NOTE: Here's where we start looking at some of Frank's closest friends and compadre's, as well as some artists who came along a little later in the music scene.  Sammy Davis Jr., who's triple-threat status made him the most versatile of the Rat Pack; Dean Martin, Sinatra's closest chum and full of personal charm, as well as Johnny Hartman, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, all join the ranks as those who owe a debt to Sinatra's long influence and sense of timelessness.

Sammy Davis Jr. - Yes I Can!  The Sammy Davis Jr. Story
Rhino Records 75972 [CD];
Released November 9, 1999


Sammy Davis, Jr. at Amazon.mp3

Features include:

  • Sixty-nine studio recordings, tracing Sammy's career from 1954's "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" to "Lover Come Back to Me.
  • All his hits digitally remastered, including "Something's Gotta Give," "Too Close For Comfort," "What Kind Of Fool Am I," "As Long As She Needs Me," "Me And My Shadow" (with Frank Sinatra), "I've Gotta Be Me," "If I Ruled The World," "The Candy Man," "Mr. Bojangles" and much more.
  • An entire disc of Sammy's live on stage, including impersonations, "Birth Of The Blues," "West Side Story Medley" and more.

Next to Frank Sinatra, I consider Sammy Davis to be the penultimate performer.  Sammy's ability to generate pure electricity on stage during his fiery up-tempo numbers, or put his whole soul into the smoking ballads; or whether he's doing uncanny impersonations of friends and colleagues, or showing off his remarkably nimble footwork, Sammy Davis Jr. was not only successful in all these talents, he was also a gifted actor on stage and screen and an extremely gifted writer, as evidenced by his remarkable biographies.  And, having to accomplish all of these successes in the face of crippling racial bias and the personal tragedy of losing an eye in a car wreck is all the more inspiring.  This box set, lovingly compiled by Rhino Records is an ideal way to convert all nay-sayers to the church of Sammy.  Sammy, like Frank had the ability to channel every kilowatt of energy into his performances, never giving less than his absolute best, whether it's during the slow burn of the lesser known "There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' For New York" or scaling the heights of "Birth Of The Blues" (found here in an unbelievable live take), or simmering on the cool backbeat swing of "Change Partners," Sammy simply is completely convincing in every role he takes, because when he sings a song, he puts on the coat of the character he's singing and becomes that role.  What's even more amazing is that with all the material present, ninety-five percent of it is appearing for the first time on CD!  (Granted, much of it has appeared in other forms since this box's release, but Sammy still remains one of the most under-appreciated singers on CD).  And while there are several single-disc compilations of his work out there, it would be a crime to begin with anything so limiting for an artist of his caliber.  If you really don't own any of Sammy's stuff, this box is the place to start.  There's hardly a dud in the entire set (unless you despise "The Candy Man" - forgivable), and the thick booklet includes biographical essays, tributes from some of Sammy’s legions of friends and admirers, complete track info, a discography, a list of suggested books, and lots of rare photos of Sammy at home and work.  Stunning - don't even think of welching out on this artist, he's essential.  If you simply can't countenance purchasing a box set for the first choice, fine single disc collections are available, such as
The Wham! Of Sam, Live at the Cocoanut Grove, and the fun duets collection Sammy and Friends.  Collector's Choice Music has also release several of Sammy's rare Reprise albums on CD, which can be purchased through their website, and many of them are excellent.

Dean Martin: This Time I'm Swingin'!/Pretty Baby
EMI International 13832 [CD];
Released April 4, 2000


1. I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me
2. True Love
3. You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You
4. On the Street Where You Live
5. Imagination
6. Until the Real Thing Comes Along
7. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone
8. I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
9. Someday (You'll Want Me to Love You)
10. Mean to Me
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Just in Time
13. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
14. Only Forever
15. Sleepy Time Gal
16. Maybe
17. I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)
18. Pretty Baby
19. You've Got Me Crying Again
20. Once in a While
21. Object of My Affection
22. For You
23. It's Easy to Remember
24. Nevertheless (I'm in Love With You)

