No announcement yet.

A great melody first, then lyrics,(only) THEN 'vocals'

  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Pennies in a stream . . .

    Coincidence? This morning I was thinking of two songs written by a "Blackburn" (no relation, either of them): -- The Ballad of Davy Crockett (King of the Wild Frontier . . . born on a mountaintop in Tennessee) and more importantly, MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT (from 1943 -- a very good year).

    I had been listening to Tony Bennett and Diana Krall at Youtube -- had it on in the background -- and next up, selected at random (or by my guardian angel) -- suddenly the voice of Frank Sinatra is saying,

    "What I'm trying to say is . . . when you're sad, there's a song that does your crying for you."

    The song? MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT. Words of introduction below the video:

    "Moonlight in Vermont" is a popular song about the U.S. state of Vermont, written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf and published in 1943."

    Among the first comments -- this from "cindra reaumeweber" (4 years ago)

    "My Grandfather Karl wrote the music to this song and he loved the way Frank sang it."

    The next comment speaks for millions of us:

    "In my opinion; the greatest rendition of this song, ever."

    One of the reasons we love Youtube is the occasional comment that can move Sinatra fans to tears (of joy). Like this one

    by "Dominic Devereaux" (who wrote)

    "Being a kid of 11, in Alsace,France ,the place was a mess. Houses, bldg in rubble.Mom,dad my sister and me lived in the basement of a blown-out house. The war was over 1 month. I saw men in suits ,lots of people running around. They all looked healthy , not like us or any French people. I wore the same clothes for 3 months.

    "Tired and always hungry , I sat on the corner to see what was going on. It couldn't have been 10 min. I could see the cameras coming to me An American in uniform got on a knee and said "Ha kid things will be better soon". He stood up put a hand in his pocket and gave me hundred dollar bill,messed my hair up and took off.I went to run up the rue and a woman in French off course said " That's Frank Sinatra he is famous in the U.S. Bad thing was I couldn't speak but 10 words in English .That 100.0$ kept the four us for over a month. Then luckily because my ma&dad had been in the resistance against Germany. They put us on a troop ship to N.Y.C. Sorry for my life story. I haven't said a word of this in 40 years."

    [Dominic added a supplement 3 months ago]

    "When I was 11 I still lived in Alsace, France. Frank was making a movie. I was just sitting on the corner. He walked over to me and said " Hey kid bad day ?" Then he put his hand in his pocket and handed me a hundred dollar bill. I said " Merci " I ran down the rue to show my friends. You know I couldn't say anything else , cause I couldn't speak 1 word of English."


    • 41 years since Willie re-introduced this song to country music audiences

      Icy finger waves . . . ski trails down a mountainside . . . snow light in Vermont

      In 1978 Willie Nelson was living in Malibu and thinking about doing an album of standards. He asked his musician neighbor Booker T Jones if he could do an arrangement of MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT. Willie was so impressed with the result that he asked Booker T to arrange the entire album that became the “Stardust” LP. Recording of the album took ten days and while Columbia record executives were initially skeptical about sales – since Willie had acquired over many years, an “outlaw” persona in country music, the singer's instincts were spot on. By the end of that same year it had already sold one million albums. [The song's Wiki entry says]

      Stardust was met with high sales and near-universal positive reviews. It peaked at number one in Billboard's Top Country Albums and number thirty in the Billboard 200.

      In 1979, Nelson won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the song "Georgia on My Mind". Stardust was on the Billboard's Country Album charts for ten years—from its release until 1988.

      It was originally certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in December 1978. In 1984, when it was certified triple platinum, Nelson was the highest-grossing concert act in the United States. In 2002, the album was certified quintuple platinum, and it was later inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

      Earlier this hour Siriusly Sinatra played the track Willie selected to kick things off. [Set to a recent sideshow displaying the seasons in all their glory in Vermont]


        Earlier this day Sirius Radio played my favorite Sinatra song 'you never heard of' – I COULDN'T CARE LESS -- a beautiful ballad that had to wait until the 3-CD “Capitol Years” box set to see the light of day. That was the set that really introduced me to the Sinatra songs we appreciate here.

        I wrote a review for the box set at dated his birthday, “December 12, 2002” – and the review opened this way:


        I'll always be partial to this Capitol Years 3-CD box set which introduced me to Sinatra's greatness ten years ago. It was my first CD purchase---actually I bought the three cassettes first, and when the tapes were stolen from my car, my wife bought me the CD version for Christmas '92. Which prompted me to sit right down and write The Man a letter, telling him how I'd discovered his greatness "a little late in life." He replied immediately. (More about that in a moment.)

