Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Erich Kunzel & Frankie Laine - Gunfight at OK Corral

Erich Kunzel, who died on September 1, led the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra since its formation in 1977.

Every "pops" orchestra has the same assignment: provide light entertainment for the hefty masses. That involves turning familiar overtures by Rossini or Mozart into easy listening movie soundtracks and turning Tiomkin or Waxman movie scores into portentious classical music. Either way, the arrangements will be gaudy and overdone and the cymbal player is going to have very damp armpits.

While he lacked the folksy gentility of Arthur Fiedler, and was not a name-brand ex-Tonight Show conductor ala Skitch Henderson or Doc Severinsen, as a "pops" conductor Erich Kunzel achieved great success with his endless Telarc CD's, the local concerts and world tours (first pops orchestra to hit China). He got national exposure every Fourth of July, leading his orchestra's live televised version of "The Star Spangled Banner," with the sky itself a music video of rockets red glare.

Pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in Kunzel just five months ago, and despite chemotherapy, it spread to his liver and colon. That's such an unpleasant demise, there will be no puns about the name Kunzel sounding like a brand of female-flavored pretzel. Well, only one.

In case you've forgotten what "Pops music" is all about, get a bowl of cereal and let it snap and crackle and get soggy through the 8 1/2 minutes it takes for Erich and Orch to turn "Gunfight at the OK Corral" into something epic. This thing is classic "light classic," with an arrangement full of cliche (you'll love the razzing horns and heart-thumping bass drum). It's blown over the top by gunshot sound effects, a gender-challenged choir ("The Men of the May Festival Chorus"), a professional whistler (Ron McCroby), and the great Frankie Laine himself, having the formidable challenge of being heard above Kunzel's sturm and drang.

GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL with Frankie Laine and the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra


Anonymous said...

The link appears to be bad.

Ill Folks said...


Replaced the link with the real deal

Billy Bondeal said...

I would tender the suggestion that Kunzel/Cincinnati's surpassing recorded performance, in this particular genre, is Elmer Bernstein's main theme to "The Magnificent Seven."

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