I'll be the first to admit that I have problems with Dean Martin as a singer.  I've confessed to others that his sometimes sloppy habits of slurring his notes and distractingly ever-present vibrato have always grated on my nerves.  But that was before I heard this stunning compilation of two of his LP's from the late 1950s.  This Time I'm Swingin'! (1957) and Pretty Baby (1960), recorded at Capitol before he jumped to Sinatra's Reprise label, are excellent in every sense of the word.  Swingin'! is arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, who does his usual superlative job at infusing each song with a sense of individual style, and Dean rises to the challenge of matching the quality of the arrangements with an overabundance of charm and swing-sense that makes each song a gem.  His voice is at an absolute peak - from the easy bop of "True Love" to a surprisingly easy conversion of "The Street Where You Live" to swing-time.  He's smart and sexy on "Imagination," and cool and trippy on "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone."  Much of the success of the album I attribute to Riddle's charts, but an equal share must go to Dean for his careful, involved singing throughout.  The second album, Pretty Baby, has the reigns taken over by Gus Levene, who's different style in arrangements lean more towards jazz and smoothly incorporates cool backup singers to accompany Dean, and he sounds supremely loose and cool here; whether on the lead off track "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," or the warm, buttery tones of "Only Forever" which Dean trades off with a rich, deep brass solo; the ultra-cool be-bop sounds of "Maybe" is too groovy for words, and the sleepy tones of "I Don't Know Why" fit Dean like a glove, while the smoky lounge arrangement of "Pretty Baby" is again sensitively handled by Dean.  But the whole album is an excellent example of how hot 50s pop music could be - and Dean Martin is king of the hill on these fine platters.  I would recommend this disc over and above the greatest hits compilations, which tend to have too many "Italian" novelty numbers for my tastes, but if you want to hear something more "hit"-oriented, try
Dino: The Essential Dean Martin, or the even more comprehensive The Capitol Years for a double-disc dose of Dino.  And, as with Sammy Davis Jr., Collector's Choice Music has put out Dino's complete Reprise albums on CD.

Nancy Sinatra: The Essential Nancy Sinatra
EMI/Liberty International  3562332 [CD];
Released March 14, 2006

1. Bang Bang
2. Sugar Town
3. Somethin' Stupid
4. Highway Song
5. Kind Of A Woman
6. Love Eyes
7. Did You Ever?
8. Flowers In The Rain
9. In Our Time
10. Drummer Man
11. Lady Bird
12. I Love Them All (The Boys In The Band)
13. These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
14. How Does That Grab You, Darlin'
15. Fridays Child
16. Jackson
17. You Only Live Twice
18. Hook & Ladder
19. Some Velvet Morning
20. So Long, Babe
21. God Knows I Love You
22. Here We Go Again
23. 100 Years
24. Let Me Kiss You
25. Machine Gun Kelly
26. Shot You Down

REVIEW:   Yes, yes, I know that Nancy's music isn't really "related" to Frank's style, but hey, she's his daughter, and you can't get much more related than that!  In the 1960s, Nancy Sinatra stepped out of her father's shadow in a big way, and despite never being able to completely shake comparisons, I've always felt it was a smart move for her to embrace rock 'n' roll.  But for all her success here in the U.S., there has never been a comprehensive disc of her career.  So here, from England, is the best "greatest hits" disc available, and with tracks hand-picked by Nancy herself, and with the widest range of songs spanning her entire career, this disc is by far the best, most complete sampling available.  Although Nancy never hit the artistic heights of her father, as a pop/rock siren she was almost in a class by herself.  Blending a tough-as-nails independent persona (not unlike the black-leather attitudes adopted by The Shangri-Las), with her drop-dead gorgeous looks, Nancy hit big with tracks like the kitch classic "These Boots Were Made For Walkin' " along with other prototypical 'bad-girl' songs like "I Love Them All (The Boys In The Band)" "Bang Bang," "Sugar Town" and "How Does That Grab You, Darlin' " all of which made Nancy a consummate pin-up girl of the 1960s.  The other side of the coin was her undeniable ties to Daddy, so you'll also find the rather nauseating treacle of "Somethin' Stupid" here, which despite it's red-hot chart action, remains one of the lamest songs ever recorded.  Nancy also recorded some true curiousities, from the James Bond title song "You Only Live Twice" to the previously unreleased "Machine Gun Kelly" - and this thickly-packed retrospective also brings us up to the present with her collaborations with Morrissey on "Let Me Kiss You" and the self-referencing "Shot You Down" which was a #3 hit with the Audio Bullys.  The booklet is filled with notes by Nancy and loads of pics, all of which confirm that of all the Sinatras, Nancy is the one to look at.  Sundazed Music has also released remastered, expanded editions of her sixties albums: Boots, How Does That Grab You? Movin' With Nancy, Nancy In London, Nancy, Country My Way, and Sugar.

