Friday, August 1, 2008

Captain of cavalry

With August deciding at last to join the party (what can I say—it likes to be fashionably late), I am pleased to announce the arrival of a new Premier Collection courtesy of the good people at First Generation Radio Archives. This release is kind of special to me because it completes the woefully short run of one of the Golden Age of Radio’s finest Western series, Fort Laramie—starring Raymond Burr, Vic Perrin, Jack Moyles and Harry Bartell.

I say special because I was asked to do the liner notes for the first volume of Laramie back in May 2006, and also because when I inquired about an encore, Harlan “The Voice” Zinck took me aside and explained in Ward Cleaver-like fashion that there might not be a second volume since the sales of the first collection fell short of expectations. (Or, in laymen’s terms, “dismal.”) Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would not want to add this fine series to their old-time radio collection…but now, not only do you have the opportunity to buy Volume 2 you can snatch Numero Uno and treat yourself to some outstanding radio in the tradition of Gunsmoke and Frontier Gentleman. There are some excellent shows on Volume 2, but my particular favorites are “The Talented Recruits,” “The Massacre” and “The Payroll.” “Recruits” tells a bittersweet tale of two men, Feeney (Parley Baer) and Meriwether (Mister John Dehner), who have come to the end of their rations and decide to enlist in the cavalry for three hots and a cot. Unfotunately, life at Fort Laramie isn’t as cushy as they were led to think. “Payroll” dips further into a comedic vein, as the men stationed at Laramie must find various ways to get by since the company’s wages are running four months late.

“The Massacre” comes very close to “Never the Twain” as my favorite of all the Fort Laramie episodes: Captain Lee Quince (Burr) has offered a Shoshone chief (Lawrence Dobkin) help in escorting his tribe to their hunting grounds…but a fanatical Army major (Dehner) preaching religion to his men gets dealt into this tale that takes a tragic turn at the end. (Speaking of “Twain,” the events in that episode are briefly recalled in an entry called “Spotted Tail’s Return”—yet another fine outing on this 10-CD set.)

Also being offered at FGRA are a pair of brand new Radio Legends collections (and I’m pleased as punch to brag that I wrote the liner notes for both), the first being twenty Crime Club broadcasts from its 1946-47 season on Mutual Radio, and based on the Doubleday mystery novel series of the same name. If mystery isn’t your particular cup of Orange Pekoe, then you might enjoy the thrilling serial Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher, a thirty-nine chapter cliffhanger first syndicated to radio stations in 1934. Just remember—when you buy any of these sets…or anything else from the Archives this month, for that matter…you’ll receive a free “potluck” CD from FGRA. These CDs are culled from previous Premier Collections, so perhaps in listening to a free sample it will whet your appetite for more, more, more.

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