Monday, December 18, 2006

Two For One

Here's a little treat that I've been waiting to share with you since last year. Some of you old-timers may remember the record above. I never shared out the music last year, but I did share the scan over at Flickr. I had never listened to it too closely, I guess, or I would have shared it before now. The music is lush orchestra, well conducted and well arranged. The best stuff is the side of secular songs, which I find more interesting that the side of sacred hymns, but you may be of the other mind. At some point during the year, I stumbled across the album below, which looks the same, except for the missing Living Stereo banner. Yes, it is in mono, which is usually a bad thing. But something kept bothering me about it. I didn't post the scans of the flip side here (they're in the downloads, though), but if they were here, you'd see what it took me maybe a week to realize. The stereo copy credits Domenico Savino, His Orchestra and Chorus, while the mono version credits Domenico Savino And His Orchestra. Subtle difference, but important. After much listening and comparing, I realized that these are two different records! The mono one was recorded independently of the stereo version. The arrangements are the same, but the versions are slightly different. And what do you know, I like the mono better! But you have to judge for yourself. I'm giving you both copies, and you can let me know what you think. For starters, here's Domenico Savino And His Orchestra-Hi-Fi Christmas Party (RCA Camden CAL-392, 1958, Mono). And here's Domenico Savino, His Orchestra And Chorus-Hi-Fi Christmas Party (RCA Camden CAS-392, 1958, Stereo). Grab 'em both and let me know which one you like better!
Earlier this evening, I shared an EP by Mr. Savino with you. The tracks on that release are mono, and match the times from the mono record above. But the record above has no mention or credit of The Rome Festival Orchestra. So I don't know what the deal is. The flip side to the stereo long-player mentions that Domenico had to come back from a vacation in Italy for the recording session, so couldn't he have stayed in Italy if he was going to record with The Rome Festival Orchestra? Hmmm, well, you know what? It doesn't say he recorded these tracks in America, just that he interrupted his vacation to record them. I made an assumption, and you know what that means...


Anonymous said...

I bought this album just for the cover art!

Look at the man playing Santa. (Obviously not the real one, his brown hair is showing under his wig.) He's arranged his goody sack and clarinet in a most, er, *Freudian* way.

The other people's expressions are a hoot. The boy has a look on his face that says "Wow, that's really grossing out my stupid sister! Cool!" (Baby sis' face is hidden in disgust.) But Mother, old enough to have a libido, is clearly delighted with faux-Santa's insinuation that he's rarin' to give a gift to a naughty girl!

The drunken severed head

Anonymous said...

Beautiful album.

Ernie said...

Those wacky RCA graphic arts folks! They'll do anything for a laugh.

Anonymous said...

I know Domenico Savino through his early 20's recordings. In those days he used his surname in reverse, so his records were credited to: D'Onivas and his orchestra. Recorded for Pathé, Perfect, Star, Bell, etc.


Anonymous said...

I also bought this album for the cover art (and strategically placed clarinet), but thanks to you E I'll actually give it a listen! : )

Chip Arcuri said...


I can clear up the confusion about this album:

This LP was originally recorded in mono and released by RCA Camden with the title "Christmas Party." The original RCA catalog number was CAL-333, and the original album cover artwork was mostly green and boasted a picture of a festive party punch bowl and glasses.

Then, in 1958, when Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired their first Westrex stereo cutting heads (which were used for the mass-production of stereo vinyl discs), Maestro Savino went back into the studio and re-recorded the album in stereo -- this time with an added chorus. RCA then repackaged and re-released the LP with the new title of "Hi-Fi Christmas Party." It sported a new (and seemingly evocative) cover, and had a new catalog number: CAL-392 (for the original mono recording) and CAS-392 (for the new stereo recording).

Surprisingly, for the new mono catalog release (CAL-392), RCA chose to offer the original mono recording, instead of a mono version of the newer stereo recording. This is why CAS-392 includes the chorus, and CAL-392 does not.

Even though it was the common practice of record companies back then to jettison the original mono recording of an album (after an artist had re-recorded it in stereo), and offer a mono version of the newer stereo recording (because of its technological superiority) for the folks who did not have stereophonic equipment, I'm glad in this case they didn't -- I too, like the original all-instrumental mono version better myself.

Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri

A.k.a. Christmas Music Guru