- Super Hot sound on both sides!
- Big, rich, dynamic, natural and so Tubey Magical
- Lively, fun, innovative Big Band from 1958
- A rare Living Stereo pressing with Demo Disc sound
Drop the needle on this 1958 original pressing and you will soon find yourself in the presence of SUPERB Tubey Magical Big Band sound and lively, innovative music. The two have magically combined to entertain and perhaps even thrill you. If you want to show your friends and neighbors the kind of big, rich, dynamic, natural, relaxed sound that could be had for two bucks and change at most record stores in the ’50s, just throw this bad boy on the table and crank the level. They won’t believe how far backwards recording technology has gone in the last 50-plus years. This record should be all the proof they need.
A++, huge and dynamic with a prodigious bottom end. Rich and Tubey, a little more top end extension would have earned this side the full Three Pluses. It’s 90% as good as our best Bob and Ray, and we went through a lot of copies of that album to find the one we use to test with, I can tell you that.
A++ again, so big, rich and spacious, with tight bass and instruments just jumping out of the speakers, you won’t believe it can get any better. The brass at its loudest is not totally free of blare, so we dropped the grade of this one to Super Hot. It’s still amazing!
The track that started us down the road to our first Sauter-Finegan shootout is, to this very day, our Number One Test Track of All Time, a little ditty known as the Song of the Volga Boatman. We first heard it on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular, which is still the version we test with, but this album of forward-looking big band contains that track as well as 10 others, all with truly amazing sound.
What a record!
Why is the Song of the Volga Boatman our ultimate test track? The simplest way to understand it is that the music is live, and all the instruments in the huge soundfield are real and acoustic — string bass, drums, horns of every size and type, woodwinds, percussion, tubular bells — and the arrangement given to this roomful of players so complex and lively, that if anything sounds “funny”, to use the precise audiophile nomenclature, it really calls attention to itself.
Port’s Rule states: If it isn’t easy for your Test Discs to sound wrong, they are not very good Test Discs.
Wrong is the natural order of things. Getting it right is where all the work comes in to play. (And it should seem more like play than work or you are unlikely to get very far with it. That’s another Port’s Rule.)
When the stereo is right from top to bottom, this song is right from top to bottom, and every other record we know the sound of will have the sound it’s supposed to have. It seems simple and in some ways it is. We’ve been getting the Song of the Volga Boatman to sound bigger and better now for years, through dozens of changes. At our current stage of audio evolution, at the very loud levels we play it at, it’s almost shocking how big, powerful and real it seems. It has more “live music” qualities than any single recording I can think of.
Every change and tweak we make to the system must end up making this one very special track sound to one degree or another more like live music, or that change must be undone. The Song of the Volga Boatman is the ultimate authority over what is right and wrong in the sound of our stereo. It sets the bar higher than any recording we know of. From its judgments there is no appeal.
If you go to youtube you can find a performance of the original Glenn Miller arrangement. It’s dramatically more “square” than this one, and swings about a tenth as much. The Sauter-Finegan version is a blast — nothing can touch it!
We had one mono copy — admittedly not that much data to go on — but it was a complete joke. The chances of us buying another one are zero. This is a Stereo Extravaganza and needs to be heard that way, in stereo — preferably on big speakers, in a big, well-treated room, at very loud levels.
Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is as quiet a copy as we can find. Please click on the Sonic Grade tab above to read more about this copy’s surfaces and cover condition.
Little Brown Jug
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Song of the Volga Boatman
Benny Rides Again
Soft As Spring
Clarinet A La King
The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra was one of the more unusual bands associated with the Swing Era, not least because it did not even come into existence until after the Swing Era was over. The outfit’s two leaders, Edward Ernest (Eddie) Sauter and William J. (Bill) Finegan, were each prominent big band arrangers.
Sauter, who played mellophone, trumpet, and drums, was educated at Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music. During the 1930s and ’40s, he played, arranged, and wrote tunes for bands led by Archie Bleyer, Charlie Barnet, Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and Ray McKinley.
At the same time, Finegan was an arranger for Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Horace Heidt, and Les Elgart. With the decline of the Swing Era, he went to study at the Paris Conservatory in the late 1940s and early ’50s, corresponding with his friend Sauter, who was staying in a sanatorium recovering from a bout of tuberculosis.
The two decided to unite to create arrangements that would make full use of their creativity, without regard to commercial considerations. That meant a willingness to try unusual things, including such instruments as piccolo, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, harp, English horn, recorder, tuba, glockenspiel, tympani, and kazoo. (Finegan even beat on his chest to imitate the sound of horses’ hooves in “Midnight Sleighride”). As a result, while the band was hailed by some for its imaginativeness, it reminded others of the style of musical humorist Spike Jones. Some jazz fans also complained that the arrangements left little room for improvisation.
The original idea was to form a studio-only unit, and the two arrangers signed the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra to RCA Victor, which released the debut single “Doodletown Fifers” (an adaptation of the Civil War song “Kingdom Coming and the Year of Jubilo”) and saw it rise into the charts in August of 1952.
The commercial success of the records brought promoters calling, and Sauter and Finegan decided to launch a permanent touring band; the 21-piece Sauter-Finegan Orchestra first hit the road in June 1953. Unfortunately, those promoters insisted the band play dance venues rather than the concert halls to which they were better suited, and even the dance band business was nearly moribund by the mid- ’50s. The group stayed on the road until December 1955, by which time the leaders were deeply in debt.
Meanwhile, they had continued to record for RCA Victor, however, producing Inside Sauter-Finegan and The Sound of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra in 1954, along with a collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner, Concerto for Jazz Band and Orchestra. Concert Jazz and Sons of Sauter-Finegan appeared in 1955. After coming off the road, the band made some more records, Adventure in Time (1956), Under Analysis (1957), and Straight Down the Middle (1957).
But they threw in the towel in March 1957 and disbanded when Sauter accepted a job as musical director for the South-West Radio Big Band in Baden-Baden, West Germany. Finegan went back to freelance arranging, but when Sauter returned to the U.S. in 1959, the two began to work together again, rerecording some of their arrangements for a Sauter-Finegan Orchestra LP, The Return of the Doodletown Fifers, released on United Artists Records, and writing commercial jingles for radio and television. But they did not revive the band as a full-time project. Instead, Finegan continued to write commercials and arrangements, and he also turned to teaching.
In the 1970s, he again wrote charts for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Sauter wrote arrangements for Andre Kostelanetz and orchestrated a series of Broadway musicals including The Apple Tree (1966), 1776 (1969), and Two by Two (1970). He also wrote and orchestrated an entire album for Stan Getz, the 1962 set Focus, which earned him a Grammy nomination, and composed the score for the 1965 film Mickey One. He died of a heart attack at 66 in 1981