At the risk of having my Lone Ranger badge taken away for being a member of the Fifth Column, I'd like to talk about the flood of patriotic songs that the factories in Tin Pan Alley have been turning out recently.
Song-pluggers have pulled some pretty tasteless stunts in their time, but right now I can't think of anything quite as bad as cashing in on one's own patriotism--which is exactly what they're doing today. Perhaps it's not quite fair to deny even the Boys From Lindy's a certain measure of emotional or ideological impulse, but when you listen to the results you don't even have to stop and wonder.
For not only is the idea itself in rather poor taste, but also the songs themselves, which can best be described in the language of their composers, as "strictly from hunger." In other words, they stink, and no two ways about it. That includes everything, from God Bless America, I Am An American, He's My Uncle, (Sam--how did you guess?), right down (and I do mean down) to Ballad For Americans, the latter designed to appeal to those intellectuals still hanging on to the battered remains of a party line. (Although I'll qualify this by saying that Paul Robeson's voice is definitely worth the corny lyrics you're forced to wade through. Robeson could give you the weather report and it would make a good album).
Perhaps I've got too much confidence in my fellow-citizens, but it seems to me that we don't need this kind of trash to wake us up to the desirability of living in a democracy. These songs are a downright insult to whatever intelligence and taste you or I may have. As music they're worthless, and as far as patriotism is concerned, I've heard more convincing stuff from Father Coughlin's radio sermons. So the next time one of us is tempted to throw away a nickel to hear God Bless America on a juke box, let's just remember the British merchantman that was torpedoed in the North Atlantic last summer. She went down pretty fast, but the crew kept their spirits up by singing--not Rule Brittania or Pomp and Circumstance, but just plain Beer Barrel Polka. Pardon me while I run down to Scollay Square and yell "I Am an American," just as loud as I can.
NEWS AND NEW RELEASES. Artie Shaw can't play his way out of a paper bag--I became convinced of that when I heard him squeak his way through two twelve inch sides of what VICTOR is trying to pass off as being worth two twelve-inch sides. Miscarriage is titled Concerto for Clarinet, which you might have heard in "Second Chorus." However, there's some very fine boogie-woogie piano by Johnny Guarneri, who shows the influence of Albert Ammons. Also, Nick Fatool's drums and Billy Butterfield's trumpet save the coupling from being a total loss. . . . Record of the week: As Long As I Live, by the Benny Goodman Sextet (COLUMBIA). Benny picks a fine tune in the first place, and plays it in that light bounce that's becoming more and more identified with anything Goodman does. I liked the chorus best, with Count Basic playing melody against Benny's low register trill. Very original stuff. Reverse is a fast blues, Benny's Bugle. George Auld takes the honors on this. . . . It's open to question how long will Bradley can get away with recording Beat Me Daddy under various titles. This time it's Three Ring Ragout, a boogie-woogie version of circus parade music, and they do everything but shoot a guy out of a cannon (COLUMBIA). . . . The near future will see a Hal Kemp Memorial Album, featuring eight of his best tunes reissued by COLUMBIA. Hal Kemp never pretended to play hot music, but he was an excellent showman and had one of the finest dance orchestras in the country. The Album will definitely be welcome. . . . Dinah Shore's best record to date is Memphis Blues, a BLUEBIRD Vocadance. If you've missed hearing her, you should listen to this record, and you might notice the similarity to Mildred Bailey--unfortunately, however, lacking in that swell undisciplined quality that only Mildred can work into a tune.