Julie London: Time For Love - The Best of Julie London
Rhino Records 707037 [CD];
Released February 26, 1991


1. Cry Me a River
2. In the Middle of a Kiss
3. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To
4. No Moon at All
5. June in January
6. 'Round Midnight 
7. In the Still of the Night [*]
8. My Heart Belongs to Daddy
9. Invitation to the Blues
10. Easy Street [*]
11. Go Slow
12. Thrill Is Gone [*]
13. I Surrender, Dear [*]
14. Two Sleepy People
15. Cottage for Sale
16. Daddy  
17. Gone With the Wind   
18. I'm in the Mood for Love

Frank Sinatra may have been a sex symbol in the 1940s (something I still don't quite grasp), but he didn't hold a candle to the sultry chanteusse of jazz, 1950s bombshell Julie London.  Many music fans still don't take London that seriously as a singer, considering her talents to be on par with, oh, say, Marilyn Monroe.  But where Monroe was little but sex appeal when it came to her singing, Julie London actually has some very credible roots in jazz and smoky lounge music.  This single-disc collection by Rhino Records is an excellent sampler for her soft, whispery vocals, often just accompanied with guitar (as on "Gone With The Wind" and "Cry Me A River"), or more often carried along with a fine ensemble of players who don't overwhelm London's intimate vocal stylings, often just having a hint of strings (as on "In The Middle of a Kiss") or a hiss of snare creating a mesmerizing soundscape.  There's the rare brass punctuation, as with the fabulous "June In January" and the scatty "In The Still Of The Night," or the incredibly moody blue shades found in "'Round Midnight."   Occasionally she can even sound like a wicked Doris Day (on "My Heart Belongs To Daddy.")  And if you want to hear where Madonna swiped her pixie-girl persona from, look no further than "Daddy."  But London's style was all about atmosphere - encouraging the dim-lit, after hours vibe that was so suited to lovers.  Of course it didn't hurt that London was drop-dead gorgeous, but her ability to create a sensuous soundscape is remarkable, and this disc is a great introduction to her talents l'amour.  For more in-depth examinations of her music, check out 2-fer's
Lonely Girl/Make Love To Me, Love Letters/Feeling Good, The End Of The World/Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast (love that last title), and Julie ...at Home/Round Midnight, as well as her canny nod to the blues, About The Blues.  

Johnny Hartman: The Johnny Hartman Collection - 1947-1972
Hip-O Records 40137 [CD];
Released September 22, 1998

   DISC 1:
  1. I'll Never Smile Again
  2. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
  3. Why Was I Born?
  4. I Should Care - (with Dizzy Gillespie & His Orchestra)
  5. That Old Black Magic - (with Dizzy Gillespie & His Orchestra)
  6. Close Your Eyes
  7. S'posin'
  8. Goodbye
  9. September In The Rain
  10. Out Of The Night
  11. Worry Bird
  12. Wheel Of Fortune
  13. Wild - (with Perez Prado & His Orchestra)
  14. Black Shadows
  15. I Feel Like Crying
  16. I See Your Face Before Me
  17. End Of A Love Affair, The
  18. World Was Mine, The
  19. Bye, Baby, Bye
  20. I Thought About You
  21. Mam'selle
   DISC 2:
  1. My One And Only Love - (with John Coltrane)
  2. Lush Life - (with John Coltrane)
  3. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
  4. Don't You Know I Care
  5. Stairway To The Stars
  6. My Ship
  7. More I See You, The
  8. Almost Like Being In Love
  9. Very Thought Of You, The
  10. Unforgettable
  11. If I Had You
  12. As You Desire Me
  13. When I Get The Time
  14. I Cover The Waterfront
  15. Fly Me To The Moon
  16. On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
  17. Shadow Of Your Smile

