October 31, 2015

#21: "One of the last leaves in the standard songbook"

Mark Steyn is referring above to Lew Spence and Alan and Marilyn Berman's "Nice 'N' Easy," written in 1960 for the eponymous album arranged to perfection by Nelson Riddle:



This is Mark's choice for #65 so I'll just sponge off  his wonderful essay. On the development of this great recording, he writes:

For "Nice'n'Easy", "Nelson wrote the arrangement a little faster than we thought it should be," said Marilyn, "but he made it sexy at that tempo." It's gently finger-snappy, very seductive, with that arresting stop after "all the stops". On the studio out-takes, you can hear Frank learning the song, relaxing into it, improvising different endings, some of the raunchier ones not quite so nice, and indeed a little uneasy, at least for the lyricists, who were sitting in the control room. Finally he nailed it, by playing off "every time" with an evocation of Count Basie's famous outro on "April In Paris":

Nice 'n' Easy does it 
Nice 'n' Easy" does it 
Nice 'n' Easy does it ev'ry time... 

Like the man says, one more time! 


Nice 'n' Easy does it 
Nice 'n' Easy does it 
Nice 'n' Easy does it ev'ry time. 

And then a seven-note tag from the bass, and a final snap from Sinatra.
Would it be the same song without the finger snaps? I don't think so. Back to Mark:
Nice 'n' easy did it for Frank that time, and for the authors watching on the other side of the glass. "We were surprised and delighted by the ending," Alan Bergman told me. And nobody minded that "Nice 'N' Easy" doesn't really fit the album it wound up as the title of. The rest of the songs are remakes of ballads he'd first sung in the Forties - "Try A Little Tenderness", "I've Got A Crush On You". The singing's beautiful but a little too consistent in its romantic ardor. The breezy playful sexiness of "Nice 'n' Easy" as the album opener is at odds with everything that follows. But it's awful hard to resist. It's one of the definitive Frank tracks, one of the ones you'd play if you wanted to demonstrate the Sinatra persona to a visitor from Planet Zongo. "Writing for Frank Sinatra was like writing for a character in a play," says Marilyn Bergman. "You know exactly the language, the look, the attitude, everything." 
"Awful hard to resist" is right. Read the rest, and stay tuned for [fanfare, please] my Top Twenty.

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