        In reference to the "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" tracks (four) included here, I had closed my letter to him with these words:

        "On a personal note: my absolute favorite song of yours, for reasons I can't really explain, is 'I Thought About You.' Maybe it's the deceptively simple, elegant tune by that genius who began life as Chester Babcock (Van Heusen). Or the brilliant lyric by the century's greatest lyricist (Mercer). Or the gem of an arrangement by my favorite American arranger (Riddle) with all those train sounds, that have you swinging down the track. Oh hell, let's face it---it's the singer! The song wouldn't be what it is without you. Merry Christmas 1992!"

        Within two weeks I received a reply, on gold-embossed 'FS' stationery, with a beautiful, bright blue, fountain pen signature:

        January 1993

        Dear Mark,

        Thank you very much for your letter of December 17. I am flattered by your kind words and greatly appreciate your interest in my music . . . It was so nice of you to take the time to write!

        Here's wishing you and your family a very healthy and happy New Year! Keep listening!

        All the best,
        Frank Sinatra

        This 3-CD collection has some unique virtues that have not been commented on: 'Only available here' for example, is the previously commercially unreleased Cahn/Van Heusen masterpiece "I Couldn't Care Less" featuring what this reviewer considers Nelson Riddle's single most beautiful ballad arrangement. Sinatra works his subtle magic with one of Sammy Cahn's very best lyrics ("Balmy breezes are blowing, each star in the night is glowing, but I couldn't care less") while orchestra conjures up sounds of a summer night, with Riddle's strings ratcheting up through almost two octaves of semi-tones in the first eight bars of the instrumental bridge (release). Simply heavenly! And to think Sinatra and the musicians did this in one take.

        By comparison the highly-touted version of "I've Got You Under My Skin" included here took 22 takes before the singer was pleased! The generally-factual liner notes still include a fair number of errors---including a really glaring one I pointed out to Sinatra in my letter: The very first cut on Disc 1 by one of his favorite song-writers ("I've Got the World on a String") fails to correctly identify the composer, Harold Arlen.

        I single out "I Couldn't Care Less" because no other reviewer at (or even those who wrote the liner notes) commented on its special virtues. This 'one-take wonder' was briefly available, 30 years ago on a premium, mail-order-only album (Longines, 1973) but again, this is the only place you'll ever hear it.
        Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 02-08-2019, 08:18 PM.


        • ONCE UPON A TIME

          I was listening a moment ago to another song by Perry Como on Youtube. The very next offering (random?) was this one: ONCE UPON A TIME. Do you know I'd never heard Perry's recording of this. It moved me to tears. Can't say why (can't find the words).

          I was poised to leave a “comment” below the video. Then I read the leading comment this day by . . .

          Darrell Shuck (2 years ago)

          'Why do I keep playing this song? It makes me cry every time. It's been four and half years since she went to a better place. I keep seeing her as she was . A beautiful lady inside and out. How I miss her!'

          [My reply]

          Reading your words Darrell – and weeping with empathy. Tears of joy. (The best kind, right?) Thank you for eliciting so much emotion – in so few words.

          My own Dad outlived my Mom by four years. They were so musical, and when she died he couldn't even LOOK-at, let alone play, the Steinway in his living room (on which he'd written hundreds of tunes).

          After a late-in-life stroke, reduced him to six word sentences, I was visiting the family home one night when Dad sat down at the piano for the first time in four years and . . . I'd like to say – then-and-there, he began to play something beautiful. He did not. He couldn't play a single one of the songs he had written -- despite my prompting him, whistling and humming his own tunes.

          But then . . . Dad began to play EMBRACEABLE YOU. I always knew that he and Mom loved that song -- which reached the radio during the days they were courting. But I never realized until that moment just how 'organically perfect' the notes of that Gershwin tune were to my own father's psyche. He played it a second time -- slowly, tentatively, but without a mistake. I wept tears of joy – sort of like now reading your words Darrell. Thank you so much for sharing.



            Just Googled "Perry Como Embraceable You." No such thing. Perry wouldn't mind my sharing the best ever version. As I said in my "Dear Mr. Sinatra" letter of "December 17, 1992" (how's that for name dropping?)

            " . . . the tape I prepared for my parents I labelled "Pure Gershwin (almost)" and it included . . . your treatment of their "theme" song from their first days together, 'Embraceable You.' Like me they say that if there is a better version of that, we'd love to hear it!"



