‘Sounds in Space’: Ken Nordine Revels in Stereo’s Wonder

This early stereo demonstration record by the fine folks at RCA Victor features spoken word parts by Ken Nordine (the maestro of “word jazz” – check out this ‘kinetic type’ animation clip for “Green” from Nordine’s Colors album) as between-song stereo banter.  The recordings, which feature mainly orchestral works (pop, swing & classical) are all from RCA’s catalog, naturally.

Sounds in Space LP

 

 

 

 

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“A stereophonic sound demonstration record for use on stereo orthophonic     high fidelity ‘victrolas'”

 

One fun track shows Nordine reveling in stereo’s wonder before showing the listener the pop science behind “Rag Mop” – the new stereo version by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra:

Rag Mop – Ralph Flanagan Orchestra

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Rag Mop” by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra.]

This 1958 album was produced in cooperation with Robert Oakes Jordan Associates, who also released that same year, Concert-Disc Stereo Demo with Exclusive “Bouncing Ball” Balance Control Signal Plus Excerpts from The Outstanding Concert-Disc Stereo Library.

Ken Nordine - Word JazzKen Nordine - Colors

“Leopard Skin Phones”: Stereo Demonstration Pop Art

With the aid of producer, Bob Dorough (“Schoolhouse Rock”), Spanky & Our Gang put together an ambitious song cycle – 1969’s Without Rhyme or Reason – where all the songs are interlinked for continuous sound from start to finish. Spanky & Our Gang LP

Album opener, “Leopard Skin Phones,” also ended up as the B-side of “And She’s Mine” (#97), the group’s final charting single:

Sonically speaking, this song would seem to be poking fun at stereo demonstration albums, as National Lampoon would go on to do to hilarious effect five years later.

Leopard Skin Phones b-side

Frequency Response Test – A Public Service from Zero to 180

I would love to know just how many hi-fi enthusiasts back in vinyl’s heyday relied on stereo demonstration recordings to test the performance caliber of their stereo sound system.

Stereo Demonstration - 1

I get the sense that National Lampoon’s Ed Subitzky found this whole business of scrutinizing the quality of your stereo output across the 20-20,000 Hz audio spectrum to be a little dubious, as well as a rich source for mockery, and in 1974 – with assistance from John Belushi and Chevy Chase (among others) – released The Official National Lampoon Stereo Test and Demonstration Record.

One of the album tracks – “Frequency Response” – humorously incorporates audio test tones (e.g., 50 Hz) into a 70s “hippy rock” pastiche that proclaims “Stereo Demonstration” to be the “brand new rock sensation”:

Stereo Demo – Frequency Response = National Lampoon

[Test: Click on the triangle above to test the playback quality of your stereo sound system.]

National Lampoon Stereo Demonstration