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High Noon - Original Score

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Album Review

This CD is rewarding, though mostly for highly specialized listeners, in soundtracks, country, or pop. The song "High Noon," written for the 1952 movie of the same name, is represented by 27 separate recordings, all in different arrangements and styles, done over a period of 49 years, including one in German and two in Danish. Though it sounds bizarre, the collection is amazingly varied, lively, and engaging throughout, starting with Tex Ritter's first fully realized recording (done in England, for reasons too complicated to explain here) and proceeding on with the pop hit version by Frankie Laine from the same year, the looser rendition by Eddie Fisher from four years later, and versions by country singers ranging from Faron Young to Hank Locklin, small-group vocal ensembles including the Diamonds and the Browns, light jazz performers (the Three Suns) and jazz singers (Joe Williams), R&B vocalists (Hannah Dean), star soloists (Chet Atkins, Bobby Mizzell), and big band popsters like Ray Conniff, Hal Mooney, and Henry Mancini (whose outsized choral version is the biggest surprise here). Ferrante & Teicher treat the song almost like a miniature bolero, with ever louder and more intense embellishment by the strings, while Hank Locklin gives it a "Down in the Boondocks" beat, and Billy Walker adds Spanish guitar adornment to the backing; pianist Bobby Mizzell treats it like "Brahms Lullaby." Neil Wolfe offers the only post-1960s recording (the song evidently fell out of favor, or at least usage, in the 1970s): an instrumental from 2001 featuring soft jazz piano and heavy rhythm guitars. Joe Williams and Hannah Dean offer the most adventurous versions, and their renditions make one wish that this CD had full credits for each recording, in terms of arrangers and background personnel (the horn and saxmen on Hal Mooney's recording also deserved that treatment). The three foreign language versions are entertaining — Bruce Low's German rendition, dating from 1952, is done in the style of European pop music of the period, complete with cheesy organ accompaniment; and the two Danish renditions, from Gustav Winckler in 1952 and Per Myrberg in 1966, are worlds apart, the former done with thick orchestral accompaniment and the latter with a guitar, Chet Atkins style, behind the singer. One was hoping that maybe a version in Swedish by the pre-ABBA Bjorn Ulvaeus might've turned up, but it didn't, and the 78 minute disc closes with Tex Ritter's two U.S.-released versions from 1952. The booklet that comes with this CD is well illustrated but short on information, other than release dates and catalog numbers, and it is difficult to store — ideally there would be a small slipcase for the package. But it is fun, the sound is excellent throughout (only the 1952 Danish cut is less than pristine), and it's also an education about the way that the popular music business worked 40 years ago.


Born: 10 May 1894 in Kremenchuk, Ukraine

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

It was once considered cute by Hollywood wits to poke fun at Russian-born composer Dimitri Tiomkin's borscht-flavored accent. How amusing it was to hear him yell out "Switt lyand of lyaberty!" while orchestrating "The Star Spangled Banner" for Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). A graduate of the St. Petersburg Academy (where he studied under the famed composer Glazunov) and a holder of both a law and music degree, Tiomkin exhibited a fondness for Native American music early in his...
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