            • Lena had a way with a song

              Sirius Radio just played the great Lena Horne's version of “I've Grown Accustomed to (HIS) Face.” A beautiful recording Lena made in 1964 eight years after My Fair Lady opened on Broadway. There are so many anecdotes about that show, not found in the Wikipedia entry. Such as . . . Mary Martin, when the songs were performed in a living room for her by Alan Jay Lerner (singing) & Fritz Lowe (playing piano) -- Mary thought the music was not good at all.

              Unlike the Columbia record company president who was so impressed he put up the 375 thousand dollars needed to stage the show – in return for the rights to the original cast album. Boy was he right.
              According to Wiki:

              The album became a massive seller, topping the charts on the US Billboard 200 for fifteen weeks at different times in 1956 (eight consecutive weeks), 1957, 1958 and 1959.[1] In the UK, upon its release in 1958, the album reached No.1 for 19 consecutive weeks and became the biggest-selling album of the year.

              I checked the list of woman singers who've recorded this one – and had to change the words to meet the cadences of the music. Most recently Diana Krall; most famously Peggy Lee. But until a moment ago I'd never heard the earliest recording by a female singer – and isn't this a 'loverly' recording by Lena and a fine orchestra.

              If memory serves Sinatra recorded a couple of the wonderful songs (every single one of them from that show was memorable) . . . but not this one. I think Frank would have loved this take by Lena Horne.



              • Pursuant to which (same great song)

                I love it that Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio gives airplay, most every day, to DIANA KRALL. As I like to say, Canada's second greatest gift to jazz. Diana would be the first to say a pianist named Oscar was this country's greatest jazz export. Earlier this hour Sirius played -- from her Quiet Nights album -- my favorite Cahn & Van Heusen ballad, GUESS I'LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY. Our favorite singer retired the trophy on that one in 1958. (See "Sings For Only The Lonely.")

                Sirius Radio frequently plays songs from Diana Krall's concert performances, where she really shines -- always with a superb supporting cast of brilliant jazz musicians, plus a good sized orchestra with a string section, arranged -- in this case -- by Claus Ogerman, the Polish born, mostly American, world class arranger who orchestrated Sinatra's first great Antonio Carlos Jobim recordings. (Claus left us three years ago, age 85.)

                When Diana performed this song at Winnipeg's largest indoor arena a few years ago another terrific arranger, New Zealand born Alan Broadbent was conducting the orchestra. This recording is from that same time period -- Diana's "Concert in Rio."
                Yes, until a better live performance appears at YouTube this is my favorite version (even with that little flub where she repeats "his highs and his lows" -- forgetting for a moment the correct lyric).



                • It seems we stood and talked like this before . . .

                  WHERE OR WHEN -- a moment ago this was the 'random' offering at YouTube. Dick Rodgers and Larry Hart would have loved this, I think. Actually this is my favorite of Diana's live concert videos -- opening, as it does with a scene from the world's most famous beach, Copacabana -- two-and-one-half-miles long, (big enough for The Rolling Stones to perform there for 1.5 million fans. Pope Francis' first World Youth Day (closing Mass) attracted twice that number, 3.2 million. Pardon the aside).

                  Right now it's summer down there! And most days the beach looks just like this -- the opening scene for Diana's delightful take on WHERE OR WHEN (another Claus Ogerman arrangement, from her "Live in Rio" concert). There's something wonderful about a candid camera at a beach -- catching people at play, unawares, radiating the good times. As someone said, THESE are the good old days.



                  • THE PEOPLE THAT YOU NEVER GET TO LOVE . . .

                    "The saddest words that anyone has ever said are . . . Lord! What might have been!"

                    On today's Sirius Radio show, "NANCY FOR FRANK" (a three-hour, weekly program hosted by Sinatra's first-born) Nancy played my favorite song by her late brother. THE PEOPLE THAT YOU NEVER GET TO LOVE. And while I've not heard another singer's version of this obscure Rupert Holmes (words & music) song from exactly 40 years ago, I could never imagine a better reading.

                    Every stanza of the lyric is casually brilliant. I'm partial to composer who is my age. In this case, a composer born three weeks before me -- February 24, 1947. Famous, of course, for another song that was No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada that summer of 1979. (A song with two titles, Wiki reminds us)

                    'Rupert Holmes (born David Goldstein on February 24, 1947) is a British-American composer, singer-songwriter, musician, dramatist and author. He is widely known for the hit singles "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" (1979) and "Him" (1980).'


