January 23, 2015

#94: Sinatra and Basie swing a classic

It's "Pennies From Heaven" written in 1936 by Johnny Burke (words) and Arthur Johnston (music). This version was arranged by Neal Hefti and recorded by Frank and Count Basie and co in 1962.



Since this is supposed to be a list of favorite recordings rather than favorite songs, I was forced to choose between this Basie version and the earlier Nelson Riddle arrangement from the wonderful Songs for Swingin' Lovers. The latter is a kinder, gentler version, but swingin' for sure, just not in that muscular Basie band style. Either one will do very well, depending on your mood.

***Update: Bob Belvedere lists this "mothery" Basie version of "Pennies From Heaven" at #45.

Don't miss Mark Steyn's piece on "Pennies From Heaven," #34 of his Sinatra Songs of the Century. He ranks Johnny Burke "in the very top tier of lyric-writers." The catalogue is impressive, indeed, including, among others standards, "Imagination," "Misty," "Swinging on a Star," "What's New," "But Beautiful," and a particular favorite of mine, "It Could Happen To You," swung here by Diana Krall. I love these lyrics:

Hide your heart from sight,
Lock your dreams at night
It could happen to you
Don't count stars or you might stumble
Someone drops a sigh and down you tumble

Keep an eye on spring,
Run when church bells ring
It could happen to you
All I did was wonder how your arms would be
And it happened to me
Sinatra recorded this only once, as a ballad. It's lovely but didn't make my list. If he had done an up-tempo version, it would be here. I can almost hear it . . .

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