Mountains, Ron Goodwin, Stanley Black, Bert Kaempfert.
All of which (style-wise) I prefer. but, perhaps, those two albums by Mr. Gleason are not best representative of his talents. When the current music finishes I shall try some of the samples linked above.
It's similar, yet it sounds different. Haven't watched a Honeymooners episode in decades, but I'm still not certain it's the same theme. Maybe the arrangement or tempo is different? Shame on us both for not being absolutely sure...