Alpha Rhythm Kings’ Debut LP Is A Successful Covers Collection

Courtesy: Dehlinger Productions

Keeping the music of days gone by alive in any age is key to any culture. The problem is that in the mainstream music industry, it seems increasingly that acts — regardless of genre — are trying less to keep that part of America’s culture alive than just trying to make a quick buck off of that music when they release covers compilations.  There are so many coves compilations out there across the musical universe that in reality, they have become nearly irrelevant as a format.   Keeping that in mind, it makes Alpha Rhythm Kings’ debut record, Sharp Dressed Men, an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new covers compilations.  That is not to say that the 10-song record, scheduled for release through Dehlinger Productions, is a failure.  Quite the opposite is the case, actually.  It is worth hearing at least once.  That is due in large part to its featured songs.  This will be discussed shortly.  The performances of those songs adds its own appeal to the presentation.  They will be discussed a little later.  The songs’ sequencing rounds out the most important of the record’s elements and brings everything full circle, completing the compilation’s presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make the collection a unique addition to this year’s field of new compilations and new jazz compilations.

Alpha Rhythm Kings’ debut record is an interesting way for the collective, which got its start in 2017, to really launch its professional recording career.  That is because instead of being a profile of the band’s own talents, it is a covers collection. In other words, it is a presentation of the band’s talents in relation to others’ work.  It is not necessarily the best way for any act – regardless of genre – to launch its career, since it is a presentation of said act performing another act’s music instead of its own work.  To that end, the record must be examined for what it is, a covers collection.  Keeping that in mind, the covers are important because of their diversity.  From well-known to lesser-known, the songs touch on a wide range of acts and songs.  Case in point is the collection’s closer, ‘That’s Life.’  The song, originally composed in 1963 by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, was first recorded by Marion Montgomery.  However, it was not until 1966 when Frank Sinatra took on the song that it really became famous.  The song has since gone on to be a timeless work.  By comparison, the band also takes on ZZ Top’s equally classic ‘Sharp Dressed Man.’  So in these two tracks alone, audiences get a touch of jazz and rock, two completely different genres that are handled quite well through the arrangements and their performances.  That aspect will be discussed a little later.  On yet another note, the band brings renewed focus to Roy Milton, a lesser-known figure in the jazz community through its performance of ‘Short, Sweet and Snappy.’  In the same vein, fellow lesser-known jazz artist Julia Lee gets her own attention through this compilation in the band’s performance of her song, ‘Snatch and Grab It (Opportunity Knocks But Once),’ giving new attention to her and her work, too.  Once more, audiences see the wide range of artists and music that Alpha Rhythm Kings covers in its debut record.  Between these noted songs and artists, and others featured throughout the record, the whole of the record’s featured musical selections makes for reason enough in itself to give this record a chance.  It is just a part of what makes the record worth the chance.  The arrangements and performances thereof make for their own interest.

The arrangements and performances featured thereof in this record are unique in their own way.  Case in point is the collective’s take on the 1921 song ‘The Sheik of Araby.’  The variance between the group’s swinging, up-tempo rendition and that made a century ago from inspiration from the movie The Sheik is stark needless to say.  The original composition has some light jazz overtones as it progresses, but also boasts a clear string arrangement that breaks things up even more.  ARK’s take on the song is more along the lines of something one might expect from the likes of the Brian Setzer Orchestra than the composition presented in that original work, right down to the vocals.  At the same time, the group still manages to make the song its own and still enjoyable.

The group’s performance of King Perry’s ‘Keep A Dollar in Your Pocket’ is another example of the importance of the songs and performances featured in this record.  Perry’s original composition is a relatively simple composition. It features Perry alongside a basic blues type piano/bass line.  That line is countered effectively by Perry’s own work on saxophone here.  The composition is relatively simple, but is still so enjoyable even in that simple approach.  That same noted bass/piano foundation is just as evident in ARK’s take of the song.  As a matter of fact, the band stays largely true to the song’s source material here with the slightest of alterations.  The end result is a song and performance that not only brings new light to another lesser-known jazz figure, but to an equally enjoyable song from said artist.  It is just one more example of the importance of the songs and performances featured in this record.  The band’s take on the 1907 Will D. Cobb/Gus Edwards song ‘School Days’ is yet another example of the importance of the songs and performances featured here. 

