Golden Age of American Popular Music: Hits with Strings and Things

The point's been made elsewhere, but hit radio of the 1960s wasn't only devoted to rock and soul music, as dominant as those forces were on both record sales and youth culture. You could also hear non-rock hits slip into the playlist on a more or less constant basis. Golden Age of American Popular Music: Hits with Strings and Things - Hot 100 Instrumentals has 28 such hits -- some mild, some huge -- from the decade (with a couple from the mid- to late '50s slipping in) that fit into the easy listening instrumental category. The "easy listening" label, though it's the one used more than any other, is a little deceptive. Some of these tunes are pretty forceful (though some are admittedly lush and meek), and quite a few of them borrow from aspects of rock, jazz, and even sometimes folk/country/world music in their arrangements, though at heart these are usually pretty smooth productions targeted toward an all-ages audience. Some of the biggest, and some of the best (the two are not necessarily the same) such smashes are here: Kai Winding's "More," Paul Mauriat's massive number one hit "Love Is Blue," Percy Faith's much-derided "The Theme from a Summer Place," Lawrence Welk's "Calcutta," the Village Stompers' folk-Dixieland hybrid "Washington Square," Bent Fabric's jazzy piano outing "Alley Cat," Henry Mancini's "Moon River," Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore," Bill Pursell's "Our Winter Love" (with its mesmerizing low fuzzy blasts), Al Caiola's rendition of the "Bonanza" theme, Sounds Orchestral's interpretation of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and the Bob Crewe Generation's archetypal swinging bachelor anthem "Music to Watch Girls By." Also here are a bunch of instrumentals that didn't quite make it to the Top 20 (and sometimes charted much lower than that), though some of them are of notable fame as well, especially Walter Wanderley's effervescent bossa nova "Summer Samba (So Nice)." ~ Richie Unterberger

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