Dan Donates!

31 05 2008

A good friend of ARC, Dan Zanes, has done the impossible; donated ALL, not some, no ALL of his LPs to the library. Sure he threw in a nice pile of CDs (841), but ALL’s a lot, or at least 1,954 discs, and that’s a lot. Not only ALL, but ALL in great condition, and not only that, great recordings. All of them.

Over 300 LPs were Reggae of the highest caliber and rare enough. Like every donation there were the usual 20 or so Dylan items, but no one ever offered 23 Burl Ives albums? Some of them pre-beard!

If you don’t know who Dan is, well you can go to his webthing. We first knew him as a Del Fuego. These days he’s one of our leading family entertainers, and that’s his press agents way of saying an amazing performer of music for kids.

His Catch That Train! was the 2007 GrammyAward winner for Best Musical Album for Children. There was a100+ count box of children’s recordings in the donation, and equal sized boxes of jazz, early R&B, blues and Folkways LPs. Nice.

So thanks Dan for the incredible donation – we should have them all catalogued and infiled by the end of the month.

Pop and Lock

18 09 2007

The ARChive is a deep and wonderful place. As I was sorting through the children’s section for the records I wrote about yesterday, I came across these two gems, both from 1984 and I just had to share. First, we have Break Dancin’ For Fun and Fitness (Atlantic 80187-1)

Break Dancing 1Break Dancing 2Break Dancing 3Break Dancing 4

It’s a gatefold talk-over instructional album that “teaches” people how to break dance, and it has photos of all the moves to back it up. There’s even a primer about learning how to speak the lingo. It features members of the Big Apple Breakers, the Furious Rockers and there to “explain it all” is Rodanne “Rosey Rose” Hoare, “Superstar Choreographer of New York’s famed Roxy Disco.” It’s not exactly the most thrilling record I’ve ever heard – maybe best described as “of its time.” I can only imagine what one of Rosey’s classes in 1984 might have looked like. (Headbands and leg warmers, anyone?)

Second, we have Breakdance (K-Tel NU3360) which promised the “Best Music for Breakdancing,” and invited any and all to “Learn to Moonwalk, Electric Boogie, Footwork, Headspin & Top-Rock.” It is a far hipper album. Side one has some great music on it (incl. “Rockit,” and “Wheels of Steel”) while the B-side – the one with all the instruction – is artfully done and listenable on its own. There’s even a warning to parents and the physically infirm, as well as contact information for the New York City Breakers Fan Club (send c/o Hip Hop International, Inc).

Breakdancing 1Breakdancing 2

1984 was when kids like me growing up outside of New York City would have first become more aware of break dancing, and records like these were part of that early promotional wave. It’s kind of great to come across them again.

BTW, click on the images and you’ll get bigger, better versions. Ones you can actually read!


ps. if you like the records that teach you how to dance, click here for an instructional LP from K-Tel on how to do the Hot Chocolate!

Hey You Guy-ys!

17 09 2007

Sure, we all watched the Electric Company at one point or another. Chock full of famous actors (Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman were regulars while folks like Gene Wilder, Victor Borge, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers all popped in now and then). But what do we know about the people who provided the music? As I was poking around today, I came across the site of 150 Music, a small, independent record label. One of the people who established 150 Music is Gary William Friedman, whose claims to fame include a long list of film, theater and TV credits that includes having been the Electric Company ‘s musical director for a season. He wrote about 40 songs for the show’s fourth season, among them the awesome Spider Man theme. Check it out in Spidey Meets the Yeti, in which Spidey must save the day Mighty Mouse style from a serial food-sitting yeti menacing the community:

Friedman was just one of the shows great musical directors. The Electric Company’s first – and probably most important – was Joe Raposo. He had the job for the show’s first three seasons. Raposo was a student of Nadia Boulanger, he wrote music for Dr. Seuss, he wrote for Sesame Street (Many credit Raposo for making Sesame Street a more musically diverse place; if you’re under 40, you probably have him to thank for your musical taste. Remember ” ‘Being Green?” That was him too.), he scored Three’s Company (yes, that Three’s Company) and his song “Sing” – originally recorded by the Carpenters – was reprised on the 2005 episode of South Park called “Wing.” He also was awarded Grammys and Emmys, and was nominated once for an Oscar for his song “The First Time it Happens” in the Great Muppet Caper. Raposo, a Harvard graduate, was probably the one who recruited fellow alum Tom Lehrer for the Electric Company. Lehrer wrote about 10 songs for the show, including “Menu Song,” “Silent E” and my favorite, the “L-Y Song”:

Raposo produced and wrote or co-wrote most of the music for the Electric Company’s Original Cast album (Warner Brothers BS 2636, 1972; below left):

Electric Company 1Electric Company 2

The record – this copy from the ARChive’s collection – is a lavish affair. A gatefold sleeve with a comic book insert, a “crypto-spectometer” volvelle (à la Led Zeppelin III) and art by Jack Davis, I can’t imagine how anyone in their right mind would have given this to a child. It was reissued in 1974 (Sesame Street Records CTW 22052), but the later version was not as cool. CTW cut costs with less interesting packaging and art, and all of Cosby’s songs were removed.

The 1974 album was far more exciting than the album of Electric Company songs Disney put out (Songs From the Electric Company TV Show, Disneyland Records STER 1350, 1973; above right). It puts the television right on the cover, sending a great message to kids that it’s all about the TV. They sapped all the soul out of Raposo’s songs as well. Good going Disney!


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