The Jets were a Minneapolis pop group, who were all members of a Mormon family of Tongan heritage. The group had five singles in Billboard’s top ten during their peak years, but none from their 1986 holiday record, Christmas with the Jets. AllMusic graciously describes the album as “somewhat charming.”
We once had an employee who thought it was time to start playing the Christmas records on November 1st. We’re not sure what the standard cut-off time is, but today seems like as good as any day in December to start posting some of the Christmas records we found over the past year. Here’s a fun one from George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
There’s nothing to identify this random, blank flexi disc. It was mixed into a box of records in a collection we recently hauled into the shop. This is one of the fun things about digging through records — you never know what you’ll find.
We’re guessing it came from a guitar magazine. We don’t know who the performer is, but this nice tune was an enjoyable discovery this weekend.
Here’s a sequel to this post about prison records. We found one more seventies recording from America’s correctional system, this time from a little closer to home.
The only other record featuring singer Shirley Ramus we have seen is a 45 of the song “There’s Nothing in the World I’d Rather Do” on a small Iowa label, Kajac Records. On this compilation recorded at the Anamosa Men’s Reformatory she made the peculiar choice of singing Melanie hit, “Brand New Key.”
Today’s post is for our friend and occasional employee Craig, who has been reading Haruki Murakami’s Absolutely on Music, a book of conversations with Seiji Ozawa. He came into the shop last weekend looking for recordings of the legendary conductor, and we turned up frustratingly few of them. This week we came across several recordings from Ozawa’s storied career, including this one.
Seiji Ozawa conducted the premier of William Russo’s Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra in 1968, with the Chicago Symphony and the Seigel-Schwall Band collaborating. Five years later he recorded the piece for Deutsche-Grammophon with the San Francisco Orchestra. The album was a hit, by Deutsche-Grammophon standards, which led to the Seigel-Schwall band performing the piece with several orchestras around the country.
Russo’s Symphony No. 2 “Titan” was comissioned by Leonard Bernstein ten years earlier and featured jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson as a soloist for its debut with the New York Philharmonic. Russo, whose early career included writing for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, wrote a number of works which walk a line between ‘high-falutin’ classical and ‘low-brow’ popular music.
We have misgivings about music which could be categorized in our “classical gasp” section, but Russo’s composition is a successful blending of genres. While never as famous as other rock/blues acts like the Butterfield Blues Band or John Mayall, the Siegel-Schwall Band is solidly talented. Corky Siegel plays a mean harmonica on these three pieces. Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra is certainly better than this hybrid concerto we posted recently.
Russo’s work also included rock opera styled productions with the Chicago Free Theater, often on current events such as anti-war protests or the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. He remained involved in theater and music in Chicago until his retirement a year before his death in 2003. Columbia College’s Chicago Jazz Ensemble, founded by Russo, continues to perform today.