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 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 7:45 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

In 1958, Gerald Fried arranged a top-shelf exotica album, "Orienta," credited to the Markko Polo Adventurers, on RCA Victor.

The album includes some exotica standards, two originals by Fried, a few tracks by composer Leon Pober, and the tune that is the subject of this post.

That tune is "Rain in Rangoon" by composer/songwriter Vernon Duke, perhaps best remembered for the standards "Autumn in New York" and "April in Paris."

I have not encountered any other versions of "Rain in Rangoon." I have often wondered if it was composed specifically for this album, or if it was something that Duke had lying around. Were Fried and Duke friends?

Anyway, I have an extensive exotica accumulation, and "Rain in Rangoon" would easily rank in my top ten greatest exotica tracks list, both in terms of the composition itself and Fried's gorgeous arrangement. Take three-and-a-half minutes out of your life and enjoy this stunning, impressionistic piece:



Unfortunately, the video does not include the original cover art.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 10:04 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

It is very good, isn't it. Onya, I recall you posted something similar a while back...possibly early April 2010, and I did a bit of investigation at the Fresh Sounds (I think) site back then, which gave the album high praise, stating that the Vernon Duke track was specifically composed for the album. More than ten years later and even Wikipedia has copied that info. What remains a mystery is why it was never seemingly covered by anyone else...or was it?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 10:12 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

It is very good, isn't it. Onya, I recall you posted something similar a while back...possibly early April 2010, and I did a bit of investigation at the Fresh Sounds (I think) site back then, which gave the album high praise, stating that the Vernon Duke track was specifically composed for the album. More than ten years later and even Wikipedia has copied that info. What remains a mystery is why it was never seemingly covered by anyone else...or was it?

Thanks Graham! I have never encountered a cover of this tune. It would be a bit challenging; having listened to this track for more than 20 years, it is hard for me to tell where the composition leaves off and where the arrangement begins.

So, the tune appears to have been written specifically for the album. I wonder what the circumstances were. I doubt that Vernon Duke needed the paycheck at that point, but you never know. I wonder if Duke and Fried had any kind of professional relationship outside of this track.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 10:45 AM   
 By:   TheFamousEccles   (Member)

I've been working with the Duke estate for several years now, and actually had an opportunity to ask Gerald Fried about this recording. It's been a while since that conversation, so my memory is a little hazy on the specifics (I'll double check all of this, and edit and correct as needed), but my recollection is that Duke indeed did write this for the album, and was commissioned by Michael Goldsen, who also founded Criterion Music, one of Duke's publishers at that time -- so that's where the connection was made. Duke's original composition was a three-stave piano score, which Fried then arranged for his ensemble. Gerald Fried had some limited interaction with Duke during the making of the album, to talk about the chart and such, but there wasn't a pre-existing relationship. The flute riff that opens and closes the track does not appear in Duke's score (though many other licks do), so I have to imagine that that was a Fried contribution -- he also elected to repeat certain phrases & bars, which works quite well. The gong hit at the end was specified in Duke's piano score. By this time, I believe Duke was living in Pacific Palisades, and was in the middle of a rather prolific period: He had finished revising his opera "Mistress into Maid" the year before "Rain in Rangoon", and was revising older concert works and ballets, as well as writing quite a lot of wonderful new concert & theatre music.

By the way, since you brought up two of Duke's evergreens, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Duke's two other great standards, which have also been recorded countless times: "Taking a Chance on Love" (originally "Fooling Around with Love"), and the unbelievably great "I Can't Get Started", the latter has probably been recorded the most over the years.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 11:39 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

I am by no means an expert on 50s and 60s exotica like you, Onya, but that was a nice track. Thanks for sharing! Also comforting to know that Fried is still with us.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 11:40 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

