NOTE: This page denotes some artists who walked the same paths as Sinatra, and acheived as great success, both popularly and critically, from the smoothness of Nat King Cole and Mel Torme, to the bright polish of Doris Day and Tony Bennett, these artists, while not directly comparable to Sinatra, worked with Frank, were friends with him, and have their own special place in the pantheon of popular music.  If you've just discovered Sinatra, you may also want to listen to these fantastic singers.

Nat King Cole: The World of Nat King Cole
Capitol Records 74712 [CD];
Released January 25, 2005

  1. Smile - (1961 version)
  2. It's Only A Paper Moon - (with The King Cole Trio)
  3. Straighten Up And Fly Right - (with The King Cole Trio)
  4. (Get Your Kicks) On Route 66 - (with The King Cole Trio)
  5. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons - (with The King Cole Trio)
  6. Nature Boy - (with The King Cole Trio)
  7. Too Young
  8. Unforgettable
  9. Walkin' My Baby Back Home - (with The King Cole Trio/Stan Kenton & His Orchestra)
  10. Orange Colored Sky - (with Stan Kenton & His Orchestra)
  11. Send For Me
  12. Blossom Fell, A
  13. Mona Lisa
  14. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas
  15. On The Street Where You Live
  16. Almost Like Being In Love
  17. Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup
  18. Ramblin' Rose
  19. Let There Be Love - (with George Shearing Quintet)
  20. You Stepped Out Of A Dream - (with The King Cole Trio)
  21. When I Fall In Love
  22. L-O-V-E
  23. Let's Face The Music And Dance
  24. Just One Of Those Things
  25. Day In Day Out
  26. Thou Swell - (live at the Sands)
  27. Unforgettable - (with Natalie Cole)
  28. Stardust

REVIEW:  What more can be said about Nat King Cole than has already been said?  His melancholy, rasping voice, so warm and friendly, his remarkable string of singles, and his distinctive vocal mannerisms and phrasings have endeard him to generations of music lovers, myself included.  And while there have been innumerable greatest hits releases commemorating his artistry, this single-disc collection, appearing 40 years after Cole's death in 1965, can be counted as the best of them.  Stuffed full with twenty-eight tracks, receiving sparkling new remasterings, and the booklet penned with loving attention by daughter Natalie, this is the place to start with an appeciation of the "King."  It's important to know that though popularly classified as a "pop" singer, Cole was rooted in Jazz, starting out his career as a talented pianist in his own jazz trio.  It wasn't until later in his career that he began to sing, and that his vocals, with his wide, open vowels and whisky and cigarette tones, took center stage.  The CD is laid out mostly chronilogically, opening with the later smash hit "Smile" but then giving several of Cole's most popular recordings with his trio: "It's Only A Paper Moon," the self-penned "Straighten Up and Fly Right," and the seminal "Get Your Kicks (on Route 66)."  These early songs show a looser, bouncier Cole, full of jazz moments and phrasing that still had a ways to go before it reached its zenith.  But then comes the kicker - a lush ballad, "I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons)" wihch revealed to the world that Cole was an enormously talented interpreter of love songs.  More followed: "Too Young," "Unforgettable," "When I Fall In Love," "Stardust," and "Mona Lisa."  But Nat King Cole never completely abandoned his jazz roots, often stepping out to swing with "Orange Colored Sky," "Walking My Baby Back Home," "L-O-V-E," and a rippingly live performance of "Thou Swell" from a series at The Sands in Vegas.  In all his recordings he imparted a smile to the sad songs, and radiated pure joy in the uptempo numbers; a remarkable trait that make every recording have a warm glow which still stands out while listening today.  The album even has the good graces to include the smash hit duet "Unforgettable" paied with his daughter Natalie in a classy technical tour-de-force.