Johnny Hartman has never received the accolades of other singers, although his 25-year career is just as distinguished as some of his contemporaries; the only reason I can fathom for the continuing ignorance of his musical accomplishments is racial bais.  Like Sinatra, Johnny was a devotee of the great American songbook, and, posessed of a rich, molten bass voice, his readings simply drip with warmth and authority.  He could bless ballads (his specialty) with an immaculate phrasing which was easily on a par with Sinatra's Columbia sides, as on "I'll Never Smile Again," or "I Should Care," or lend an aura of mysticism to "That Old Black Magic" (with a fantastic tiki-driven collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie).  In fact, many of the songs Hartman covers are ones which Frank also had an affinity for: "My One And Only Love," "In The Wee Small Hours," "The Very Thought Of You," and "Fly Me To The Moon," all receive excellent interpretations here, but Hartman doesn't bother to ape Sinatra's interpretations of the songs, although he obviously was a student of Frank's delivery and phrasing, Hartman has the talent to reshape these songs to his own sensibilities, making each song an interesting contrast to Frank's originals.  But he sings with such passion, and intensity, that it's hard to believe he hasn't gotten more press.  Of course, for my tastes, his voice occasionally sounds too thick and 'basso-profundo' as on "September In The Rain" - but more often, his wonderful artistry shines though on highlights like "Out Of The Night" or the intriguing latin-tinged drama of "Wild."  Hartman filled each song with emotion, and is his best on heart-wrenching ballads of lonliness, like "I Cover the Waterfront," "Don't You Know I Care" and "I Feel Like Crying."  Not for everyone's tastes, but he's too good to be dismissed, and an obvious companion to Sinatra's style.  Other recommendations:
John Coltraine & Johnny Hartman, I Just Dropped By To Say Hello, and Unforgettable.

Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie
Polygram Records 37934 [CD];
Released June 8, 1989

1. 'Deed I Do
2. Lover Man
3. Ev'rything I've Got         
4. Comment Allez-Vous
5. More Than You Know
6. Thou Swell
7. It Might as Well Be Spring
8. Tout Doucement
9. You for Me
10. Now at Last
11. I Hear Music
12. Wait Till You See Her
13. I Won't Dance
14. Fine Spring Morning
15. They Say It's Spring [#][*]
16. Johnny One Note [#][*]
17. Blossom's Blues [#][*]

My fire of interest for music after re-discovering Frank Sinatra led me to take a chance on this artist who is often sidelined (I think in good part due to her unusual name), but delivers a spot-on slice of cool jazz on this self-titled release.  Originally released in 1956, this album has Blossom (yes, that's her real name) lending her bright, pixie-sounding voice to a a slew of standards and a couple of french songs (she had just returned from an extended trip to France when this was recorded), she laid down this sparely accompanied platter as her U.S. debut album.  Accompanying herself on piano, and with Ray Brown on Bass and Jo Jones on drums, Ms. Dearie nevertheless managed to make the songs sound fuller and of more weight than the sparse instrumentation allowed.  The songs become minature moments, and the breadth of free space in the arrangements allow Blossom to fill the gaps with her Betty-Boop-like tones, which gives the songs a strange fresh quality and interesting brightness.  Sinatra loved to experiment with Jazz combos on several tours he made, and he always seemed to be looser and more playful with these light troupes, and it's the same here, Blossom floatst through the songs, from Rogers & Hart's "Thou Swell," to "I Hear Music;" from "I Won't Dance" to "Lover Man."  There's also a decidely spring-like mood to the songs, with "Fine Spring Morning," "It Might As Well Be Spring," and "They Say It's Spring" (included as an apt bonus track) all lending their lyrical adriotness to the overall Vernal Equinox feel of this light, bouncy disc.  Later recordings had more money thrown at them, giving them weightier arrangments and glossier sound, but this intitial outting is a perfect introduction to Blossom's intruiguing style.  Other fine platters include 
Once Upon A Summertime, ...Sings Comden and Green, and the most polished of her LPs, May I Come In?  

Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection
Columbia/Legacy 48932 [CD];
Released September 11, 2001


Box Set Features:

  • Eighty-six tracks, personally chosen by Johnny Mathis, covering his entire career (through 1994)
  • Comprehensive booklet featuring discography, track-by-track commentary by Mathis himself, and many rare photographs.
  • Hits include "Misty," "When Sunny Gets Blue," "Chances Are," "Heavenly," "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," and a new duet with Barbara Streisand "One Hand, One Heart"

Despite the presence of such 70s MOR hits as "Feelings" and "With You I'm Born Again," Johnny Mathis' early career was built on Sinatra's templet, focusing heavily on standards and ballads which complimented his delicate, quivering tenor voice.  In fact, the first two discs of this excellent box set are just about as fine a retrospective of Mathis' talent as any you're likely to find, and even though the quality of the material begins to dip about halfway through the third CD, there is still much excellent stuff here, with top-notch orchestras accompanying Mathis as he croons "It Could Happen To You," "Warm," "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face," and "Moonlight Becomes You."  Also here are the smash hits which were staples of teenage girls record players everywhere, "The Twelfth Of Never," "Chances Are" (with its distinctive piano signature), and the pathetic swoon of "What'll I Do."  It's interesting to me that Sinatra cultivated the same frail, quivering image at the onset of his solo career; much mention was made of his trembling frame, and shivering lips as he sang, grasping onto the microphone stand as if for support, which often sent the bobby-soxers into paroxisms of ecstacy.  Mathis simply built on that image, with similar success in the 1960s among teenage girls (my Mother among them).  There are many times when Mathis devolves into a parody of himself, allowing his chewing of consonants and vibrato take over a line, or reading.  But his best efforts are very, very good, and his control and breathing are often on par with Sinatra, and occasionally surpasses him in sheer vocal pyrotechnics.  Of course whether you approve of Mathis's eventually slide into MOR mediocrity will be tested by disc four, but it's a testiment to Mathis's staying power that he survived the 70s and 80s, even having chart hits in each decade, and has continued to produce CD's worthy of discovery, and with a voice that remains one of the most distinctive and lovely in popular music.  For those who want a thinner slice to explore, try the two-disc
The Essential Johnny Mathis, the representative album Heavenly (again, my Mother's favorite), and for a more recent discovery, Isn't It Romantic - The Standards Album.

Andy Williams: The Complete Columbia Chart Singles Collection
Taragon 1093 [CD];
Released August 27, 2002


Andy Williams on Amazon.mp3

   DISC 1:
  1. Danny Boy
  2. Fly By Night
  3. Wonderful World Of The Young, The
  4. Stranger On The Shore
  5. Don't You Believe It
  6. Can't Get Used To Losing You
  7. Days Of Wine And Roses
  8. Hopeless
  9. Fool Never Learns, A
  10. Charade
  11. Wrong For Each Other
  12. On The Street Where You Live
  13. Almost There
  14. Dear Heart
  15. And Roses And Roses

