Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Spin Class #1 (vinyl classics)

This month's Chicago-style favourites (random order):
1) Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones - Roaring Polkas:  An album featuring for my money, the quintessential Versatones band with the Tokarz Boys, Jerry Darlak and Lenny.

2) TBC - Winning Combination: I remember my Dad asking me if there was a problem with the turntable upon hearing the chord change subs on Singing Birds Polka ... meanwhile I was in complete ecstasy listening to Frankie harmonically going where most couldn't conceive!

3) Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push - From the Polka Capital: I absolutely loved that first Push band and this album has them in full flight. The vocals (especially between Lenny and Bobby) are pure nirvana and inertia of the band could power a flight to Mars ... and back!!

4) Dynatones - Six Million Dollar Band: The album that made me a bona fide Dynatones fan. This record with the vintage foundation of Scrubby and Larry Trojak (both instrumentally and vocally) is a definite requisite for any Polish polka collection.

5) Trel Tones - Polka Encounters of the Honky Kind: What ... ME becoming a fan of honky?!? Yeah, I can still remember trying to comprehend that very concept ... but here I was not only getting into this album, but subsequently also giving Ray Jay, Stas Golonka and even Dad's Lil Wally albums "new" listens and appreciations. One of my regrets is not seeing this rendition of the Trel Tones live.   

6) G-Notes - At Last: The very first album I purchased by myself at Ruda's Records in Buffalo (Thanks Don ... you're still within my thoughts!!). Featuring Gino Kurdziel, the Karas Brothers and Jerry Miesowicz, this album not only is an alltime favourite of mine, but also set a benchmark for polka musicality subsequently rarely ever met.

7) Eddie Guca and The Polish Canadians - Polkas Made in Canada: Where would Polish polkas be today without the musical influence and contributions of Eddie Guca? Within this album not only are the seeds of the Canadian Fiddlestix but also a polka style seemingly reflected later in many other bands (TPM, DynaBrass & PCM etc.).

8) Heavy Chicago - Lite & Lively: I remember searching high and low for this album (particularly Crazy Stick Polka) and upon my first listen, knowing that in its entirety this record was a classic!

9) Rick Vinecki's Melody Kings - Stoned On Polkas: Though I remember my parents questioning the moral implications of the title track, I just couldn't get enough of this album! This record's drive and musical adventurism can still provide a certain invigoration almost 20 years later! 

10) Chicago's Milwaukee Avenue - The Best Part of Polka Town: What a blast! From Pod Mostem to Hosa Dyna, the band's energy and arrangements sent a flare that something new was definitely afoot in Chicago during the early 80's. I still remember the hair on the back of my neck standing on end as I played the album on our stereo for the first time! 

This month's Cleveland/Eastern style favourites (random order):

1) Stan Wolowic and the Polka Chips - The Second Album: Hail the band which "brought a new and greater respect for the time-honored Polka into millions of American homes" via their national ABC-TV show back circa 1960. This band whose arrangements could easily still cut it in today's scene, from my humble perspective were way ahead of their time. 

2) Kenny Bass and his Polka Poppers - Snap Happy Polkas: Though I didn't get this album till I was into my 20's (and it was already at least 20 years old), it quickly became established as a "keystone" within my Cleveland collection. While the Side One medleys are quite enjoyable, Side Two features a number of classic Cleveland polka charts.

3) Walter Ostanek and The Polka Schmaltz Band - Non Stop Dancing: An album which through the years, I have always held as one of my true personal favourites not only for its diversity, but also for the quality of the band's "sound", even with 70's recording technology. Unabashedly, it was Andy Spinosa's playing throughout this album which inspired me to learn the saxophone and clarinet.

4) Joe Fedorchak Orchestra - Second Time Around: Where do I start? Tomazic's, Penn Hills?? To a great degree it was this album which re-ignited my interest in Cleveland Style polkas while I was actively playing and immersed in Chicago Style bands. If you love Slovenian polkas ... this album is a must! 

5) Gene Wisniewski & The Harmony Bells Orchestra - Beautiful Doll: Besides the music on the record ... one of the first album covers I ever really took notice of!! If you enjoy big band polkas, this album has it all ... including a "calypsolka (calypso/polka)"! The band really kicks into gear though on Hop Scotch and the title track, Beautiful Doll Polka. 

6) Johnny Vadnal & Orchestra - Good Time Polkas: One of the first albums I ever remember putting the accordion on and playing along with. The Vadnal band had such a unique style and I still love the fact that their energy and love for polkas were so easily conveyed throughout this album.  

7) Frankie Yankovic & the Yanks - TV Polkas: THE foundation stone of my polka spirit and love ... with even a couple of the waltzes on this album among my most favourite songs. Anything more said only pales beside the music within this recording. 

8) Jimmy Sturr - Happy Snappy Polkas - This pre-Grammy era album featuring Gene Wisniewski on the vocals has certain joie de vivre lacking from many of the "formula" albums of today. PS ... Jimmy, do you still have the shirt you're wearing on the album cover ... or do you know where we can purchase some for band uniforms!?

9) D-Drifters 5 - On Tour: I couldn't go without including this classic Ukrainian polka album out of Manitoba Canada. When it comes to accordion virtuosity, few can hold a candle to Dave Romanyshyn and this album not only showcases his talents but also those of Yogi Klos on fiddle and vocals. Let you in on a secret wish ... that the D-Drifters get back to their recording roots and whip something up of this nature today!!

10) Bill Gale & his Orchestra - Polka Pops: Absolutely NO album "swings" a polka harder than this baby. The big band arrangements are all "top notch" and even today worthy of inclusion of in ANY "name" swing band's dance book. Whether a big band fan or not, if you can ever get your hands on this recording, I know you won't be dissapointed!

Best regards,