Doris Day - Golden Girl: Columbia Recordings 1944-1966
Sony 65505 [CD]; 
Released June 1, 1999


   DISC 1:
  1. Sentimental Journey - (with Les Brown & His Orchestra)
  2. My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time - (from "In Society", with Les Brown & His Orchestra)
  3. It's Magic - (from "Romance On The High Seas")
  4. Love Somebody - (with Buddy Clark)
  5. Tacos, Enchiladas And Beans - (previously unreleased)
  6. Put 'Em In A Box, Tie Them With A Ribbon (And Throw 'Em In The Deep Blue Sea) - (from "Romance On The High Seas 
  7. Someone Like You - (from "My Dream Is Yours")
  8. That Old Feeling
  9. Again - (from "Road House", with The Mellomen)
  10. At The Cafe Rendezvous - (from "It's A Great Feeling")
  11. You Can Have Him - (from "Miss Liberty", with Dinah Shore)
  12. Cuttin' Capers - (from "My Dream Is Yours")
  13. Very Thought Of You, The - (from "Young Man With A Horn", with Harry James & His Orchestra)
  14. Too Marvelous For Words - (from "Young Man With A Horn", with Harry James & His Orchestra)
  15. I Only Have Eyes For You - (from "Tea For Two")
  16. Crazy Rhythm - (from "Tea For Two", with Gene Nelson/Page Cavanaugh Trio)
  17. I've Never Been In Love Before - (from "Guys And Dolls")
  18. It's A Lovely Day Today - (from "Call me Madam")
  19. You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me - (from "Lullaby Of Broadway")
  20. In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town - (from "Lullaby Of Broadway", with Norman Luboff Choir/The Buddy Col
  21. Lullaby Of Broadway - (from "Young Man With A Horn", with Harry James & His Orchestra)
  22. On Moonlight Bay - (from "On Moonlight Bay", with Norman Luboff Choir/Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
  23. Shanghai, (Why Did I Tell You I Was Going To) - (with Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
   DISC 2:
  1. Baby Doll - (from "The Belle Of New York", with Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
  2. It Had To Be You - (from "I'll See You In My Dreams", with Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
  3. Sugarbush - (with Frankie Laine/Norman Luboff Choir/Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
  4. Guy Is A Guy, A - (with Paul Weston & His Orchestra)
  5. April In Paris - (from "April In Paris", with Norman Luboff Choir/Percy Faith & His Orchestra)
  6. Ain't We Got Fun? - (from "By The Light Of The Silvery Moon", with Norman Luboff Choir/Paul Weston &
  7. Black Hills Of Dakota, The - (from "Calamity Jane")
  8. Secret Love - (from "Calamity Jane")
  9. I Speak To The Stars - (previously unreleased, from "Lucky Me")
  10. If I Give My Heart To You - (with The Mellomen)
  11. There's A Rising Moon - (from "Young At Heart")
  12. Shaking The Blues Away - (from "Love Me Or Leave Me")
  13. I'll Never Stop Loving You - (from "Love Me Or Leave Me")
  14. Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) - (from "The Man Who Knew Too Much")
  15. There Once Was A Man - (from "The Pajama Game", with John Raitt)
  16. Everybody Loves A Lover
  17. That Jane From Maine - (previously unreleased)
  18. Pillow Talk - (stereo, from "Pillow Talk")
  19. Lover Come Back - (stereo, from "Lover Come Back")
  20. You're Good For Me - (previously unreleased, stereo)
  21. My Romance - (stereo, from "Billy Rose's Jumbo")
  22. Doin' What Comes Natur'lly - (stereo, from "Annie Get Your Gun")
  23. Let The Little Girl Limbo - (previously unreleased, stereo)
  24. Move Over Darling - (stereo, from "Move Over Darling")
  25. Sorry - (stereo)

