Robert Maxwell's career is a textbook example of a pop artist both adding to the world of music and changing the way people consider an unusual instrument. While his credentials (Juilliard scholarship, National Symphony at age seventeen) are as impressive at it gets, his performances on broadcast media and studio recordings deservedly earned him many fans. He was born to a musical family in New York City, and his two elder brothers eventually played harp professionally.
As is often the case, military service led Maxwell out of the classical field, where harp was treated as a cherubic, accent instrument. Following Coast Guard experience, Maxwell went on to conquer television, radio, and the movies, notably replacing Frank Sinatra one summer on CBS. While he continued his jazz and classical performances, his pop records endure as the "best of breed."
Maxwell's music is distinguished by two things beyond extraordinary training and capability. One is the clever use of gimmicks, including sound effects and overdubbing (multi-tracking). The normal adjectives --"gratuitous," "pretentious," "inappropriate"-- do not apply; "fun" and "artful" do. And he was not above playing a harp rigged with electric lights.
Maxwell's arrangements clearly reflect a conscious effort to revamp the tried-and-true in a fresh way, usually uptempo. He composed such major standards as "Ebb Tide," "Shangri-La" (Jackie Gleason TV show), and "Song of the Nairobi Trio" (used on Ernie Kovacs' TV show and which spawned the legendary Fortune Tellers LP). One notable project as sideman was playing on Cal Tjader's Several Shades of Jade.
Buying: All of the pre-Command stereo albums, plus several of the mono albums, are essential. Spectacular Harps has the ultimate example of overdubbed harp ("Caravan"), and "September in the Rain" on A Song for All Seasons is fantastic.
|5||Harpist's Holiday 10"; Columbia CL-6104 (on 12" as Harmony 7007)|
|6||The Harp in Hi-Fi; Mercury MG-20138|
|3||Harp Magic; MGM E-3171|
|3||The Lamp is Low; MGM E-3308|
|4||HI-FI Harp; MGM E-3360|
|5||Zing! Went the Strings of My Harp; MGM E-3486|
|6||Music to Make You Starry-Eyed; MGM E-3571|
|7||Red Hot Harp; MGM E-3678|
|6||Spectacular Harps; MGM SE-3836|
|8||Shangri-La; Decca DL-74421 (Bewitched; same no.)|
|7||Peg O' My Harp; Decca DL-74563|
|7||A Song for All Seasons; Decca DL-74609|
|7||Let's Get Away from it All; Decca DL-74723|
|4||Robert Maxwell Anytime!; ABC/Command RS-913-SD|
|6||Harpistry in Rhythm; ABC/Command RD-932-S; 1972|
|8||The Fortune Tellers: Song of the Nairobi Trio; Kapp Medallion MS-7534; 1962|
|Alan Dean & Robert Maxwell: Heart & Soul--the Music of Hoagy Carmichael; MGM E-3461; 1956|
|7||The Fortune Tellers: Song of the Nairobi Trio/Camel Train; Music Makers 105 (remade for the LP)|
Hyp Records is a 3-part guide:
Shop Hip WaxSome items above may be available at Hip Wax
Hyp Records Guide © 1996 Hip Wax