  16. Ain't It True
  17. Quiet Night Of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)
  18. You're Gonna Hear From Me
  19. Bye Bye Blues
  20. How Can I Tell Her It's Over
  21. In The Arms Of Love
  22. Music To Watch Girls By
  23. More And More
  24. Holly
  25. Sweet Memories
  26. Battle Hymn Of The Republic
   DISC 2:
  1. Happy Heart
  2. Live And Learn
  3. Woman's Way, A
  4. Can't Help Falling In Love
  5. One Day Of Your Life
  6. Home Lovin' Man
  7. Love Story, (Where Do I Begin)
  8. Song For You, A
  9. Love Is All
  10. Music From Across The Way
  11. Love Theme From The Godfather (Speak Softly Love)
  12. Mac Arthur Park
  13. Solitaire
  14. Remember - (featuring Noelle)
  15. Love's Theme
  16. Another Lonely Song
  17. Love Said Goodbye - (from "Theme The Godfather Part II")
  18. Cry Softly
  19. Sad Eyes
  20. Tell It Like It Is
  21. Can't Take My Eyes Off You
  22. It's So Easy
  23. Eri Un Abitudine (Can't Get Used To Losing You)
  24. Moon River

Pity the poor crooners of the 1970s.  If folks like Andy Williams had been around in the 1940s, he probably would have scaled the heights of singers like Dick Haymes and been in several popular feature films, but as it was, Andy had to settle for decades of television, and, instead of the glittering lights of Vegas, he's interred in Branson, Missouri.  I grew up watching Williams' perennial television specials (especially his Christmas shows) and yet, when I grew older, I dismissed him as a corny tv personality (much like Dinah Shore).  Not until I'd matured did I go back and re-discover him, and much to my surprise, learn that Andy Williams had a killer voice!  Columbia Records, which should be ashamed by it's shoddy, thread-bare treatment of Williams' extensive catalog, is undercut by Taragon records, which has masterfully collected Williams's complete singles releases on the Columbia label (with the exception of two Christmas singles), and chronologically compiled them on this 50-track, two-CD set.  Andy's incredibly supple, warm baritone voice is instantly endearing, from the first track "Danny Boy" to his smash cover of "Moon River" it's hard to believe that his recordings haven't received more recognition by fans of classic pop.  Of course it doesn't help that these recordings, from the 1960s and 70s, tread much the same ground as other artists of the era, including Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, and Matt Monro; Williams was never much interested in covering standards from Broadway or the Great American Songbook - he was strictly given contemporary songs to cover, although the occasional classic would work its way in: "On The Street Where You Live," "Moon River, " and oddly, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" all show up on singles.  Even more suprising is Williams' affinity for country and western music, "Hopeless," "Fool Never Learns" and others all dip their toes into this genre; but there's also grand, epic declarations: "Charade," "Love Story" and "How Can I Tell Her It's Over."  Another stumbling point in my estimation are the arrangements, which forgo using the comprehensive colors of a full orchestra and instead lean on contemporary arrangments, which immediately date the songs.  But it's Williams' voice that's the biggest selling point - immediately compelling, rich, melodic and confident, with phrasing that is right on target, especially on the ballads like the gorgeous "Quiet Night Of Quiet Stars."   A great starting point, but for other recommendations, I'm somewhat biased towards his seminal holiday albums:
Merry Christmas and Christmas Album

Anita O'Day: Pick Yourself Up with Anita O'Day
Verve 17329 [CD];
Released November 17, 2002

1. Don't Be That Way
2. Let's Face the Music and Dance 
3. I Never Had a Chance
4. Stompin' at the Savoy
5. Pick Yourself Up
6. Stars Fell on Alabama
7. Sweet Georgia Brown
8. I Won't Dance
9. Man With a Horn
10. I Used to Be Color Blind
11. There's a Lull in My Life
12. Let's Begin
13. I'm With You [*]
14. Rock & Roll Waltz [*]
15. Getaway and the Chase [*]
16. You Picture's Hanging Crooked on the Wall [*]
17. We Laughed at Love [*]
18. I'm Not Lonely [*]
19. Let's Face the Music and Dance [Alternate Take][*]
20. Ivy [*]
21. Stars Fell on Alabama [Alternate Take]