REVIEW:  Doris Day was a huge discovery for me.  For years I considered her nothing more than the "eternal virgin" of a series of romantic comedies with Rock Hudson, and a reclusive star with a penchant for animals in her later years.  But once I heard some of her early recordings with that voice, that voice!  Well, it sent me just about as hard as when I first 'got' Sinatra.  See, I've discovered that Doris Day had two voices.  One, the one she developed for her film comedies and novelty songs, was a big, brassy, Merman-esque instrument which I simply can't abide.  There are some albums which are ALL this kind of blaring cacophony.  But her other voice - the one she made many records with - is all loveliness and trembling softness, with a little catch that makes it sound as if she's thisclose to breaking down and crying, that made me realize that this girl can really SING!  Nevermind that she eventually became the archetype of the perfect mother, or that her hair eventually turned into a self-parody of the whole 60s "flip" thing.  During the 1950s and early 60s Doris Day had one of the most meltingly beautiful tones in the whole wide world, and this two-disc collection captures a large chunk of her career, from her early break into big bands with Les Brown, to her being snagged by Columbia and put on the big screen.  One listen to "It's Magic" will turn your head, and from there it's a short jaunt to other jewels like "That Old Feeling," "Again," "The Very Thought Of You," "My Romance," "There's A Rising Moon," "April In Paris," and "It Had To Be You." As well as these achingly lovely renditions, you'll also find several of the popular hits which she scored - "Move Over Darling," "Que Sera, Sera," "Pillow Talk" and many more.  In fact, the one flaw in this set is that it isn't a true retrospective of her recording career, focusing more on her soundtrack output than her gems of albums, but it's all done with so much taste, and an accompanying booklet which is filled with wonderful notes and photos, that this album is a good place to start.  But there are individual albums which are essential as well, such as Day By Day/Day By Night (two LPs onone CD), Sentimental Journey/Latin For Lovers , and What Every Girl Should Know/I Have Dreamed, all of which give ample evidence of the Golden Girl's golden voice.

Mel Torme: That's All
Columbia/Legacy 65165 [CD]; 
Released April 29, 1997

Mel Torme on Amazon.mp3
1. I've Got You Under My Skin
2. That's All
3. What Is There to Say?
4. Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?
5. Folks Who Live on the Hill
6. Isn't It a Pity?
7. Hô-Bá-Lá-Lá         
8. P.S. I Love You
9. Nearness of You
10. My Romance
11. Second Time Around
12. Haven't We Met?
13. I Know Your Heart
14. You'd Better Love Me
15. I See It Now
16. Once in a Lifetime
17. Hang on to Me
18. Seventeen
19. I Remember Suzanne 
20. Only the Very Young
21. Paris Smiles 
22. Ev'ry Day's a Holiday
23. One Little Snowflake
24. Christmas Song

REVIEW:  Mel Torme has always had a tough time living down the nickname given to him early on in his career: "The Velvet Fog" - since his ultra-smooth baritone is indeed velvety soft and has a reassuring burr to the tone that can elevate his ballads into pure heaven.  Torme can swing hard as well, and is also a composer of some note, having penned the immortal holiday classic "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)."  But it's the nickname that's stuck with him throughout the years, and for good reason, as shown on this marvellous 1964 album released just prior to the British invasion.  That's All is very like many of Sinatra's albums from a decade before: relying on songs cherry-picked from the great American songbook, "I've Got You Under My Skin," "That's All," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?," "P.S. I Love You," "The Nearness Of You," "My Romance," and many more.  Comparing the versions of these songs with Sinatra is a fascinating exercise, since Torme had a much stronger affinity with jazz stylings than Frank did, and his phrasing on songs like "I've Got You Under My Skin" take just as much liberty with tempos and bending notes than Frank did, but whereas Sinatra's looseness with the melody and tempo gave the songs a taut tension, nothing that Torme sings has that edge.  His voice, with it's supple softness and breathy rasp makes every song here teddy-bear soft, and the rich arrangments, by Robert Mersey, simply drench the songs in strings, or the occasional solo piano entry (as on the lovely "Folks Who Live On The Hill").  The original twelve track album has been very generously filled out by the folks at Columbia/Legacy with an additional twelve tracks taken from various singles in the vaults, all of which match the tenuous, gentle mood that's set.  The producers have even tacked on Torme's "Christmas Song" at the end, even though it, and the preceding holiday songs are a bit incongruous with the rest of the album.  Fine, detailed notes accompany the booklet, and this album is a great place to start to hear the genius of Mel Torme.

