Vinyl Variety | Newberry

Vinyl Variety

One of the benefits of sorting all these LPs is similar to that of sorting books: you find all kinds of things that somehow you never knew existed. And then you wonder how you made it this far without knowing about them. (No, I promise: I’m not going to bring up Strawberry Snow again.)

Here’s a rock album that is fairly stock for its era. The eighties were a time of experimentation with the art on the jacket, and this one is nothing more or less than typical: a dancer’s legs sliced with vertical lines, and all in a combination of colors, making it difficult to tell exactly what you’re looking at, concealing the name of the album and the name of the artist in edgy lettering, and just generally hard to look at. Very much of its time, it MIGHT have been put into the Rock stack except for my use of a quick sorting technique.

When sorting records, if you are unsure of what category of music you’re dealing with, check the instrumentation. Somewhere on the back there will be a list showing who was on guitar and who was on keyboard, and so on. If you find listings for mandolin and harmonica, the chances are the album needs to go into Folk/Country. If there are three different clarinets, and two different saxophones listed, you’re better off putting it in Jazz. THIS record included viola and cello players, so I was pretty sure it went into Classics.

Naturally, at this point, someone glanced at it and said “Oh, Phillip Glass’s Glass Pieces.” People with clear eyesight need to give me some warning. (In my own defense, it IS easier to read from three feet away.) Phillip Glass is a modern American composer whose work was always out there on the frontier, and this album from 1983 is one that for some reason had not come through the Book Fair before. Had I been able to read the lettering at the top of the jacket, I could have saved myself (and you) from the consideration of instruments mentioned on the backs of records.

I wish someone could give me similar information about this LP that I don’t remember dealing with before. You know about Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I am of the generation which read it before it was an animated Christmas special, but I agree that Boris Karloff’s performance of it is masterful.

So when and where and how and why did we get this version, performed by Zero Mostel? I have a feeling it’s worth hearing, if he was interested. (Remind me to tell you some time about the worst portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge by a big name actor who just sounded bored with the whole idea.) I can’t say that if someone had asked me who should read this book on a record, I would not have thought of Zero Mostel, but I don’t know that I’d have thought of Boris Karloff, either.

Speaking of immortal children’s music, one of the compositions I had thrust at me over and over in my school days was Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, particularly what I call the Donkey Movement, which mimics a donkey’s progress along the Grand Canyon so perfectly that it is felt any six year-old can get the idea. (Let’s all hum it together: bump-ah bump-ah bump-ah da da da bump-ah bump-ah bump-ah….okay, let’s not.) This collection of records not also included his Mississippi Suite, which several Grofe fans assured me is also excellent, but also an LP of a little something he wrote for the 1964 World’s Fair: the World’s Fair Suite. I may try to listen to this online some time, but only if they promise me the donkey went to the World’s fair, too. (I AM, on the other hand, going to find out what kind of a Grinch Zero Mostel made.)

Not a year goes by when I don’t find yet another Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, or Lincoln Portrait narrated by another celebrity I didn’t know had indulged (this particular LP, which has Peter and the Wolf on one side and Carnival on the other, must be one of the few albums with both Noel Coward and Arthur Godfrey on it.) And someday, someone MUST compile a list so I know exactly how many children’s stories were done on record by Sterling Holloway (for two generations, the voice of Winnie the Pooh).

Or I can just plow through another couple of boxes of LPs and learn what I can (holding the records three feet away.)

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