Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Review by Ian King

Issue 360 – February 2018

Now that 2018 is here (although still 2017 when writing this), it’s time for my usual look back over the recordings of the year.

An Evening With Klaus Wunderlich (2CD) (2017)

The first planned release of 2017 was the third Klaus Wunderlich set from the ‘Not Now Music’ label, although it actually turned up a few weeks early at the end of 2016. The CD was called “An Evening With…” and was the second release of the rehearsal recordings Klaus made for his UK tours, this one being from 1989 and played on the Wersi Spectra. This was the follow-up (although technically and chronologically a prequel) to “Absolutely Wunderlich” that featured his 1995 tapes. These two recordings went to show what a perfectionist Klaus was with note-perfect demo recordings made for ‘his ears only’ to work out the timings and running order. While they were never intended for release, they showed Klaus at his best and prove what a master he was at playing straight without overdubbing. The reels were all remastered by friend and studio engineer Werner Kohlhammer and the overall sound of both releases were exceptional.

To show how slow organ releases were in 2017, we had to wait until MAY for the next one and again it was another Klaus double and “48 Unforgettable Melodies”. This one contained both volumes of his original “24 Melodies You’ll Never Forget” LPs from the late 1950s, so recorded on a Hammond C3 rather than the later Wersi models. This also had his rhythm group accompanying him (Rolf Ahrens on drums, Franz Rasch on bass and Bert Helsing on guitar) and unlike volume one, it was recorded ‘in-sequence’. While volume one was released by Bell Musik back in 1999, volume two was released on this set for the first time. At a price of £6.95, it was cheaper than the original release of the single album.

Michael Sullivan - Light and Shade

A new artist turned up with a new CD in June with Michael Sullivan and his “Light and Shade” CD recorded on the Tyros 4 (used with the Reg Rawlings Blackpool Tower Wurlitzer sound software) and CVP-505 Clavinova. Well, I say ‘new,’ but he’s been a professional musician for over forty years, although based around the Midlands area. He and his wife Elspeth had also performed as a keyboard duo at the late Brian Sharp’s breaks in Bournemouth. This CD was a lovely sounding debut release too.

Later that month we had the first new CD from Brett Wales in a couple of years with his debut recording at the new Wersi Sonic OAX 700 and “Sonic Evolution”. As I said in my review, I am sure Brett’s next few CDs will feature these new instruments and it’s good to see new organ models still being released.

John Mann - Theatre Organ Magic

The first theatre organ CD of 2017 also arrived in June with John Mann and his “Theatre Organ Magic,” recorded at the ex-Regal Cinema, Edmonton Christie now at Paul Kirner’s Music Palace in South Wales. This was the first theatre recording in eighteen months, and luckily it turned out to be a very nice one. The organ was the one formerly at London’s Regal Edmonton Cinema and was sometimes called the “Torch” Christie due to its connection to the legendary Sidney Torch.

John Kyffin only released one CD in 2017 and it arrived in July, called “Time For Romance”. As the title suggested, this was full of romantic tunes with more of an orchestral sound due to the fact his vintage Wersi organs were given some time off and everything was recorded on the Tyros 2 (and an iPad). The arrangements on this one were not the norm with most having a different slant than the usual versions (and just that little bit classier).

August brought us volume three of Jason Lee’s “The Best of Lounge Organ,” a ‘Hammond sound’ series played on KeyB Live organ plus a Roland BK-7m module for the backings. This was probably my favourite of his three so far with a lovely mix of titles and a great drawbar organ sound.

Howard Beaumont - Romantic Pipes

September brought another romantic themed CD and the second theatre organ release of 2017 (and also what turned out to be the last). This was a lovely recording from organ maestro Howard Beaumont, called “Romantic Pipes,” with popular love songs which were also featured in movies. All the tracks were recorded at the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ in the New Victoria Centre, Howden-le-Wear and the sound was beautiful with a rich warm feel and a lovely variety of tones and styles.

We had the fifth organ release from ‘Not Now Music’ in June but this time it was compilation of popular German organist Claudia Hirschfeld entitled, “The Stage Collection”. This was a double CD featuring thirty-five of her all-time favourites from seven of her best albums released between 1999 and 2012 (all of which are now deleted). It also included six unreleased tracks at the Wersi Louvre. At a bargain price of £6.95 it made a great introduction to Claudia’s music and a lot of people thought so too as it made it to number two of our best sellers of the year and was a close runner-up at that.

Klaus Wunderlich Documentary DVD & Blu-ray 600

The only DVD of the year came in October with the Danish documentary charting Klaus Wunderlich’s life, called simply WUNDERLICH (also available as a Blu-ray). This one turned out to be our biggest seller of the year and featured a backdrop of his music, photographs and video clips including his appearances on BBC Pebble Mill in 1978 & 1984. There were also interviews with people who new Klaus, including Alan & Dorothy Ashton, Claudia Hirschfeld, Franz Lambert, Ole Erling, Brett Wales, Mark Whale, Hady Wolff and others.

November brought us two new CDs from Nicholas Martin; “Light Fantastic” which was a superb twenty-track compilation of light classical pieces plucked from his Technics FA-1 recordings (plus three on the Turner’s Wurlitzer) and “Dancing Around Christmas,” a brand new release of Christmas sequence dance music, again at the FA-1 (and the Roland Fantom XR and “Theatre Organ In A Box” software on four of the tracks). This one was both his first Christmas and first Sequence CD since 2006.

The final release of the year was in November and showed Byron Jones getting into the Christmas spirit with a CD of festive tunes at the Wersi Scala (with the Hauptwerk Virtual Organ on some tracks). This was his first Wersi release in three years and his first ever Christmas CD, so definitely one for all fans of “The Welsh Wizard.”

For all you dancers out there, there were also nine CDs released on the Maestro label too with Ronnie Ross (“Enjoy Yourself”), Larry Green (“Rolling Round The World” & “Love Is All Around”), David Last (“Aces High” & “Perfect Day”), Tony Gilbert (“Take Your Partners”), Richard Keeling (“Sunshine Of My Life”) Richard Keeling & Carole Keeling (“Together”) and Dave Floyd (“Could I Have This Dance”).

Claudia Hirschfeld - The Stage Collection

Well that’s it and here’s the list of our best sellers of 2017…

  1. Klaus Wunderlich – WUNDERLICH Documentary (DVD £14.95 & Blu-ray)
  2. Claudia Hirschfeld – The Stage Collection (2CD)
  3. An Evening With Klaus Wunderlich (2CD)
  4. Klaus Wunderlich – 48 Unforgettable Melodies (2CD)
  5. John Mann – Theatre Organ Magic
  6. Howard Beaumont – Romantic Pipes
  7. DirkJan Ranzijn – Sinfonia
  8. Brett Wales – Sonic Evolution
  9. John Kyffin – Time For Romance
  10. Klaus Wunderlich – The Great Pop Organ Sound (2CD)

Review by Ian King from Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Magazine.