Dinah Shore: Dinah Sings, Andre Previn Plays/Somebody Loves Me
EMI International 4930672 [CD]; 
Released December 28, 1999

Dinah Shore on Amazon.mp3
1. Man I Love (Strike Up the Band)
2. April in Paris
3. That Old Feeling
4. I've Got You Under My Skin
5. Then I'll Be Tired of You
6. Sleepy Time Gal
7. My Melancholy Baby
8. My Funny Valentine
9. It Had to Be You
10. I'll Be Seeing You
11. If I Had You
12. It's Easy to Remember         
13. East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)
14. I Hadn't Anyone Till You
15. When I Grow Too Old to Dream
16. Something to Remember You By
17. Remember/All Alone/Always
18. I Only Have Eyes for You
19. My Buddy
20. Somebody Loves Me

REVIEW:  OK, here's where I'm going to show just how old I really am.  Growing up, I always had the impression that Dinah Shore was nothing more than a television talk-show host.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was first and foremost a singer - huh?  But these two albums, recorded in the early 60s with Andre Previn, the first with Dinah and Andre on piano, the second album with a complete orchestra, is a real eye-opener.  Although not blessed with as pure a voice as Doris Day, or without the jazz background of Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah is posessed of a voice which has a richly melodramatic tone, a vibrato that serves the song rather than detracts from it, and, at least on these two albums, sings song which are perfectly suited to her broken-hearted ingenue persona.  If these albums have any particular jazz seasonings to them, you can blame it entirely on Previn, who's solo piano runs on the first album are very restrained and stylish, giving the entire album a smoky lounge flavor a several cuts above most acts.  The songs here are mostly heartbreakers, with "The Man I Love," "That Old Feeling, "Then I'll Be Tired Of You," and "I'll Be Seeing You" playing perfectly into Dinah's wistful readings and Previn's spare accompainment.  Other songs, like "If I Had You," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "April In Paris" have a melancholy longing to them which never rises to the heights of elation, but skim the edges, giving the readings a nice tension.  The second album paired here, Somebody Loves Me, is lighter, and with a richer texture than the previous album, given the added strings and subtle orchestra - but it's still thick with ballads, as track after track is given over to Dinah to highlight her wonderful, rich alto.  If you find yourself captured by her voice as I was, you'll also want to check out other albums like Yes Indeed/Fabulous Hits of Dinah Shore, Dinah Sings Some Blues With Red/Dinah, and a fine compilation of her early hits: The Dinah Shore Collection: 1942-1948.

Tony Bennett: The Essential 
Columbia/Legacy 86634 [CD]; 
Released July 23, 2002

   DISC 1:
  1. Because Of You - (mono)
  2. Cold, Cold Heart - (mono)
  3. Blue Velvet - (mono)
  4. Rags To Riches - (mono)
  5. Stranger In Paradise - (mono)
  6. Sing You Sinners - (mono)
  7. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams - (mono)
  8. Just In Time - (mono)
  9. It Amazes Me
  10. Love Look Away
  11. Firefly
  12. Put On A Happy Face
  13. Best Is Yet To Come, The
  14. Tender Is The Night
  15. Once Upon A Time
  16. I Left My Heart In San Francisco
  17. I Wanna Be Around
  18. For The Good Life
  19. This Is All I Ask
  20. When Joanna Loved Me
  21. Rules Of The Road, The - (previously unreleased)
   DISC 2:
  1. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)
  2. If I Ruled The World - (from "Pickwick")
  3. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
  4. Shadow Of Your Smile, The - (from "The Sandpiper")
  5. Smile
  6. Very Thought Of You, The
  7. For Once In My Life
  8. Yesterday I Heard The Rain
  9. My Favorite Things
  10. I Do Not Know A Day I Did Not Love You
  11. How Do You Keep The Music Playing?
  12. When Do The Bells Ring For Me?
  13. Night And Day
  14. Last Night When We Were Young
  15. Steppin' Out With My Baby
  16. It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing - (live)
  17. Mood Indigo
  18. Keep The Faith, Baby - (with k.d lang)