Everybody knows ‘School Days.’  It is a timeless tune.  What must be kept in mind here is that allegedly, the original composition centered on a married couple that is looking back on its younger days together in elementary school.  That would explain the simple wind ensemble arrangement made so popular in 1907 by Byron G. Harlon.  The simplicity and innocence in the arrangement reflects the innocence that the couple felt in reminiscing those early days.  There is also a piano-centered arrangement that is just as simple and endearing that conjures those thoughts of innocence and happiness.  ARK’s rendition on the other hand is starkly unlike the original.  The general composition is the same, but instead of the softer, simpler take of the song all those ages ago, the band opts again here for more of a Brian Setzer Orchestra type approach here.  It is quite the energetic song and adds in some extra lyrics.  The lyrics in question are old nursery rhymes to enhance the update even more.  That lyrical and musical update makes this song its own unique presentation that audiences will enjoy in their own right.  When it is considered along with the other covers examined here and the rest of the record’s songs, the whole makes fully clear the role that the arrangements and performances thereof play into the bigger picture of the record.  Together with the diversity in the songs, the collective songs, their arrangements and performances make for plenty of reason for audiences to hear this collection.  They are only a portion of what makes the record stand out among this year’s new covers sets.  The sequencing of the works brings everything full circle and completes the record’s presentation.

The sequencing of the content in this record is important to examine because in this case, it plays directly into the collection’s pacing.  As noted already, approximately 10 songs make up the record’s body.  Those songs bring the record’s run time to only 28 minutes.  That is not very long.  Yet thanks to the record’s sequencing, audiences are actually left feeling fulfilled by the noted content.  The songs’ energies run fluidly from one song to the next as a result of the noted sequencing.  That means that audiences will never feel overwhelmed or bored at any point.  To that end, the sequencing of this collection plays its own integral part to the overall presentation.  It does just as much to keep audiences engaged and entertained as the record’s content and performance thereof.  Considering all of this together, the record in whole proves to be an enjoyable compilation even if not the best way for Alpha Rhythm Kings to launch its professional recording career.

Alpha Rhythm Kings’ debut record is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new compilation records.  While more a display of the band’s talents in relation to others’ works, it still serves its own purpose.  That purpose is to bring renewed attention to a variety of well- and lesser-known jazz acts through its featured songs.  The arrangements and performances thereof featured throughout this record add their own appeal to the presentation.  That is because of the balance of the original compositions and updated takes in the songs.  That balance makes each song unique in its own right.  The sequencing of the total content brings everything full circle and completes the record’s presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make the compilation an interesting covers collection from Alpha Rhythm Kings.  Sharp Dressed Man is scheduled for release Friday through Dehlinger Productions.  More information on Sharp Dressed Men is available along with all of ARK’s latest news at:

Website: https://alpharhythmkings.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlphaRhythmKings

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PBS’ Richard Sherman In-Studio Concert Will Leave Audiences “Singing” Its Praises

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

John Williams. Hans Zimmer. The Sherman Brothers. One thing connects each of these names: each name is among the movie industry’s great musical minds. Each has composed some of the most well-known and beloved themes that audiences have ever heard. This past September, PBS and Public Media Distribution brought audiences a very special profile of one of those names with the release of Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime. Released Sept. 5, this in-studio performance by its title figure, is a wonderful musical profile of one half of the famed Sherman Brothers creative musical team. That is due in no small part to the songs that Sherman performs for audiences. The stories that he shares along the way are just as entertaining as the songs, and in turn will be discussed later. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements. Each noted element is important in its own right to the recording’s whole. All things considered, they make Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime a release that will leave audiences “singing” its praises.

PBS’ recently released Richard Sherman musical documentary Songs of a Lifetime is a special new “live” recording from PBS and Public Media Distribution that is certain to leave audiences “singing” its praises. That is due in part to the recording’s songs. The songs that Sherman performs throughout the program are not limited to just his Disney compositions. Also included in this intimate setting are songs from Tom Sawyer (1973 — MGM), Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang (1968 — Pinewood Studios), Charlotte’s Web (1973 — Paramount Pictures/Hanna-Barbera Productions), Snoopy Come Home (1972 — Cinema Center Filims/Lee Mendelson Film Productions/Bill Melendez Productions/Sopwith Productions/United Features Syndicate), a Christmas tune that he composed with Joe Van Winkle titled ‘Christmas in New Orleans,’ (which was made famous by Louis Armstrong) and even his own heartfelt composition that he wrote for his wife (who is there to enjoy the song at his side) among so many others. There is even a brand new song included at the recording’s end titled ‘A Kiss Goodnight’ that is certain to move viewers of any age.

In regards to the Disney tunes featured throughout the recording, the movies featured through those songs include: Winnie The PoohMary Poppins, The Happiest Millionaire, The Jungle Book, Summer Magic, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, The Parent Trap and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Needless to say, even though “only” ten movies are on that list, that is still a healthy cross-section of Sherman’s time with Walt Disney Studios. That is especially considering that some of those movies get more than one nod. Mary Poppins gets a handful of nods with the likes of ‘Feed The Birds,’ ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite,’ and ‘Through The Eyes of Love.’ Winnie The Pooh received three nods through a medley of tunes early in the performance while The Jungle Book receives its own share of representations, too. Considering the number of Disney flicks represented in this in-studio concert and the songs used to represent those movies, it goes without saying that even at “only” nine movies, the concert presents a healthy dose of Disney.

