April 20, 2015

#70: One of the greats

One of the all-time great love songs, "The Very Thought Of You" was written by Ray Noble in 1934. Sinatra recorded it only once, in London in 1962, on the tail-end of a grueling world tour with the tired voice to prove it. But it's lovely anyway.



It's from the album Sinatra Sings Songs from Great Britain, arranged by Robert Farnon. (My other favorites from that CD are "Garden In The Rain" and "If I Had You.")

Mark Steyn (yes, that Mark Steyn) does his own sweet take of "The Very Thought Of You." And I love, love, love Ella's gently swinging version, arranged so satisfyingly by Nelson Riddle. It's one of the best-ever sing-along-loudly-while-driving-alone-with-the-windows-closed songs. I do wish Frank had recorded a similar version. (To Ella's, I mean, not to mine.)

I see that Ricky Nelson recorded this, too. I think I'll stick with his "Fools Rush In."

Steyn on "Fools Rush In," me on She & Him

Over at SteynOnline, Mark has a great essay on Johnny Mercer and Rube Bloom's "Fools Rush In" and Sinatra's history with the song. What caught my interest in the first paragraph was his reference to She & Him, favorites of mine, both together and separately. Their recent Classics CD includes "Stars Fell On Alabama," "Time After Time," "Teach Me Tonight," "It's Always You," "We'll Meet Again," "She," "Would You Like To Take A Walk," and my current favorite, the huge Johnny Mathis hit "It's Not For Me To Say." (Why, Frank, why did you never record that beautiful song?)

Zooey Deschanel's charms are obvious. She has a rich voice, though she doesn't often let out the throttle. But M. Ward on his own is well worth a listen. I love I Ain't Never Had Nobody Like You, Rave On (yes, that's the Buddy Holly song, but totally transformed), and Pure Joy. The first two are from Hold Time and the third is from A Wasteland Companion. His idiosyncratic singing style grows on you (at least it did on me) and the theme of redemption which keeps cropping up in his lyrics adds a deeper layer of meaning.

Here's She & Him's "Fools Rush In" and here's Ricky Nelson doing it in 1963:



Episodes of Ozzie and Harriet often ended with Ricky doing a song. All the girls thought he was dreamy.

April 18, 2015

#71: Sinatra sings a doo-wop classic

"I Only Have Eyes For You," the second song by Al Dubin and Harry Warren to show up my list, was written for the 1934 film musical Dames. Until I heard Sinatra's version, the only one I knew was the Flamingos' classic from 1959. Though Frank and company's recording was made only three years after that big hit, there's no trace of doo-wop in the Basie version, unless perhaps those paired opening notes are arranger Neal Hefti's tribute to the Flamingos' "sha-bop sha-bops":



Hefti's smokin' arrangement has pretty much erased the sha-bop sha-bops from my inner soundtrack and (apologies to doo-wop fans) that's all right with me, though I do like that beautifully sung verse the Flamingos open with. As you can see from Dick Powell's film rendition, the Flamingos chose to abbreviate the verse, to dramatic effect. Sinatra skipped the verse altogether not only with the Basie band but even in his straight ballad version from 1945. Yes, he recorded it twice, which makes the doo-wop classic the unlikely filling in a Sinatra sandwich.

Frank sings it live here. Enjoy.

April 11, 2015

#72: Road trip!

If inertia's got a hold on you, Billy May's arrangement and Frank's jazzy delivery will at least get you moving in your chair. A trip to Nyack never sounded so good:



The song was written over the phone by Matt Dennis and Tom Adair in 1941 and recorded for the album Come Fly With Me in 1958. Adair wrote the words and is therefore the guy to thank for rhyming kayak with Nyack and powder with chowder. I love it.

#73: "A whole gang of love"

"I Wish You Love" started life as a French song with a completely different set of lyrics from the versions recorded by Keely Smith in 1957 and by Frank in 1964:



The song was composed by Leo Chauliac and Charles Trenet with words by Trenet. The second set of lyrics is the work of one Albert Beach, who takes us through the seasons with good wishes for his former love:

I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss but more than this
I wish you love
You may say that bluebirds are a little trite but they work for me, jazzed up as they are by Frank and company. But the summer image is my favorite:
And in July lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
Aaaaahhh. Thank you, Mr. Beach, whoever you are, for giving Sinatra those lines to sing.

Something tells me Frank wrote the last lines himself:
Hot damn! I wish you love
All kinds of love
A whole gang of love
The CD credits Quincy Jones with all the arrangements but Will Friedwald writes that Jones hired some extra help and Billy Byers arranged "I Wish You Love."

Here's Keely's take: