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I need a low-impact way to immerse myself in the standards...


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I've gone through sheet music, but I'm not a strong enough reader to really capture the feel of these pieces. I've tried a few compilations, but they are, in the words of a former co-worker, gayer than a bucket of daisies. Is there a collection of some of these songs with simple arrangements and dignified singing? Apart from the stray post-bathhouse Bette Midler album filler, every time I hear any of these songs it's all chorus girling, string section syrup, and histrionic vocals.

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What do you mean by "standards"?

 

I use Rhapsody as a way to easily acquire and hear music that I don't already own - it won't address your "bucket of daisies" problem, but it will give you a much wider set of interpretations to choose from.

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She's not Tom Petty, but her pop rock credentials are pretty good: Linda Ronstadt has a handful of standards albums with Nelson Riddle that are mostly beautifully sung in a straightforward manner.

 

Going back a generation or two, you can't do too much better than the Frank Sinatra on one hand and Nat Cole on the other. Sinatra brings a range of emotions from wistful to world weary during the period of the fifties and into the early 60s that was arguably his golden era, over the youthful earnestness of the Tommy Dorsey years but not yet into that overly wised up swinger personality that seemed to turn into self-parody as the 60s wore on. Cole, on the other hand, brought what seemed to be a deep concern for the song and for the audience, seeming to see himself more as a faithful conduit straight from the heart of the song to the heart of the listener.

 

On the distaff front, there were some great women singers of the era, Ella, Sarah, but also women like Julie London -- or instrumentalist singers like the wicked Blossom Dearie. (Though I suspect that Dearie will be too deep into cabaret territory for you but, once you get used to her little girl voice, her float like a butterfly/sting like a bee piano and even more stinging wit seem like they could win over the butchest truck driver. Or not.) Billie Eckstine was another classic, one of my old man's favorites.

 

And, though he's not often thought of as much of a singer, I love the skinny hipster next door vocals of Fred Astaire, so plain and straightforward, just the right amount of self-effacing personality.

 

Or maybe you'd like some of the baritones... when I first heard him with my hero John Coltrane, I really didn't get it, but I eventually learned to love the amazing artistry of Johnny Hartman. One of the best pop singers ever, in my book.

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That's what I'm looking for. I was WAAAY into the Nat "King" Cole Trio recordings a while back--on cassette--but when I gave up on tape the only CD's I could find were stringy Christmas albums. And it's good to have an expiration date on Sinatra--I've apparently only heard his self-parody period. I might even look into Linda Rondstadt, as I've recently forgiven her for that duet with Aaron Neville.

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Sinatra in the 50's kicked all kinds of ass. But if you look up the BioMuff Sinatra thread in GJ, many of those arrangements are quite complicated - gennation did a great job tabbing out the song in question, but the structure of many of the songs is hard to grasp on a casual listen.

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b2b's recommendations are stellar.

 

I was in the same boat a few years ago, and I got this. It's an amazing compilation.

 

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I also started getting some Verve Songbook discs, like 'S Wonderful -- there are two more Gerswhin discs in that series (another vocal one and an instrumental one). They also have Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern.

 

If you want to hear instrumental versions of these tunes, Oscar Peterson is always rewarding.

 

For changes that aren't too boppish (like the Real Books), try the Vanilla Book.

 

Over the past year or so, I've been simplifying changes. IMO it gives a wider range for a soloist and often it gives the melody and lyrics a chance. For example, there are so many songs with the ii-V (in C: Dm G7). That ii chord is often a substitution and you can drop it. If you are interested, I can post my simplified version of I Got Rhythm (which is actually pretty simple to begin with, but it can be further simplified).

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Christmas songs are the bane of my life on Rhapsody (except for two weeks in December -- maybe), at least as far as making use of their random-robo playlist generating utilities, since they seem to have a nasty way of popping up in every "channel" you set up for traditional and old school pop artists, including my beloved Swingle Singers, your Nat Coles, even Ronstadt, I think. It's easier for me to make my own big lists and just put them on random, although I like the randomness and breadth of the robo picks, except for the Christmas Carol thing -- and an odd habit of sticking in things way out of genre. Love Led Zep, but I just do not know why they pop up in a channel anchored by Pentangle and the King's Singers [a classically trained a capella group... it should all be madrigals and the like. Anyhow.

 

 

Those songbook series Stack mentions may be a good bet, too -- just watch out for the dreaded remix albums -- ugh. For every cool, postmodern mashup there seem to be 7 or 8 dreadful and woefully clumsy trainwrecks that end up dragging their unsuspecting stars into clumsy beat mashes and hackneyed 'arrangements' by producer/mixers with apparently as little sense of and respect for the past as they have mastery over their mixing tools and synths (where they even bother to use real synths; a lot of these things just sound like someone threw them together in ACID... or MixMan. :D

 

 

Oscar Peterson will give you some interesting insights into the harmony of the songs... if you can listen that fast. ;)

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