I've been working with the Duke estate for several years now, and actually had an opportunity to ask Gerald Fried about this recording. It's been a while, so my memory is a little hazy on the specifics (I'll double check all of this, and edit and correct as needed), but my recollection is that Duke indeed did write this for the album, and was commissioned by Michael Goldsen, who also founded Criterion Music, one of Duke's publishers at that time -- so that's where the connection was made. Duke's original composition was a three-stave piano score, which Fried then arranged for his ensemble. Gerald Fried had some limited interaction with Duke during the making of the album, to talk about the chart and such, but there wasn't a pre-existing relationship. The flute riff that opens and closes the track does not appear in Duke's score (though many other licks do), so I have to imagine that that was a Fried contribution -- he also elected to repeat certain phrases & bars, which works quite well. The gong hit at the end was specified in Duke's piano score. By this time, I believe Duke was living in Pacific Palisades, and was in the middle of a rather prolific period: He had finished revising his opera "Mistress into Maid" the year before "Rain in Rangoon", and was revising older concert works and ballets, as well as writing quite a lot of wonderful new concert & theatre music.

By the way, since you brought up two of Duke's evergreens, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Duke's two other great standards, which have also been recorded countless times: "Taking a Chance on Love" (originally "Fooling Around with Love"), and the unbelievably great "I Can't Get Started", the latter has probably been recorded the most over the years.


This is excellent information, thank you!

So your description suggests that at least parts of Fried's arrangement came from Duke's thee-stave sketch.

And thank you for reminding me of the other two standards Duke wrote. I tend to associate "I Can't Get Started" more with Ira Gershwin, as he kept writing new stanzas as the years went on.

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 2:08 PM   
 By:   C.J. Smith   (Member)

Wow! I love the use of the celeste in that arrangement. I don't think Gerald Fried was often considered much as an orchestrator, but the sounds of this arrangement are truly transporting. Did he ever arrange for any other albums with a decently sized ensemble, exotica or otherwise?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 2:21 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

Wow! I love the use of the celeste in that arrangement. I don't think Gerald Fried was often considered much as an orchestrator, but the sounds of this arrangement are truly transporting. Did he ever arrange for any other albums with a decently sized ensemble, exotica or otherwise?

I believe that is the only album with Fried involvement that I have, outside of his film and TV scores. There are one or two tracks on "Orienta" that are a little over-the-top, but overall, the whole album is excellent. I do think "Rain in Rangoon" is the money cut, though.

I guess there could have been other situations in which he worked as arranger but was not credited as the artist, but I don't know of specific instances.

It is interesting that both Fried and Drasnin did classic exotica albums, Drasnin's being "Voodoo." The two worked on the second and third seasons of "The Man from UNCLE."

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 2:47 PM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

This did come out on CD on RCA Spain, which is the issue I have. I'm pretty sure he did other arranging and conducting in the 1950s and I'm pretty sure I have something else, but I'll have to do some digging. He did conduct and arrange a Tex Ritter song for Capitol called The Wind and the Tree, so there's that one.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 3:59 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

This did come out on CD on RCA Spain, which is the issue I have.

Yes, I have that CD, along with a mono copy of the LP.

RCA Spain put out some interesting things - Mike Hammer, M Squad, TV Action Jazz, the Swingin' Nutcracker, etc. I was told that the guy who was behind the Fresh Sounds/Blue Moon releases was involved with the RCA Spain releases. If so, he had excellent taste in space age bachelor pad music.

I first heard "Rain in Rangoon" on one of the RCA Space-Age Pop CD compilations. I fell in love with it immediately. A year or two later, for my birthday, Ms. Birri gave me LPs of "Orienta," "TV Action Jazz Vol. 2" "The Silencers," and a dinosaur record. I married well.

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 3:59 PM   
 By:   Ray Worley   (Member)

Thanks, Onya. That is a really beautiful piece. And yes, the celesta especially adds to the stunning atmosphere.
Is the rest of the album this good?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

Thanks, Onya. That is a really beautiful piece. And yes, the celesta especially adds to the stunning atmosphere.
Is the rest of the album this good?


Generally, yes. There are a few over-the-top pieces, but if you generally like exotica, you will like this.

Here is the full album:

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2020 - 4:18 PM   
 By:   Last Child   (Member)

Also comforting to know that Fried is still with us.

Actually I don't think he indicated this when referring to an old conversation he could barely remember. But Gerald must still be around or we'd have heard about it. I have an email he probably still uses, if you want to say "hi" and whatever else.

 
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