Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Sounds in Space" in Living Stereo


I picked up this record earlier this year at Atomic Warehouse in Harrisburg, during the same trip when Sarah and I were checking out "vintage" boom boxes and cassette tapes. I picked it up because it looked cool. No other reason.

The record was issued by RCA Victor in 1958. It's a "stereo-orthophonic high fidelty recording" that's narrated by Ken Nordine, who is best known for his Word Jazz albums and is, according to Wikipedia, still alive today at age 98.

While it has an outer-space theme, this was intended as a demonstration record, to show off the benefits of stereophonic presentation. As such, there's an IMPORTANT NOTICE on the back of the album sleeve: "This is a TRUE STEREOPHONIC RECORD specifically designed to be played only on phonographs equipped for stereophonic reproduction. This record will also give outstanding monaural performance on many conventional high fidelity phonographs by a replacement of the cartridge. See your local dealer or serviceman."

From that level of stated concern, it sounds as if failure to follow the guidelines might result in tearing a hole in the space-time continuum. If someone actually did that, though, would we know? Or would we just assume that the universe in which we live today is the one that it's supposed to be? (Because there's nothing at all weird about the universe in 2018, right?)

The album's "Sounds of Space" include segments from Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. That's both an obvious and ironic inclusion for this album, since Stravinsky's otherworldly and influential 1913 ballet influenced John Williams' Star Wars score more than six decades later.

You can see the full track listing for the album, which includes Lena Horne and Julie Andrews, here and listen to the whole thing on YouTube.

Finally, two Amazon reviewers sharing their memories of this album state that it was not available as a standalone album:

  • Penelopeantelope: "This '58 sampler / demo LP came packed inside RCA Victor stereo phonographs, & was never available for separate sale. The best 'ear candy' cuts are Lena Horne doing 'Day In, Day Out', & excerpts from Stravinsky's 'Rite Of Spring', & Prokofieff's 'Lt. Kije'. Interspersed with the music are sound effects by stereo recording pioneer Robert O. Jordan. My favorite is the indoor pool with splashes echoing all over — especially thrilling with headphones! The narration is by Ken ('Word Jazz') Nordine. One of the best early stereo demos ever!"
  • Warren: "I am almost 40 years old now. I can remember listening to this LP through my grandparents Sears Roebuck console stereo system as a young child. The music is presented very well and the narration is a hoot! Stereo was a brand new thing when this demo album was provided with new purchases of equipment. Very creative, the folks that produced it had a very wild imagination. Get a copy and sit back, relax and indulge yourself in 'Sounds in Space'. You won't be disappointed."

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