The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Various Artists
Legends of Accordion


Dick Contino: Lady of Spain
Jo Ann Castle: Bumble Boogie
Clifton Chenier: Squeeze Box Boogie
The Bay State IV: Slippery Fingers Oberek
"Weird Al" Yankovich: Lasagna
Steve Jordan: Las Coronelas
Joey Miskulin: The Crazy Accordion
Lawrence Welk & His Champagne Music: Dakota Polka
Those Darn Accordions!: Perry Mason Theme
Angelo Di Pippo: Arthur Street
Milton De Lugg: So What's New?
Frank Yankovich: Trollie's Polka
Guy Klucevsek: Awakening
Myron Floren: Laughing Polka
Flaco Jimenez: Una Tarde En El Alamo
Anthony Galla-Rini: Liebesfreud
Andrew Cormier & The Smiling Cajuns: Creole Stomp
Art Van Damme Quintet: Ode to Cleavage or the Camel

total time: 46:32
released: 1995
review date: March 1999

label: Rhino Records (R2 71847)
Order from: Petosa Accordions
313 N.E. 45th St
Seattle, WA 98105
phone:(206) 632-2700
fax: (206) 632-2733

Review by Henry Doktorski:

"For many, the accordion will conjure up memories of compulsory lessons that usually compromised the teenage cool factor. After all these years the accordion is now hip, fashionable, and guess what? Cool! This collection features the cream (not crap) of the squeeze-box crop. No more cracks about mandatory prison sentences for anyone who dares to cop a few licks from Dick Contino, Myron Floren, or Lawrence Welk. Rest assured, if you're listening to this collection, you're on the cutting edge of cool! -- James Austin, from the CD booklet notes

Certainly fads (as well as nations, polar ice caps and star systems) come and go, but if the liner notes of this 1995 release by Rhino Records is an accurate prediction of mass popularity, the accordion in America is making a comeback.

This CD is a remarkable collection of some of the pieces -- recorded between 1950 and 1992 -- which made the accordion famous. . . and infamous. The album begins with an exciting 1981 recording of Lady of Spain by the person who made history as an 18 year-old in 1948 by winning the Horace Heidt Radio Talent Show Contest thirteen times in a row: Dick Contino. For better or worse, since that time, Lady of Spain has become -- in America at least -- the song most people think of when they hear the word "accordion." In this flashy version accompanied by a big band, Dick starts off with a stunning barrage of machine-gun-like repeated notes and continues with bellow shakes, ten glissandi (half are double glissandi -- an ascending glissando immediately followed by a descending glissando) and a rousing coda (it seems to never end) which modulates ten times up a half-step.

Dick Contino's Lady of Spain is a tough act to follow, but the 1957 recording of Bumble Boogie -- a boogie woogie version of Rimsky Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee -- by Jo Ann Castle (the honky-tonk pianist from the Lawrence Welk TV show) kept my foot tapping.

Despite the historical (and musical) value of this collection, I didn't know whether to take the CD seriously or not. I laughed at the zany humor of "Weird Al" Yankovic's Lasagna, a hilarious take-off on the hit song La Bamba. I thought that the Theme from Perry Mason by the outrageous San Francisco-based pop group Those Darn Accordions! was funny also. What about the title of the Art Van Damme piece, Ode to Cleavage or the Camel? Would someone explain this to me? Laughing Polka by Myron Floren was no laughing matter, as the accordion wasn't even featured in this recording; the melody was carried completely by the clarinet. I was disappointed.

I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry when I opened the case and saw the CD itself. On it is printed what seems to be a 1930-ish accordion advertisement: a photo of a toddler barely able to stand holding on to a full size accordion with the caption "Play the accordion. You can teach yourself. It's easy! Easy as child's play."

Despite it's overall lightheartedness, there are a couple of more serious pieces on the CD: Anthony Galla-Rini's rendition of Liebesfreud and Guy Klucevsek's Awakening, which to me seem strangely out of place on this album. The CD booklet notes are informative and very well written.

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