Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Sound of Excellence

I absolutely love the Halmark stable. Another of the many song-poem labels, Halmark incorporated imprints such as Grand, Chapel and P.R.O.

What sets them apart from the many dozens of other song-poem companies is the otherworldly quality of their productions, caused mostly because, instead of using live musicians - a la Preview, Columbine or MSR - the company instead used a series of recorded backing tracks, or music beds as they're often known for their recordings, utilising the same backings again and again and again.
The fact that Halmark (sometimes incorrectly printed on their own discs as Hallmark) wasn't established until 1967 yet their music beds all seem to have been recorded in the 50s only adds to the overwhelming oddness of their releases. God only knows what the people who sent their dolars in thought when they received their discs back.

This particular ditty, Ode to Our Lady is not, as you might expect, a song about the Statue of Liberty or the Virgin Mary: it's about a recently deceased pooch. Halmark always credited the writer of these peculiar, off-kilter, opuses but seldom gave the performers their due, meaning that unless you've studied their output its difficult to tell who is singing. But as the company relied almost exclusively on just four singers I believe in this instance it's Halmark stalwarts Jack and Mary Kimmell.

Phil Milstein has written an excellent article about his efforts to track down Ted Rosen, the man behind Halmark, which you can read here:


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