DEAR JERRY: I have a friend who seeks a 1950s album that is mostly instrumentals, but with a female making exotic sounds. He says she was an early version of Donna Summer, with lots of "oohs" and "ahhs."
He thinks it was on Capitol Records, and perhaps by Nelson Riddle and
His Orchestra, although nothing in Mr. Riddle's discography fits the
Kathy White, Brooklyn
DEAR KATHY: Nelson Riddle was one of Capitol's top arrangers and instrumentalists throughout the '50s, but you won't find this LP in his discography, because it is by Les Baxter and His Orchestra. It was a concept album titled "The Passions Featuring Bas Sheva."
This game changer came out in January 1954, as a 10-inch LP, sealed in a polyethylene sleeve, with a six-page booklet, housed in a custom boxed set (Capitol LAL-486). At the time, this was a significant packaging upgrade, not just for Capitol but for the industry overall.
One thing that distinguished "The Passions" from other concept albums is each of the seven tracks has an impassioned one-word title: "Despair"; "Ecstasy"; "Hate"; "Lust"; "Terror"; "Jealousy"; and "Joy." Conspicuous by its absence is love.
Bas Sheva's function is providing the appropriate oohs and ahhs, and moans and groans, that correspond with each title.
Rather than using a professional model, Les Baxter chose Sheva to be the seemingly disturbed woman pictured on the album cover. Of the possible titles, I'd say she appears caught somewhere between "Despair" and "Terror."
Definitely not aimed at the teen market they rarely had $2.98 for a regular LP "The Passions" retailed for $6.75 including tax. In today's money, that would amount to about $59.
As an added justification for doubling the standard pop LP price, "The Passions" was the first of Capitol's highbrow series, "Full Dimensional Sound" albums.
In the months ahead, more boxed "Specialized High Fidelity Albums" came out, mostly compilations featuring various Capitol artists. Here are the next six "Full Dimensional Sound" albums, and the artists featured:
1. "Full Dimensional Sound - A Study in High Fidelity" (Capitol SAL-9020) Ray Anthony & His Orchestra; Hal Rees; Dick Stabile & His Orchestra; June Hutton; Les Paul; Les Baxter & His Orchestra; Stan Kenton & His Orchestra; The French National Symphony Orchestra; Ernest Bloch; The Roger Wagner Chorale; Victor Aller; and the Ballet Theatre Orchestra.
2. "High Fidelity Popular Instrumentals in Full Dimensional Sound" (Capitol LAL-9022) Ray Anthony & His Orchestra; The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Conducted By Richard Jones; Joe "Fingers" Carr & His Ragtime Band; Billy May & His Orchestra; Stan Kenton & His Orchestra; Pee Wee Hunt & His Orchestra; Axel Stordahl & His Orchestra; and Les Paul.
3. "High Fidelity Popular Vocals in Full Dimensional Sound" (Capitol LAL-9023) Ella Mae Morse With Dave Cavanaugh's Music; Margaret Whiting With Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra; The Encores With Billy May & His Orchestra; Yma Sumac With Moises Vivanco & His Peruvians; Les Paul & Mary Ford; The Carr-Hops With Joe "Fingers" Carr & His Ragtime Band; Nat King Cole With Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra; and Gisele MacKenzie With Buddy Cole & His Orchestra.
4. "High Fidelity Classics in Full Dimensional Sound" (Capitol LAL-9024) Levine Conducting the Ballet Theatre Orchestra; Slatkin Conducting the Concert Arts Orchestra; Leonard Pennario; Steinberg Conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Wagner Conducting the Chorale and the Concert Arts Players; and the Hollywood String Quartet With Victor Aller, Piano.
5. "Further Studies in High Fidelity - Full Dimensional Sound" (Capitol LAL-9027) Ray Anthony & His Orchestra; Yma Sumac With the Rico Mambo Orchestra; The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Conducted By Richard Jones; Billy May & His Afro-Cubans; Ray Anthony & His Brass Choir; Billy May & His Orchestra; The Hollywood Bowl Symphony; The Ballet Theatre Orchestra; The Concert Arts Orchestra; The Hollywood String Quartet, The Concert Arts Percussionists; and Les Paul.
6. "High Fidelity Popular Favorites - Vocals and Instrumentals in Full Dimensional Sound" (Capitol SAL-9029) Double LP repackage of LAL-9022 and LAL-9023.
IZ ZAT SO? While Net surfing for info on Bas Sheva, I found these interesting comments:
In 1954, Les Baxter, a composer and producer at Capitol Records, offered Bas Sheva the role of star vocalist on his suite 'The Passions.' Her performance on 'The Passions' is startling even 60+ years after it was recorded; she screams, wails, whimpers, howls, grunts, and even acts a little to the pulsating rhythms of Baxter's dark, gritty, and complex musical score.
Even in an age where musical innovation was beginning to be encouraged, 'The Passions' was far too innovative and edgy and the album was not a commercial success. Despite this showcase of the astounding range of her voice, Sheva never recorded again.
Bas died on February 11, 1960, at the age of 34, as a result of a diabetic reaction suffered while entertaining on board a cruise ship off the coast of South Carolina.