The forgotten 50s

If you are interested in tango music for dancing, you find that it takes years and years to become really familiar with even the ‘central repertoire’ of the leading orchestras, and that there is masses of additional music from the other (lesser) orchestras to get to know too. Acquiring a library that begins to look comprehensive requires the investment of a considerable amount of money and time.

Of course you could be one of those that pass around/share hard drives containing thousands of crappy low bitrate MP3 versions of just about everything, but little of it in playable quality, and even less of it properly tagged (identifying, correctly, orchestra/singer/date). By the way, if you’re one of them you should STOP. By encouraging the indiscriminate copying of recorded music (quite a lot of which still enjoys copyright protection, at least for the composers & lyricists, even if not for the recording/performance), then you are being dishonest, and you are denying a legitimate revenue stream to those companies that invest in bringing us the recordings in good quality. You are, ultimately, biting the hand that feeds you.

Anyway, as I was saying …

Now and again, along come some new transfers (or you just discover a ‘new’ orchestra and its work for the first time) and you have to reappraise what you thought you knew about that orchestra/period/style. This happened to me most recently (until this week) with the recent issue by TangoTunes of the complete Pugliese discography from 1943-47 (with a third collection eagerly awaited). These transfers were so much better than anything I already had, that it was like hearing the music for the first time. And now, this week, TangoTunes have released new transfers of all 84 of Carlos Di Sarli’s recordings from 1951-53 for the Music Hall label.

Unlike the early Pugliese (where I already had 100% of the material in other transfers, mostly from commercial CDs (many, now out of print)), I only had about half of the Di Sarli Music Hall recordings, and mostly in very poor transfers. I had contented myself with the belief that once he had returned to RCA Victor in 1954, he immediately re-recorded much of the same repertoire with the same singers, and in good quality sound, so that the Music Hall ‘era’ could be safely overlooked – and anyway, the available transfers were not really good enough to play.

Well, I can tell you that the material is actually marvellous! And the 84 songs include quite a lot of repertoire that he didn’t re-record, most of which is first rate (along  with a few undoubted duds). This isn’t a review, as such, but generally, the instrumentals are excellent, and the vocals with Pomar and Serpa are very fine too. I have been listening to the Music Hall & Victor versions, back to back, and find that I generally prefer the earlier versions. They are fresher and better paced. Undoubtedly, the sound of the later recordings is better, but we are so used to hearing the restricted quality of vintage recordings, that you hardly notice unless you do put them side by side. It’s just that by the early 50s they should have sounded better than they did – which is a shame.

I tend to put together groups of songs that I think would be good for dancing into ready-made tandas; and if I acquire a significant release of new transfers, then part of my familiarisation with them is to reappraise the way I have my tandas grouped. I find that deleting my existing groupings and starting again is the best way not to be influenced by past judgements (which are often based on sound quality as much as the intrinsic merits of the music-making) – and so I am happily spending hours and hours listening to these releases, and other contemporary material, and deciding how to group them for dancing. Probably many other DJs do the same sort of thing. We care very much about the music that we present, and want it to sound as good as possible.

And all this leads me to the conclusion that it is time I reappraised my own approach to the recordings of the 1950s, generally. Some DJs (including several that I respect very much) tend to play a really quite restricted diet of recordings from, say, 1935 to 1944 – and very little outside, and from a restricted selection of orchestras too. It can very easily become a convincing-sounding mantra that the great popularity of public dancing in BsAs was in sharp decline by the end of the 1940s, that the best already lay in the past, and that throughout the 1950s the orchestras that still had work (particularly after the upheavals of 1955) were producing concert music or were just backing-groups for the leading singers of the day. I actually don’t think that it’s true at all. Well, OK, you can find plenty of material that wasn’t directed at the dancefloor in the first place (but that is true throughout the period of the tango orchestras – much of their recorded output wasn’t meant to be dance music); but the leading dance orchestras were producing great dance music throughout the 1950s. Just think: D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo and Pugliese were all very active in the recording studio, and plenty of others were busy too.