When that healthy dose of Disney is coupled with Sherman’s non-Disney compositions, the whole the recording proves quite impressive. Counting the single songs and the medleys, it is safe to say that the recording boasts at least 30 songs. Considering that the performance’s run time is roughly one hour, that is a lot of material pushed into that space, and quite well at that. Staying on that note, while the material in whole is impressive, one cannot ignore the lack of a program guide inside or outside the box printed or physical. The only program guide that does exist is in the scene selection option on the disc’s main menu. The songs are not even listed with their respective movies. Sure it seems on the surface like a not so important aesthetic element, but is in fact very important to the box’s presentation. That is especially in connection to the songs themselves. It would have been nice to have had that listing. Luckily though, as much as it detracts from the recording’s whole, it is not enough to completely ruin the program’s presentation. It just would have been nice to have had that element.

While the extensive list of songs and movies that makes up the body of Songs of a Lifetime are clearly critical to the recording’s whole, they are collectively not the DVD’s only important element. The stories that Sherman shares throughout the recording are just as important to its presentation as those songs. One of the most interesting stories that Sherman shares during his time at the keys is that of the creation of the song ‘Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),’ which was made famous by country legend Gene Autry. Sherman tells audiences that the song came about after the Sherman brothers’ father (who was himself a well-known and respected musical mind) jokingly told his sons that the pair, even with their college degrees, “couldn’t write a song that a kid would give up his lunch money to buy.” He also notes that the song was the Sherman Brothers’ very first published song, and was written because country western music was big at the time. Another interesting anecdote that Sherman shares in the program tells the story of how Louis Prima and his band ended up as King Louie and his apes in The Jungle Book. He explains that Walt Disney himself sent Sherman and company to a Las Vegas night club where Prima and company were performing, showed them the movie and convinced them to star. There is a little more to the story here, but that will be left to viewers to discover. It goes without saying that the rest of the story (as a certain radio announcer used to say) will leave audiences laughing happily. As if that isn’t enough to get viewers interested, Sherman also shares a moving story tying the creation of the song ‘It Changes’ (from Snoopy Come Home) to how he and others felt when Walt Disney died in 1966 from lung cancer. While the story is short, it is a story that, when coupled with the emotion of the song, will deeply touch audiences as it illustrates expertly that story. When this and the stories featured throughout the concert are joined with the recording’s featured songs, the whole of that material gives audiences more than enough to appreciate here. Even with this in mind, that whole is still not all that audiences will appreciate. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in Songs of a Lifetime is so important because of what it adds to the program’s overall presentation. Audiences learn through this roughly four-minute discussion from 2015, Sherman’s thoughts on PBS’ Walt Disney profile American Experience: Walt Disney. Audiences learn that Sherman approved of that doc, even as it didn’t just sing Disney’s praises, but instead showed both sides of Walt Disney — the good and bad. He also discusses his emotion at holding the interview in Disney’s office, the very place where he, his brother and Walt Disney crafted so many hit tunes. That revelation will capture audiences just as much as anything else in his interview. Audiences also learn that the guest performers included in the recording were hand chosen for the program by Sherman himself. They weren’t just random selections by some faceless person or group. This is all just a sample of what is presented in Sherman’s bonus interview. When it is coupled with the rest of the interview’s discussions, the whole gives audiences even more to to appreciate. The behind-the-scenes photos montage adds one last touch to the whole as it couples the songs from the main feature with the noted photos for an experience that, as simple as it is, is certain to entertain audiences, too. When this is set alongside Sherman’s short but in-depth interview and the program’s main feature, the whole of those elements makes Songs of a Lifetime a presentation that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praises.

PBS and PBS’ Distribution’s recently released Richard Sherman “live” recording Songs of a Lifetime is a work that is certain to impress audiences. That is due in no small part to the recording’s featured songs. The songs featured in the program include not only Sherman’s work with Disney, but with other studios and even his own compositions. All in all, they paint a vivid picture of his career, showing why he remains today such a respected figure (along with his brother). The stories that Sherman shares throughout the performance add even more interest to the program’s whole. At times funny and at others emotional, Sherman’s stories are just as certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained as his songs. The bonus material included in the program puts the finishing touch on its program thanks to its own information. Each noted element is critical in its own way to the program’s whole. All things considered, they make this presentation one that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praise. Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.