Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Guest Reviewer: Patti Page's New Box Set Featuring Her Lang-Worth Transcriptions, by Robert Nickora

The British label Jasmine Records has undertaken the reissue of an important part of the recorded catalog of singer Patti Page in the last few years. After releasing two four-CD box sets of studio recordings—Near to You in 2011 and Another Place, Another Time in 2013—they have just made available a third set, which, besides more of Page's studio work, includes for the first time ever the complete library of transcription recordings that she made for the Lang-Worth company in the early 1950s. Known for their rarity, these are very interesting sides because they often find Page at her jazziest and accompanied by a small group of excellent musicians. Robert Nickora, who is responsible for compiling and annotating all three Patti Page sets, has kindly agreed to write a review of the latest one in the series, entitled There Is No Greater Love. We appreciate Mr. Nickora's willingness to share his insights into these recordings with the readers of The Vintage Bandstand.

Jasmine Records JASCD 34-4

Producing the Patti Page collection, THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE, was very challenging and time consuming, but exceptionally enjoyable.  I worked with these recordings for more than a year prior to the release of the set.  As a result of the sales and strong reception of Jasmine’s earlier Page box sets – NEAR TO YOU: Celebrating a Career…Defining Class (JASBOX 24-4) and ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE (JASBOX 30-4) – I had already completed a third volume that combined Mercury and Columbia material, and was planning to pitch it to Jasmine Records for release consideration when an opportunity arose to compile and program the Lang-Worth Transcriptions.  These rare gems were offered to me on loan by Robert Bowling, Patti’s friend and founder of “The Patti Page Appreciation Society.”  I reworked the large set, omitting half of the material and replacing it with the Lang-Worth songs and intros.

Countless hours were involved in listening to all the material (three choices per track in some instances) and determining the very best disc transfer to submit for re-mastering.  The brief introductions Patti recorded were pressed on two separate discs with no labeling to indicate which intro would correspond with an appropriate track. These intros were very slightly edited in the final Jasmine project, creating a fine complement to the set.

The Lang-Worth Transcriptions were initially issued to select radio stations for local programming, and were never intended to be made available for sale in music stores. Some department stores, however, were later given access to these recordings, and they were utilized as background music (similar to what is sometimes referred to as elevator music).  I worked directly from the unique 8” discs that resembled the later EPs (popular with the record-buying public in the mid-‘50s).  These recordings were also available to radio stations in a 16” disc format. 

The administration at Lang-Worth recognized the rising popularity of Patti Page when her first million-seller, “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming,” began climbing the charts.  There was mention of this new association in the December 1949 issue of Billboard, with the first recording date occurring in January 1950 and the final twelve tracks completed in March 1952.  Ensemble musicians included Lou Stein (piano), Joe Sinacore (guitar), and Stanley Kay (percussion), and accompaniments were occasionally augmented with full orchestra.  The repertoire chosen was a collaborative effort by Patti Page; her personal manager, Jack Rael, who supervised all sessions; and Lang-Worth; the scripted intros were provided by Lang-Worth writers.

Many of the Lang-Worth songs were later recorded for Mercury employing fuller and more sophisticated orchestrations.  Patti’s style began to evolve after Lang-Worth, and it appeared she felt secure in taking a few liberties with the melody lines in such later tracks as “East of the Sun,” “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” “Where Are You,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and others. A few of the lesser-known songs such as “There’s Something in the Wind,” “Accent on Youth,” and “Tormented” have become my personal favorites.  Her rendition of “The Prisoner’s Song” (with simple guitar accompaniment) might very well be the most sensitive and impressive interpretation of this classic country song.

It was a pleasure to select the fifty-five tracks from Patti Page’s vast Mercury library (many of which come from “The Great American Songbook”) for the first two discs.  A few, such as “Basin Street Blues,” “Paradise,” “Did I Remember,” “Every Day,” and “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine,” were new discoveries.  The exemplary re-mastering of the entire set by Tall Order Mastering is especially noteworthy.  The crisp fidelity of “The Tennessee Waltz” LP on Disc Two is particularly impressive.
Very special words of appreciation go to Timothy Akers, Patti Page’s great-nephew and devoted fan, for providing details regarding all information related to the Lang-Worth Transcriptions and the names of specific musicians involved in these historic recordings.

Robert Nickora
Thanksgiving Day 2015


Anonymous said...

Like other Robert Nickora Patti Page box sets and other artists. This has to be great.


Anton and Erin Garcia-Fernandez said...

It really is a great box set. The sound is fabulous throughout, and the Lang-Worth transcriptions alone are more than worth the price of admission. Highly recommendable!

Thanks for your comment!

Anton G.-F.

Bill said...

All of Robert's productions are done with much time and care including searching for the best source material, researching composers, conductors and productions in which songs were used.
I've had the pleasure of providing information to Robert in preparation of a number of his CD sets. I've learned many things
about the artists I've always enjoyed and have many times heard
material they've recorded which I never knew existed.
This set is another great example of his time being well spent in producing such a welcome and needed addition to the Patti Page
CD library.

Anton and Erin Garcia-Fernandez said...


I absolutely agree with everything you say about Robert. I've only been in touch with him for a few weeks, but I can see clearly how much he cares about the sets he produces and how much time and care he puts into everything he does. I find that truly inspiring, and when I first read the review he's written for The Vintage Bandstand, I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent, thorough job he did.

Thanks for your comment!

Anton G.-F.