REVIEW:  Tony Bennett is an interesting phenomenon in pop music: generally regarded as an excellent pop singer, with his cheery, somewhat edgy vocals and quick vibrato either driving off listeners, or endearing them to him, Bennett went for years without a recording contract, but has, in recent years, gained a growing critical and and a larger fan base than he ever enjoyed in his early career.  This double disc retrospective is a fine introduction to Bennett's straight ahead pop style, showing him able to swing hard when called upon, but generally delivers extremely competent readings of songs which occasionally veer into operatic intenstity, such as the melodramatic "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," "Who Can I Turn To?" or the Broadway smash "Stranger In Paradise."   In fact, it's Bennett's song selection which lands him more in the Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams' camp than in Sinatra's, with soft popular songs like "Just In Time," "Smile," "Blue Velvet," " The Shadow Of Your Smile" and "My Favorite Things" hardly considered "essential" on any songwriting scale, but included in this concise overview of his entire career.  In fact, it's interesting to watch Bennett's transformation from an earnest Italian crooner into a jazz cat in his later years, recasting himself in the Saloon singer mode, which is actually a big deptarture from his straight-ahead pop singer duties in the 1960s.  Bennett began investigating Jazz arrangments and phrasing in the 1970s, when his star was on the wane, and so by the time he was rediscovered in the early 90s, the transformation was complete, giving Bennett access to critical plaudits from next-generation hipsters like Elvis Costello and k.d. lang (a duet with whom is featured on the final track.)  Bennett doesn't mine the same emotional tracts as Sinatra, and his repetoire is about a decade removed from Frank's, but he's lasted a long time due to his artistry, canny sense of traditional music trends, and, let's be honest, to the intelligent handling of his image by his manager/son.  For further listening, check out Perfectly Frank (his tribute to Sinatra), the electric live document At Carnegie Hall, and his collaboration with Count Basie, Basie Swings/Bennett Sings.

Keely Smith: Politely/Swingin' Pretty
Collector's Choice 146 [CD]; Released 
November 14, 2000

Keely Smith on Amazon.mp3
  1. Sweet And Lovely
  2. Cocktails For Two
  3. Song Is You, The
  4. I'll Get By (As Long As I Have You)
  5. Lullaby Of The Leaves
  6. On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  7. I Can't Get Started
  8. I'll Never Smile Again
  9. S'Posin'
  10. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)
  11. All The Way
  12. I Never Knew
  13. It's Magic
  14. It's Been A Long, Long Time
  15. Stormy Weather
  16. Indian Love Call
  17. Nearness Of You, The
  18. What Is This Thing Called Love?
  19. Man I Love, The
  20. You're Driving Me Crazy
  21. Stardust
  22. There Will Never Be Another You
  23. Someone To Watch Over Me
  24. What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry?