So I had this crackpot idea that it would be interesting to put together a playlist, when I next DJ, that time-shifted my normal repertoire by a decade to celebrate the marvellous dance music of the 1950s. There’s no shortage of material from which to choose. No DJ set that contained just one period of music would satisfy me as a dancer (and I dance much more than I DJ), so of course, my set would not be without its 1930s & 1940s classics, but there’s lots of 1950s material (and often very familiar repertoire, played by orchestras of the first rank) and I’m confident that it would be great for dancing. One of the most interesting aspects of this ‘idea’ is that once you have built the skeleton of a set from the work of the leading orchestras, you have a different supporting cast to complement the work of the big boys. So, perhaps Varela, not Laurenz; or valses from Cupo rather than Canaro.

If I actually go ahead and give it a go, I’ll report back how it went, and probably post the playlist too.

Playlist: 16 April 2016 (Shenstone)

Genre Song Year Artist(s)
Tango Ya sale el tren 1943 Miguel Caló (Jorge Ortiz)
Pa’ que seguir 1943
Mi cantar 1943
Barrio de tango 1943
Tango Gallo ciego 1938 Ricardo Tanturi (Instrumental)
Comparsa criolla 1941
Tierrita 1937
Una noche de garufa 1941
Vals Mi novia de ayer 1944 Alfredo De Angelis (Floreal Ruíz)
Esa noche 1945 Alfredo De Angelis (Julio Martel)
Ilusión azul 1945 Alfredo De Angelis (Carlos Dante)
Tango El entrerriano 1954 Juan D’Arienzo (Instrumental)
Pampa 1954
Homero 1954
El choclo 1954
Tango Recién 1943 Pedro Laurenz (Alberto Podestá)
Patria mía 1943
Que nunca me falte 1943
Yo quiero cantar un tango 1943
Milonga Mano brava 1941 Aníbal Troilo (Francisco Fiorentino)
De pura cepa 1942 Aníbal Troilo (Instrumental)
Ficha de oro 1942 Aníbal Troilo (Francisco Fiorentino)
Tango Racing Club 1946 Ángel D’Agostino (Instrumental)
Con sabor a tango 1946
De pura cepa 1943
De corte criollo 1945
Tango Tú el cielo y tú 1944 Enrique Rodríguez (Armando Moreno)
Naranjo en flor 1944
Motivo sentimental 1944
Flor de lis 1944
Vals Ausencia 1940 Carlos Di Sarli (Agustín Volpe)
Alma mía 1940 Carlos Di Sarli (Roberto Rufino)
Rosamel 1940 Carlos Di Sarli (Roberto Rufino)
Tango Unión cívica 1938 Rodolfo Biagi (Instrumental)
El trece 1938
El incendio 1938
Pura clase 1939
Tango Niebla del Riachuelo 1937 Osvaldo Fresedo (Roberto Ray)
No quiero verte llorar 1937
Ojos muertos 1938
Telón 1938
Milonga La puñalada 1937 Juan D’Arienzo (Instrumental)
Milonga, vieja milonga 1937
El esquinazo 1938
Tango Yuyo verde 1945 Osvaldo Pugliese (Alberto Morán)
Maleza 1945
Mentira 1945
El abrojito 1945
Tango Lucecitas de mi pueblo 1959 Aquiles Roggero (Adolfo Rivas)
La huella 1959 Aquiles Roggero (Instrumental)
Mejor así 1959 Aquiles Roggero (Adolfo Rivas)
Merceditas 1958 Aquiles Roggero (Adolfo Rivas & Raúl Aldao)
Vals Estrellita mía 1940 Edgardo Donato (Lagos, Morales & Gavioli)
Quien Sera? 1941 Edgardo Donato (Horacio Lagos)
Mendocina 1942 Edgardo Donato (Romeo Gavioli)
Tango Pobre yo 1929 Sexteto Carlos Di Sarli (Instrumental)
Belén 1929
No te aguanto más 1929
No cantes victoria 1930
Tango Malena 1942 Lucio Demare (Juan Carlos Miranda)
Al compás de un tango 1942
No te apures cara blanca 1942
Mañana zarpa un barco 1942
Milonga Milonga de mis amores 1937 Francisco Canaro (Instrumental)
Milonga de antaño 1937
Milongón 1938
Tango Quejas de bandoneón 1944 Aníbal Troilo (Instrumental)
Chiqué (El Elegante) 1944
Piropos 1944
La cumparsita 1943