REVIEW:  Anita O'Day is just class; although not considered in the same league as Ella or Frank, Anita is no slouch.  Her voice has a captivating blend of smokiness and sly fun - she can bound between torchers like "Don't Be That Way" and then samba in the tropical rhythms of "Let's Face The Music and Dance."  Then she'll turn around and become the ideal saloon singer during the molten flow of "I Never Had A Chance" before reminding you of what a joker she is in "Stompin at the Savoy."  In fact, this album - Pick Yourself Up, originally recorded in 1956, is considered a classic of the bebop school of singing, with infectious rhythms and impecable scat singing being the order of the day.  And Anita O'Day is certainly, if not the queen, then the duchess of rhythm, tackling the rev-ved up "Pick Yourself Up" as if she were born to it.  Accompanied by the very versatile Buddy Bregman Orchestra, the album zips and flutters from one track to the next with enviable ease; and points out a key difference from Sinatra's albums of this period: whereas Frank was creating whole-cloth albums with linking themes and moods, Anita was having equal artistic success by throwing all sorts of genres and styles and moods onto a single album.  The Doris Day-like "I Won't Dance" is preceded by a remarkably dark and rhythmic "Sweet Georgia Brown," filled with tribal drums and Anita's restrained, haunted vocal.  But either choice is justified, and the variety found on this album is a constant surprise, as O'Day revels in the ebb and swell between the tracks, showing off her chameleon-like ability to fit into anything that's thrown at her.  But the album is overall effervescent and cheery; if you haven't had the chance to be beguiled by the many charms of Anita O'Day, this album would be my first choice.  But all of her albums from the 50s are worthy of exploration, including: Anita O'Day Sings the Winners, Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May, and Incomparable! being other fine choices.

Matt Monro: This Is The Life/Here's To My Lady
EMI International 55392 [CD];
Released June 30, 1998


1. I'm Glad There Is You
2. This Is the Life
3. You're Gonna Hear from Me
4. I'll Take Romance
5. Strangers in the Night
6. On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
7. Sweet Lorraine
8. My Best Girl
9. On a Wonderful Day Like Today
10. Merci Cherie
11. Honey on the Vine
12. When Joanna Loved Me
13. Real Live Girl
14. When Sunny Gets Blue
15. Laura
16. People
17. Here's to My Lady
18. Good Life
19. You've Got Possibilities
20. Rain Sometimes
21. Sweet Talkin' Hannah  
22. Nina Never Knew

REVIEW:  Matt Monro, like Andy Williams, is considered one of the countless pop singers of the sixties and seventies who were hopelessly out-of-step with the times; a slush of artists who clung to pop standards even after The Beatles and their like had wiped the slate clean and left numerous similar artists in the wreckage.  But Matt Monro was able to survive, even thrive, due to his undeniable talent.  Blessed with a honey-warm baritone, and looks that, while hardly movie-star caliber, posessed a comforting "Ozzie and Harriet" familiarity, Monro was able to bridge the gap between the bobby-soxers and the baby-boomers with his serene, romantic ballads.  This pair of albums from England is an ideal place to discover Monroe's finely-honed abilities; he croons with the best of them, placing a great deal of space in his phrasing, whether it's on "I'm Glad There Is You" or "You're Gonna Hear From Me;" or he gently swings, as on "This is The Life" and "I'll Take Romance."  Backed with an ultra-lush orchestra swelling with strings or chastely brassy, as on the frenetic "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)."  Matt's repetoire borrows heavily from broadway and film, and there are some surprises on this pair of albums, as with the inclusion of "You've Got Possibilities" from the failed Broadway flop It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman!  or the unusual bluesy R&B found on "Sweet Talkin' Hannah" which manages to succeed despite it's incongruous presence.  And while the songs on these two albums tend to melt together, rather than stand out as individual gems, there are times when Monro's talent rises above the sameness and becomes something sublime, as on "When Sunny Get's Blue" - which compares favorably with Sinatra's version.  And Monro's ease of singing, making everything sound friendly and cool, make him a prime artist of the school of popular music.  Several greatest hits albums are available, along with a few more two-on-one albums - check him out.

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