- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1st Paperback Edition edition (February 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1556525435
- ISBN-13: 978-1556525438
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,498,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Vanilla Pop: Sweet Sounds from Frankie Avalon to ABBA Paperback – February 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Lanza celebrates an oft-maligned musical genre-the "honey-coated crooning, creamy choral harmonies, and rippling guitar" of the likes of the Cowsills, Pat Boone, the Carpenters and ABBA-in this fond history. The author of Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak argues that dismissing such artists and their music as "white-bread" and "vanilla" belies their achievements and influence; it also, he suggests, "reveals a tendency to fetishize 'blackness' as an antidote to romanticism." And just because someone performed pretty, easy melodies didn't mean he or she led a pretty, easy life: of the gifted, troubled British producer Joe Meek, Lanza writes that he "made every effort to document his terrified and torn existence in his music." Though Lanza is careful to detail the lives of his various subjects, his account becomes most interesting when he reveals the technical accomplishments of the singers and (especially) the engineers who helped make their sound. Producer Michael Tretow, for example, altered tape speeds to make ABBA sound bigger, "imbued...with sonic ventilation." Lanza is a real connoisseur of this music, and his knowledge and enthusiasm sometimes lend him the air of a preacher seeking to convert the masses: vanilla, he says, "has all along been the preeminent flavor." Most readers will wish for a little more criticism here and there, but in general, this is a surprisingly flavorful journey through an often-ignored musical landscape. 25 b&w photos not seen by PW.
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"Interesting and fun to read." -- The New York Press
"The chapter on ABBAs Vanilla Ice is delicious." -- Chicago Free Press
"What makes Lanzas new book compelling . . . is precisely his willingness to take risks on music that took very little." -- The Record
"With contagious enthusiasm, Lanza reveals the engineering tricks behind the dulcet sounds of the 50s and 60s froth." -- Blender
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As I mentioned regarding GOLDMINE'S CELEBRITY VOCALS discography, one of the difficulties trying to find what you're looking for (crate digging, Ebay for that matter) is knowing what exactly you're trying to find, picking targets. This volume aids that nitch somewhat as an introduction, as well as being a great reading about not-pounding rhythm rockers. One of my interests in BAD music touches on points that this book covers, such as that photo on pg. 151 of the Lennon Sisters chickies wearing miniskirts and go-go boots (about the time they left Lawrence Welk, then they got G-rated naughty: SOMETHIN' STUPID and ON THE GROOVY SIDE on Dot, ...TODAY on Mercury, then a "country" album?), flower-power kitsch The Love Generation, Claudine Longet's Fuddisms, New Classic Singers (Mike Curb Congregation, Brady Kids, Ray Bloch Singers, Doodletown Pipers, all that Nixonian Alternative Rock period), the Cascades (Glen Campbell's running the band on "The Last Leaf" and several other tracks, uncredited, doncha know), and oh, yes, Pat Boone (maybe 30 Lps, most unintentional).
This volume and his ELEVATOR MUSIC book are great references, and great reading (anyone for Ray Conniff disco?). May I also suggest: BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH, THE DARK HISTORY OF PREPUBESCENT POP, FROM THE BANANA SPLITS TO BRITNEY SPEARS, edited by Kim Cooper & David Smay. The section on KISS (by Jake Austen, pg. 243) almost confirms my long-held suspicion: that Gene Simmons is the alter-ego of Barry Manilow, the same person.
Doubtful anyone at this point would argue that early black jazz, blues and R&B are powerful evocations of American life in the first half of the 20th Century. Lanza, however, goes beyond viewing white pop music as a mere novelty of '50s naivete. The Norman Rockwell notion of songs like "Sh'Boom" or various Mitch Miller Singers albums are appreciated for their sonic beauty and delectible arrangement. These songs are as much flight-of-fancy... full of good times... as they are relics of a bygone era. Lanza's text holds works by the Ray Conniff Singers, the Lettermen, the Cascades and Harper's Bizarre up as All-American pieces of pop-art, giving them historical context and some good old journalistic insight on how to enjoy the music.
For my money, I haven't seen a better chapter written about producer Curt Boettcher yet. Here's hoping a Boettcher book is somewhere in the works. Until then, pick "Vanilla Pop" up and find out about the celestial sounds that inspired and sustained Boettcher and other creative minds.