Collector's Choice Music
1964, Martin Denny was playing
up in Anchorage, Alaska at the Officers Club at Elmendorf Air Force Base.
This in and of itself was nothing special. Denny played in
Alaska many times. He was a working musician after all. What makes this
particular concert special was that is was broadcast live on Alaskan Air
Force Command radio.
played hundreds of live shows during his active career, none save this
one has ever been released. In fact, the liner notes tout
as "his one and only live recording." For fans of exotica, this is like
unearthing a long-lost live performance from the
or the Rolling Stones. And speaking of those bands, 1964
was just about the time when the British Invasion was hitting big in the
states. Denny and his brand of music, which were already
outdated in eyes of pop culture, were just about to go totally extinct.
would be stuck covering popular hits of the day and even trying to join
into the electronic music revolution. (If you haven't heard his Moog version
of "Quiet Village" you're in for a treat.)
By the time of this
recording, Denny had already established himself and had
several hit albums under his belt, but as mentioned, the times they were
a changing. The fans he made in the 1950's were growing older. They were
more of the Officers Club type rather than the hip rock and roll nightclub
As "Baked Alaska" starts, it seems like
Denny and company is just another lounge combo paid to provide
some musical wallpaper to the chattering officers and wives. It takes a
few tunes to win over the crowd, but once that happened Denny
is in full control. In-between songs, he banter is informative and captivating.
It's always a treat to hear a music master narrate an evening's performance.
The selections on the
album include many of his standard hits including "Busy Port" and his trademark
"Quiet Village." It also included 60's tunes "A Taste of Honey" and "The
World of Suzie Wong." There is even an attempt at "America" from West Side
bandmates (there is no band line-up listed in the liner notes) takes the
microphone for a drowned-out-by-crowd-noise version of "Bali H'ai" and
beautifully understated take on hula novelty "Keep Your Eyes on the Hands."
The big show stopper
and the point where the band really shows their musical chops is with the
epic Rodgers and Hart ode to New York "Manhattan." They shift
deftly between jazzy and classical styles.
The real fun of Baked Alaska
is hearing Denny and the rest of his band include the bird
calls and tropical sounds into their live performance. There is something
magical about hearing all the pieces of Denny's trademark
sound come together for live takes of his best known tunes. It gives those
who were too young to see Denny live themselves a great taste
of what his shows were like.
The quality is what
is to expected from a radio recording of the era and the final tune "Lovely
Lona" is quickly cut short by a radio announcer, but none of these minor
technical flaws can mar such a great musical treasure.
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