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Album Review

"Calcutta" might be the least remembered number one hit of the '60s; its brisk rhythm, hand claps, wordless chorus, and prominent melody add up to an infectious instrumental, but anything associated with the name Lawrence Welk tends to be dismissed out of hand. But Welk's early-'60s Dot albums, with their weirdly generic cover designs and crazy assortments of rock and pop tunes, were often quite good. Welk, for a time, converged with other instrumental artists like Bill Justis and Billy Vaughn, whose music, too, was often on the periphery of rock & roll. On Calcutta!, Welk covers a number of recent hits, including "Perfidia" (with electric guitar inspired by the Ventures' single) and "Corrine Corrina" (revived by "Ray Peterson"). "Ruby" is the kind of string-laden, easy listening music most listeners would expect from Welk, but "Save the Last Dance for Me" — performed with what sounds like a harpsichord on lead — returns to rock & roll territory. Calcutta! topped the charts for two weeks in 1961 and the album stayed at number one for nearly three months, so its success can't be written off as a mere fluke.


Born: 11 March 1903 in Strasburg, ND

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

It may or may not be true that Lawrence Welk is the most popular easy listening artist of all time, but it's difficult to think of anyone who is more prominently associated with the genre. Welk's long-running TV variety show was a huge success in its time, and remains an enduring favorite in reruns. And while Welk recorded prolifically, his true musical legacy was built through the doggedly innocuous, wholesome aesthetic of his show. He was an unlikely television star -- his thick German accent and...
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Calcutta, Lawrence Welk
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