Subconcious-Lee (1955) by Lee Konitz

Categories: 1949, 1950, and 1955.

Because it was released half a decade after it was recorded, this album’s revolutionary status gets overlooked or ignored. Instead it’s Birth of the Cool this and Miles Davis’ Nonet that. And that praise is deserved. Those sides went a long way to establishing cool jazz, but this band was doing remarkably similar things at the same time. The one major difference is speed – Konitz and the other soloists play fast on a number of tracks, and that makes it sound more like bop (though if you listen to the rhythm section they sound significantly “cooler”) and so you Read More

The Big Combo (1955, Joseph H. Lewis)

Categories: 1955 and Movies.

This is a pretty standard film noir/gangster film, almost wholly lacking in backstory (only one character has one!), character development or mystery. (The film’s central mystery is pretty boring.) The dialogue is hackneyed and almost sounds like a parody of better noir at times. A couple of the characters drastically change their behaviour during the film (particularly Wallace’s and Middleton’s) and it’s really hard to imagine that the villain is a gangster solely to get girls. (Also, this is the smallest criminal organization…) The only reason I think this film is sometimes fondly remember (aside from the rather classic noir Read More

Blues Kingpins: Elmore James (2003)

Categories: 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, and Music.

This is a compilation of James’ recordings from the 1950s. It presents a relative variety of styles of blues and some of the music features a horn section. Listening to this, it’s easy to understand why James was dubbed “King of the Slide Guitar.” He shows off some pretty impressive traditional guitar playing as well and you can hear the reverberations of his style through so much rock and blues guitar playing since. The energy is also notable, comparable to the rock and roll and R and B of the time, which is a bit of a surprise. Because I Read More

The Buddy Holly Collection (1993)

Categories: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1993, and Music.

At the time of its release, this was, apparently, the closest thing a to “complete” edition of Holly’s work as existed. (So I have read.) So that alone makes it pretty good. Holly managed to bridge the gap between rock and roll and rockabilly on the one hand and respectable pop music on the other better than perhaps any other performer of his era. He brought a more sensitive side to rock and roll lyrics (befitting his spectacles, I guess) that was hugely influential – his influence on John Lennon in particular is immense – and wrote a number of Read More

The Trouble With Harry (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1955, 1998, and Music.

I haven’t seen this movie in probably close to twenty years and, well, maybe I was too young for it (though I saw it at the height of my Hitchcock mania). It didn’t grab me as a classic, the way it has so many others. But even this many years later I have a bit of a similar issue with the score. I know the score is good, at least it’s certainly very much above average, but it doesn’t really grab me in the way so many other of Herrmann’s scores do. In part I think that’s due to its Read More

Garden of Evil / Prince of Players (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William T. Stromberg

Categories: 1954, 1955, 1998, and Music.

This disc collects the complete score of the 1954 western Garden of Evil with the suite (i.e. the highlights) of Hermann’s score to the 1955 biopic Prince of Players, both movies which have been somewhat forgotten. The Prince of Players suite is a very classic Hollywood score. It’s exactly what you would think of and so it’s pretty underwhelming. I guess it’s well done, but hardly stands out from the scores (yuk yuk yuk) of other film music of the era. Garden of Evil is a far more ominous, interesting piece of music. It’s still somewhat conventional – it lacks Read More

Symphonies 3-5 (2011) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk-Sinfoniorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This is an excellent set of three of Henze’s symphonies, showing him at perhaps his most radical stage. This is the kind of modernist “classical” that I just love; bonkers writing and bonkers arrangements. Henze’s third symphony starts off on a decidedly pastoral note, before sounding an ominous foreboding about 15 seconds in. Though the first notes might have convinced us this is something light and fluffy, we’re utterly relieved of that so quickly, it’s almost impossible to believed. In fact, the first movement ends up sounding more like a horror movie soundtrack than traditional classical music. I suspect that Read More

All That Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk)

Categories: 1955 and Movies.

Sometimes I feel like Sirk is the Norman Rockwell of old Hollywood: everything is so hyper-idealized. But I guess Winslow Homer is a better comparison, everything looks good, but things are lurking. The colors are all so intense and lightning is so dramatic. I know some people love Sirk for his sets and costumes and stuff. I’ve never been into that. I’m much more into the satire though, which is perhaps as as on display here as in any of Sirk’s films. But it’s kind of over the top, and honestly, things have changed so much since the ’50s that Read More

The Young Maverick (2007 Compilation) by Glenn Gould et al.

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is a collection of radio broadcasts Gould made for the CBC. It’s got a lot of his major performances, but these versions aren’t as good as the studio recordings if only because the sound quality isn’t very good. And that’s kind of annoying because I stumbled on this because I was looking for Gould’s performances of some Beethoven stuff and some more modern stuff. It’s a good survey of his talent and his idiosyncrasy (though knowing the pieces ahead of time helps, and I can’t say I know more than half to 2/3rds of them), but the sound quality Read More

Concert by the Sea (1955, 1956) by Erroll Garner

Categories: 1955 and Music.

This is a pretty fantastic set by Garner, a player I had never heard before. His playing is pretty incredible – his command is fantastic and he has a clear sense of fun. The recording is pretty brutal – you can barely hear the bassist or drummer – but it doesn’t matter since Garner is such a busy player (and I don’t mean ‘busy’ in a pejorative sense). Frankly, I don’t know why he needed a trio setting. He sounds like he would be good enough on his own. The one thing keeping me from giving this full marks is Read More

The Violent Bear it Away (1955) by Flannery O’Connor

Categories: 1955, Books, and Fiction.

It took me a long time to get into this. Though I found the initial pages interesting, soon it became tough slogging. But once Tarwater and Rayber meet things really pickup. There is a sort of majesty to this part of the book and the subsequent part. It is really impressive and admirable how O’Connor tells her protagonist’s story and doesn’t worry about the stories of those we the reader might want to follow. Tarwater’s transformation is powerful and incredible and makes the novel worth reading. However, I am not sure this is one of the great novels of the Read More