REVIEW:  Keely Smith is one of the great unheralded songstresses of American popular music, and this long-overdue double disc package of two of her greatest albums on one CD is very welcome indeed.  Long part of a popular husband/wife performing team with Louis Prima, Keely finally stepped out as a solo artist in 1957 with her debut I Wish You Love which showcased her powerful performing chops and unique sense of humor which she imbued many of her songs with.  But it's on these later discs for Capitol, which paired her with Billy May (for Politely!) and Nelson Riddle (for Swingin' Pretty) that Keely's interpretive talents and over-abundance of charm play through.  May brings his formidable brassy charts to the fore for Politely! giving each song a bright sunny polish which perfectly compliments Keely's shiny/happy vocals - especially noticable on "The Song Is You" which is a far sunnier reading than Sinatra's early Dorsey arrangment.  This album isn't a swinger, like May's were for Frank, but it has a nice and easy bounce which Keely keeps nicely in step with coy readings of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," and "I Can't Get Started."  Keely is passionate on the ballads, with big-voiced readings of "I'll Never Smile Again" and "East of the Sun (And West Of The Moon)" and plays the sweet ingenue on "Cocktails for Two" and "S'posin'."  On Swingin' Pretty, Nelson Riddle changes the mood with his unsurpassed orchestral colors, giving "It's Magic" a subtle chemistry, but able to swing large with lush brass sweeps on "It's Been A Long, Long Time."  The dramatic changes of "It's Been A Long Long Time" and the patoral imagry on "Indian Love Call" are prototypical Riddle, and Keely's vocals are exceedingly confident and alternately brassy or sweet.  Listen to her amazing slides and vocal growls on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" or the juicy vocal stylings of "The Man I Love" to hear lost treasure.  This CD is a wonderful eye-opener for those who have never heard Keely's talent.  Also, check out her latter-day Keely Sings Sinatra for a great tribute album to Frank.

Vic Damone: That Towering Feeling!/On The Swingin' Side
Collectables 6467 [CD]; 
Released June 6, 2000

Vic Damone on Amazon.mp3
  1. You Stepped Out Of A Dream
  2. Wait Till You See Her
  3. Out Of Nowhere
  4. Song Is You, The
  5. Spring Is Here
  6. Let's Fall In Love
  7. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, (When Your Heart's On Fire)
  8. Time On My Hands (You In My Arms)
  9. I'm Glad There Is You
  10. Touch Of Your Lips, The
  11. All The Things You Are
  12. Cheek To Cheek
  13. Falling In Love With Love
  14. It's All Right With Me
  15. When My Sugar Walks Down The Street (All The Birdies Go Tweet-Tweet-Tweet)
  16. Cry Me A River
  17. Home
  18. Swingin' Down The Lane
  19. I Cried For You (Now It's Your Turn To Cry)
  20. Speak Low
  21. It's A Wonderful World
  22. Girl Of My Dreams
  23. Deep Purple
  24. Toot, Toot, Tootsie
  25. On The Street Where You Live
  26. War And Peace
  27. Do I Love You (Because You're Beautiful)
  28. Affair To Remember, An
  29. Gigi

REVIEW:  Pity the poor singers who follow in the footsteps of the innovators.  Vic Damone is another of those singers whose careers have been eclipsed by other artists, like Mel Torme, Tony Bennett and (of course) Sinatra.  But although he hasn't gotten the ink which those others have, his talent and versatility is easily on par with them, and his voice, which is a smooth baritone, is fabulous, is perhaps less distinctive than the former artists.  Perhaps that's why Vic Damone hasn't gotten the same accolades, but regardless, this CD, which gathers two of his finest LP's on one CD is an ideal introduction to his polished, exquisitely-produced albums, which mine the great American songbook, and receive interesting, often electrifying arrangments, which both swing and swoon, from the jaunty "Let's Fall In Love" to the somber "Speak Low," from the hot zing of "When My Sugar Walks Down The Street," to the cool shade of "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful," Vic really knows how to sing a song and make it sound fresh and alive.  Vic isn't one to reinvent the wheel, and unlike Sinatra, his interpretations never reveal any hidden depths in the lyric, but you'll hardly mind as he moves easily from song to song, wearing each number as if it was tailor-made for him alone.  I mean, if anyone can take the cornball sentiment of "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" (an old Al Jolson chestnut) and turn it into a brass and vibes swinger - that takes guts, and it comes off brilliantly.  But there are other riches here, from the lullabye softness of "Wait 'Til You See Her," to the lilting Vienna waltz of "War and Peace," to the brass fanfares of "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" and "Falling In Love with Love."  His voice is all masculine charm and alternately warm and commanding tones.  Great mood music, and just the drop in the bucket - check out these other albums as well: Linger Awhile/My Baby Loves To Swing, Closer Than A Kiss/This Game Of Love, and Why Can't I Walk Away/Stay With Me.

