Hustle And Bustle In Stereo Action!
:: Henri René - Manhattan Idyl ::
Stereo records were introduced to the public in 1958. Prior to that, people who considered themselves "audiophiles" had hi-fi sets which usually included a tube-fired integrated amplifier, and a large single speaker cabinet. Stereo was viewed sceptically by some as a gimmick. A way for record companies to charge more for LPs (stereo records generally cost about a dollar more than the mono option) simply so you could hear some of the instruments in the left speaker, and some in the right speaker. Big deal. Other audiophiles jumped at the chance to be the first bachelor pad on the block with a new, two speaker system.
As a way to entice people to make the leap, most major labels put out LPs made specifically to demonstrate the many benefits of the new technology. Over the years some of these records have become the standard bearers of Exotica/Lounge retro culture, mostly because of their inherent wackiness.
I grew up in a purely mono household. My dad was too cheap to invest in a stereo system until the early '70s, by which time mono records were no longer manufactured. His record collection was mainly comprised of 78s anyway, so he couldn't have cared less about stereo. You younguns could never understand what it was like to hear a stereo record for the first time, or see a color TV even! Well, I'd say it was probably at least as thrilling as watching Huell Howser in hi-def with surround sound for the first time. Maybe even more!
Going back now and checking into these early stereo records and imagining their original owners puffing contentedly on their pipes as the sound whirled around them is comforting somehow. The music is a far cry from the rock & roll of the day, which tended to not worry too much about hi fidelity, let alone stereo. This is music by and for adults, but rather than going for the typical easy listening banality, the orchestral arrangements are spiced up with odd instrumentation and other special effects to help demonstrate the clear advantages of stereo. And God love the LP format, because these beautiful nearly 50 year old recordings still sound great, despite the pipe smoke residue.
RCA's "Stereo Action" series of the early '60s showcased the label's vast stable of exotica/lounge/easy listening artists, with all new extra juicy stereo recordings, packaged in super heavy die-cut sleeves (so heavy I couldn't scan the outer sleeve). Enjoy "Manhattan Idyl" by Henri René, and I highly recommend you allow the tubes in your receiver to warm up to their optimum operating temperature prior to listening.