Thursday, January 09, 2014


Raoul Poliakin (March 12, 1917-August 1, 1981) was a one-named lounge-meister in the mold of Mantovani and Melachrino, but he tried to break the monotony of his mood music albums with stuff that was actually worth hearing, not just "Music for Relaxation," "Music to Dine By," or maybe a Jackie Gleason "Music For Copping a Feel in an Elevator."

"Las Castanuelas" is a nice example. It sounds more like something from a movie soundtrack album than a traditional Muzak opus. It comes from his album "Come Fly With Me," which isn't Sinatra swing, but a concept album collection of familiar tunes from foreign lands. Poliakin's album may have been the only way a lot of dullards riding escalators all day could ever get to tour Europe. The album's audio adventure includes France ("Gigi"), Germany ("Auf Wiederseh'n My Dear") and representing Spain, this odd bit of eccentric excitement, which enthusiastically veers between some sort of Ravel or Bizet bit of Spanish cliche classical music and something that could've been used while Miss Ball and some half-drunk broad got into a grape-stomping contest on an episode of "I Love Lucy."

Before waving his baton at an orchestra, Poliakin was a violinist. He worked on various sessions with top vocalists of the late 40's and early 50's. He and Zelly Smirnoff were the violinists on Frank Sinatra's Columbia recordings of "When You Awake" "It Never Entered My Mind" and "I've Got a Crush On You" in 1947. He later played violin, backing Harry Belafonte, on "Soldier Soldier," "The Fox" and "Delia" among others. As a conductor, he emerged as Everest's easy listening rival to RCA's Melachrino, Capitol's Gleason and London's Mantovani. While the latter three tended to make albums that smoothly gave 50's guys 15 or 20 minutes a side to try and seduce a secretary, Poliakin sometimes avoided becoming aural wallpaper, and tried to vary the music and offer arrangements that were no insult to his classical roots.

Everest's claim to sonic fame was recording everything on 35mm magnetic film, rather than mere audio tape, yet for some reason, some of Poliakin's work was only issued in mono. Pretty odd for an audiophile label. The Everest catalog was recently sold to some enterprising bunch who have thrown mp3's onto Amazon and the other usual suspects for download. Apparently the masters are in mono, as "Come Fly With Me" doesn't sound much different from my original vinyl (from which the mp3 below was taken).

POLIAKIN Las Castanuelas

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