June Christy: Something Cool
Blue Note Records 34069 [CD]; 
Released October 23, 2001

1. Something Cool
2. It Could Happen to You
3. Lonely House
4. This Time the Dream's on Me
5. Night We Called It a Day
6. Midnight Sun
7. I'll Take Romance
8. Stranger Called the Blues
9. I Should Care
10. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
11. I'm Thrilled

REVIEW:  June Christy was known in her day as one of the school of 'cool' singers, those jazz sirens who sang with what sounded like an emotional detachment from  the music, knocking out numbers with a careless ease which make listeners suspect the singers were singing for their own amusement, no one else's.  This album, Somthing Cool is considered by many to be the pinnacle of this movement, containing supremely off-the-cuff readings of jazz standards with what sounds like consumate ease.  Vocally, June Christy has a voice of smooth, polished bronze, with just a hint of a rasp, giving her singing a warmth and burr which eases the otherwise clear smoothness of her vocals.  Christy sings with perfect control and pitch, bouncing up to notes, or sliding into them with an ease and clarity which is the benchmark of her talent.  Peter Rugolo, an unheralded conductor/arranger, is the perfect accomplice with light, punchy charts that never think of overwhelming the singer, but have a jazz trio flavor which Christy pounces upon.  Light on the strings, but cautious with the use of brass and woodwinds, the playing is always finger-light, and sympathetic to the needs of the singer.  From the opening notes of the title track, to "It Could Happen to You" and the ice-cold ballad "I Should Care," Christy never lets her heart creep out onto her sleeve, even when she sings the bleak "Lonely House" or the alternately zinging "I'm Thrilled" with all the ardor of an iceberg.  But that's not to say these songs aren't thrilling - Christy's perfectly etched techniques are too good to be lightly dismissed, and this album, along with others in her well-represented discography, are mini-masterpieces of the cool genre.

Jack Jones: Wives and Lovers/Dear Heart
MCA/Universal 19364 [CD]; 
Released December 28, 1999

Jack Jones on Amazon.mp3
1. Wives And Lovers
2. Toys In The Attic
3. Song About Love
4. I'm Moody
5. Angel Eyes
6. Fly Me To The Moon
7. Charade
8. I Wish You Love
9. Nina Never Knew
10. Summertime Promises
11. I See Your Face Before Me
12. Come Rain Or Come Shine
13. Dear Heart
14. You're Sensational
15. Love Is Here To Stay
16. I'll Get By
17. You'd Better Love Me
18. All The Things You Are
19. Emily
20. Thank Heaven For Little
21. I'm Glad There Is You
22. When She Makes Music
23. Somethings Gotta Give
24. You're My Girl

