#1: Louis Armstrong- "Louis Armstrong At The Crescendo, Vol. 2" (1955):
Do I really even need to comment on this? It's Louis Armstrong being great. That's all you need to know. He plays a lot of standards ("Old Rockin' Chair", "C'est Si Bon", etc.) and gives them his usual sense of fun. There's really not a lot I need to say- if you're reading this, you're probably familiar with him and love him.
#2: Louis Armstrong- "Town Hall Concert Plus" (1957)
This was issued in 1957, but consists of material recorded about a decade earlier, half of it in the studio and half of it live. The studio stuff is a bit more low-key, but still classic Satchmo. The live stuff is fantastic- some of the songs are the same as on the Crescendo album, but the performances are even more energetic and fun. Great stuff.
#3: Louis Arsmtrong & Eddie Condon- "Live At Newport" (1956):
Armstrong's and Condon's sets at the Newport Jazz Festival are split on both sides of this record- Armstrong and a little Condon on side 1, the rest of Condon on side 2. Both are excellent. I would recommend this record to any jazz fan.
#4: Cliff Arquette- "Charley Weaver Sings For His People" (1959)
If you're of a certain age, you might remember Charley Weaver. If you're too young- he was a whimsical old codger from the mythical country town of Mt. Idy played by vaudevillian actor Cliff Arquette, on the Jack Paar and Steve Allen shows first, then on many other shows over the years, including "Hollywood Squares" which he was on until he passed away in 1974. This album was made to capitalize on his early success with Paar.
I have to admit this album grew on me. It's hokey, and many of the songs are memorable more for their humor than their melodies, but I thought the first couple of songs weren't that funny, and then suddenly I started laughng. Much of it is silly, slightly subversive, and very enjoyable.
#5: George Atkins & Hank Levine- "Washington Is For The Birds"
I couldn't find the exact date on this one, but obviously it's from around 1966 or '67.
I would file this more under novelty than comedy. A couple of engineers named George Atkins and Hank Levine created an album featuring politicians singing. Or at least they manipulated their voices so that that's what it sounds like. They took the voices of Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Lady Bird Johnson, and set various phrases from their speeches to Broadway show tune-style music. It's a clever idea, and impressive that Atkins and Levine thought of it decades before digital editing was possible, but the novelty wears thin pretty quickly and it's more interesting than funny. Fortunately, it's a short album, only 12 minutes per side, but I still think it would have been better off as a single rather than an album. Nonetheless, an interesting footnote.
Well, that finishes the As. See you tomorrow for the Bs!