                    We're hooked at the very first words of this song:

                    You're browsing through a second hand bookstore
                    And you see her in non-fiction V through Y
                    She looks up from World War II
                    And then you catch her, catching you -- catching her eye

                    I've often thought that lyrics are mainly of two types: "Tell me" (something) or "Show me" and as the MY FAIR LADY song of that name reminds us, SHOW ME is better every time. Case in point:


                    (The lyrics are transcribed just below the video, "posted 2 years ago by John Paradise." Thank you John.)


                    • YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE

                      Up early (3:30) recalling my favorite anecdote in a not-very-interesting autobiography by my favorite composer Richard Rodgers. I'd been hoping the programmer at Sirius would include this track (from The Concert Sinatra) so I would have a natural segue into quoting these words from Rodgers' MUSICAL STAGES. Guess what played overnight. If I didn't know better I would say (altogether now!) What a coincidence. My Mom always said “There ARE no coincidences!” You know what she meant.

                      Mom and Dad -- months after WWII ended -- finally had the honeymoon they were unable to have in 1941 and went to New York where they saw the new Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel (with Bonnie Raitt's Daddy in the lead role). The show stopper was Mom's favorite from that show. She would have loved this anecdote

                      Richard Rodgers writes (p. 240)

                      “You'll Never Walk Alone – which was used in the play to give hope and strength both to the heroine, Julie, and to her daughter, has become something of a universally accepted 'hymn.' Fred Waring once told me a remarkable story about it . . .

                      “His mother had died in a small town in Pennsylvania, and he went home for the funeral. It was a thoroughly miserable day with leaden clouds hanging ominously over the entire sky. Among the musical pieces chosen for the service, held in a local church, was 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'

                      “The choir sang, the organist played and the melody ascended step-by-step until it reached the climax – the syllable 'nev' in the final line – the words, you'll never walk alone. Just as the singers hit that climactic note, the sun broke through the clouds, streamed through the stained-glass windows and cast a beam directly on the coffin. The entire congregation was so overcome that everyone, as if on cue, let out a spontaneous, audible gasp.


                      Now . . . back to sleep.


                      • Words! Words! Words! (This is no time for a chat!)

                        For a long time the world agreed that the best Broadway musical ever was the best one composed by Alan Jay Lerner and Fritz Lowe -- MY FAIR LADY. (Just as an aside they also gave us Brigadoon – which opened on a most auspicious date in human history – the night of the day I was born, March 13, 1947. You knew that, right?)

                        All the great musicals by my favorite composer Dick Rodgers included one or two songs that were, well . . . less than brilliant. (Same is true for Lerner & Lowe's Brigadoon and Camelot.) But not so for My Fair Lady.

                        I was just thinking about the two principal types of lyrics: “Tell me” (something) and “Show Me.” And as I like to say, “like the song of the same name in My Fair Lady, SHOW ME is better every time.”

                        The whole world knows songs like “I Could Have Danced All Night” (Sinatra's version is fabulous) and “I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (why Frank never got around to that great ballad, we'll never know). But even the most obscure song from that show, SHOW ME, has a brilliant lyric with a perfect 'trumpeting' melody to match the words. Come to think of it, "Show Me" captures (more than any other song) 'in short order' what most women want from us men.

                        A check at Youtube shows approximately no one has ever recorded it! Maybe because it's the shortest song in the show? It gets the job done in well under two minutes. So . . . in case you've forgotten the scene, here is the first offering at YouTube this day: the original movie version. (Wasn't Audrey luverly?)



                        • . . . and too many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun . . .

                          My favorite 'chick flick' of the past 25 years was SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (Yes, I admit to enjoying Nora Ephron movies – most especially that one.) Over the closing credits of that film you hear “my favorite version” of, WHEN I FALL IN LOVE. And this was my first exposure to Jeremy Lubbock's uniquely beautiful arranging skills.

                          [Jeremy's online bio says 1993 was a busy year for Jeremy -- the arranger was nominated “three times (out of five) for his category” including for Barbra Streisand's 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight,' Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing,' and for this one – which won him his third Grammy.]

                          Performed as a duet by Canadian singers, Celine Dionne & Clive Griffin, the song was released on Celine Dionne's own 'Colour of My Love' album which sold 20 million (correct) copies world-wide.

                          Frank Sinatra's composer friend Victor Young wrote the beautiful tune; Edward (Body & Soul) Heyman provided the romantic words.

                          Yes, still my favorite version of WHEN I FALL IN LOVE. Someone posted a lovely video with scenes from the movie. We all looked so much younger then, didn't we? Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks the way they were, circa 1993.



