Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vik (A Product of Radio Corporation of America)
LX-1075

Mam'selle Gisele

Gisele MacKenzie
George Siravo, Sid Bass, Neal Hefti, conductors
Producer/director: Herman Diaz, Jr
Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City, December 10, 11, and 13, 1956

I just gave this disc a spin on the turntable as my wife and I were having dinner this evening.  It's been at least one year since I last listened to this album, and I nearly forgot how wonderful of an album this is.  If you have any appreciation for French song, I think you'll really enjoy this album.  It's got a very nice collection of well known French songs from the first half of the twentieth century ("C'est si Bon", "Autumn Leaves", "La Vie en rose", "Sous le ciel de Paris", etc.) as well as a few pieces from the American songbook ("September in the Rain") sung with French lyrics.  For me, this album conjures up images of post-WWII Paris ... outdoor cafes in the Quartier Latin, strolling along the River Seine, a scene right out of a Doisneau photograph.  Before purchasing this album at a Reckless Records in Chicago, I had never heard of Gisele MacKenzie.  She's actually a Canadian-born singer, but as a native of Winnipeg, she spoke French fluently.  She started playing the piano at the age of three and took up the violin at age seven.  By the age of fourteen, she was enrolled at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music.  She later became a well-known television (she had her own weekly TV show on NBC) and recording artist, which is how she gained her popularity in the states.  Gisele has a very warm voice, and I think that she brings a lot of life to the French repertoire on this album.  The orchestral/band arrangements are excellent and complement her quite well.  Fortunately, this album was remastered onto CD in 2002 by the Japanese as a limited edition with a nice attractive LP-style cover, which one can purchase online for a price ($50-60 on Amazon.com).  Or, if you like to hunt, you can check around your local used LP shops to try to find an original vinyl pressing (mine was $3.99).

Here are a couple of the notes from the back cover which you'll often see on pre-stereo records of this era:

"This is the 'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity Recording.  It is distinguished by these characteristics: 1. Complete frequency range.  2.  Ideal dynamic range plus clarity and brilliance. 3. Constant fidelity from outside to inside of record. 4. Improved quiet surfaces."

"Beware the Blunted Needle!  A blunted or chipped needle can permanently damage your most valuable records."

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