REVIEW:  Jack Jones is very similar to Vic Damone in talent and style, blessed with a gorgeous baritone voice and sense of songcraft that, in one sense, surpasses Sinatra in sheer loveliness of tone; but closer examination shows that Frank remains the champ when it comes to breathing life into a lyric, and making a song his own.  Jack Jones, like Damone and other singers, fall more closely into the range of Dick Haymes, singers who enrich songs with their innate sense of phrasing and natural talent, but unlike Sinatra, don't take it to the next level.  These two LPs released in that golden era between the rise (and fall) of Elvis Presley, and before the suffocating entry of the Beatles onto American shores, are richly orchestrated mood pieces, perfect for the swinging bachelor, or just in creating effervescent soundscapes.  Jack Jones' voice is wonderful - smooth, rich, and expressive, and he sings these ballads with all the knowledge of just how good he sounds.  Strangely, there's alot of echo added to Jack's voice on the Wives and Lovers LP, but I'm assuming that's the way the original LP was mastered.  The arrangments, by Pete Ling, Glenn Osser, Marty Paich and Ralph Carmichael, are all golden strings and muted brass - giving the album a sameness which let's each song melt into each other seamlessly, but also tends to make the album rather forgettable - none of the songs or arrangement jump out at the listener, it's all the sameness and consistancy of vanilla ice cream (reallllly rich and luscious vanilla ice cream).  Frank could never sing an album like this, but then again, he wouldn't want to - he'd miss the snap and sparkle and drama of living the lyric, but no complaints here, Jack Jones is a marvellous singer, and he's given songs by Bacharach, Mercer, Mancini, Cahn/VanHeusen, and Deitz and Schwartz - in other words this is all good stuff.  Best tracks include the thick jazz-like arrangment of "Come Rain Or Come Shine" with attention-getting trumpets and a cool, lounge-like piano accompianment and the easy swing of "You're Sensational" (which, I have to admit, is sung better than Frank - by miles).  Other classic albums by this wonderful singer include: Where Love Has Gone/My Kind Of Town, She Loves Me & There's Love... .  I own them all - they're that good.

Billy May: A Band Is Born/Big Band Bash 

Collector's Choice Music 135 [CD]; 
Released January 9, 2001

Billy May & His Orchestra on Amazon.mp3
1. All of Me
2. If I Had You
3. Charmaine
4. Unforgettable
5. Fat Man Boogie
6. Lean Baby
7. My Silent Love
8. There Is No Greater Love
9. I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
10. Mayhem
11. When My Sugar Walks Down the Street
12. Lulu's Back in Town
13. You're Driving Me Crazy
14. When Your Lover Has Gone
15. Perfidia
16. My Last Affair
17. Easy Street
18. Gone With the Wind
19. Diane
20. Please Be Kind
21. Tenderly
22. Orchids in the Moonlight
23. Romance  
24. From the Land of the Sky Blue Water

REVIEW:  Frank loved working with Billy May, and in some ways, I actually prefer Billy's charts to any other arrangers, since he's so up-front in his attitudes.  There's something innately refreshing about the straightforwardness of a Billy May arrangment, with it's dramatic brass flourishes and thunderous rhythms.  The crispness of his woodwinds compliment the bright, bouncing brass and the often grumbling lower instruments.  It's great dance music, and these two discs, taken from 1951 and 1953 respectively, show the evolution of dance band music from the genteel Glenn Miller and mannered Tommy Dorsey into a heavier, more 'vulgar' direction, which I really enjoy.  This is the insouciant big band which spawned Spy Jazz, Crime Jazz and the entire James Bond music rage later on, as well as what was imbibed by Frank Sinatra during his 1950s Capitol swing albums.  There's some revolutionary stuff on here as well, from the maniac instrumental coo-coo-ga-gah found on "You're Driving Me Crazy" to the loose-limbed jive found on "Lean Baby" (a virtual copycat arrangment of Frank's first single for Capitol), or the ticking-bomb percussion found on "Perfidia" - all it's missing is some surf guitar and a martini (and perhaps a really cool car chase).  Collector's Choice music should be applauded for rescuing these rare, out-of-print albums from dusty vinyl bins, as fans of Frank should eagerly snap these Capitol gems up.  They've got attitude, verve, and a perponderance of style which just screams "Sinatra!" - all that's missing is The Voice.  I would highly recommend checking out May's other solo platters: Big Fat Brass/Bill's Bag (love that title), Naughty Operetta/Plays For Fancy Dancin', and The Girls and Boys on Broadway/The Sweetest Swingin' Sounds of "No Strings."

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