                          • Two favorite versions of MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY

                            Earlier this evening Sirius played my all-time favorite version of MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY. Tony Bennett and the late jazz piano giant Bill Evans . . . alone together in a studio “at about 3 in the morning” Tony said later. The lovely song is from a long-forgotten Broadway show DO RE ME with music and lyrics by Frank's friends, Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Favorite line?

                            “Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute; where's the real stuff in life to cling to?

                            My all-time favorite 'good advice' song, culminating as it does with the thought that, before we try to change the world, we can begin at home with love.

                            "Make just ONE someone happy. Then you will be happy too!"


                            My other all time favorite version? The one by Jimmy Durante featured in the soundtrack of the movie SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. (But this is where I came in!)



                            • Favorite song versions -- sung by 'character' voices
                              I remember playing a Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) recording for my musical Dad – my favorite track from my favorite Dr. John album recorded with a full-sized symphony orchestra with a gorgeous orchestration (I forget the arranger). The song was MORE THAN YOU KNOW – one of two favorite songs written by Vincent Youmans and Edward Eliscu (their other hit was “Without a Song” --without which Nancy Sinatra would have had to pick a different theme for her Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio weekly, three-hour program "Nancy For Frank")

                              As I put the CD into a Walkman (remember those?) and handed him some quality (Sennheiser) earphones, I wondered what Dad would think of Mac's voice (no more, but no less, gravelly than Louis Armstrong). Dad really liked it – not least for the splendid arrangement. He liked even more the fact that Dr. John was accompanying himself on piano.

                              Earlier this day Sirius Radio played Louis Armstrong's recording of “Let's Fall in Love” and I thought (for the second or third time this morning) “No --THAT is my new favorite version!” Let's link to both -- and create a new sub-category here: Favorite song versions sung by 'character' voices. First Dr. John:


                              My new favorite version of LET'S FALL IN LOVE by “Pops” Armstrong. The video doesn't identify the musicians but this could only be Canada's greatest gift to jazz – Oscar Peterson Trio.

                              Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 02-14-2019, 11:14 AM.


                              • My favorite song from the Great Depression era . . .
                                TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS. My favorite version? Mom's. I can still see in my mind's eye: when I was only two or three, I can see her coming from the kitchen in our apartment to say bedtime prayers with me. After drying her hands on her apron, she sang, in her soft, beautiful voice, “Try a Little Tenderness.” Somehow she knew it would be a perfect lullaby. And it was. She really had a perfect singing voice.

                                Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played my second favorite rendition of the song – which I shared with Mom, on a late-in-life cassette. She loved this rendition by Frank. Especially the tender, opening obbligato on violin. And the gentle flutes that were Nelson Riddle's trademark accents. Yes, Mom would say this one's the best:


                                The guy who wrote the lovely melody was Harry Woods. Who had a stump for an arm and a chip on his shoulder. Witnesses in a bar who knew who Harry was, watched him beating another man to a pulp -- using the stump as his weapon. One witness laughed to another: "That's Harry Woods! He wrote Try a Little Tenderness!" [You won't find that anecdote at Wikipedia]

                                Oh yes, I checked on who wrote the words -- two English song publishers whose first hit sold two million copies of sheet music for SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME. My all-time favorite version of that? This one by my life-long finger-style guitar hero Chet Atkins. I was 16 and learning guitar when I purchased this recording from his MR. GUITAR album. The gorgeous sound -- on his signature model Gretsch Country Gentleman electric -- and the terrific content still makes me laugh. Beginning with 48 seconds of 'tipsy' guitar, replete with hiccups.


                                From Wikipedia

                                "Show Me the Way to Go Home" is a popular song written in 1925 by the pseudonymous "Irving King" (the English songwriting team James Campbell and Reginald Connelly). The song is said to have been written on a train journey from London by Campbell and Connelly. They were tired from the traveling and had a few alcoholic drinks during the journey, hence the lyrics. The song is in common use in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and North America.

                                The music and lyrics were written in 1925 by Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly. They self-published the sheet music and it became their first big success, selling 2 million copies and providing the financial basis of their publishing firm, Campbell, Connelly & Co.[1] Campbell and Connelly published the sheet music and recorded the song under the pseudonym "Irving King".[2]

                                The song was recorded by several artists in the 1920s, including radio personalities The Happiness Boys,[2] Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra,[2] and the California Ramblers.[3] Throughout the twentieth into the twenty-first century it has been recorded by numerous artists.
                                Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 02-14-2019, 11:16 AM.