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Mark Blackburn

GREAT MELODY, GREAT LYRIC, GREAT RENDITION

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My favorite Sinatra concert -- yours too?

Just for me: As if to say, “You claim THIS is the best-recorded (“best sound engineered 'remote' recording) EVER by Sinatra, including as it does his monologue(s) with an adoring audience.

Siriusly Sinatra just played seven (count 'em) songs from the Philadelphia 1974 concert (a week after my Irene and I were married in Bermuda). Not sure I've seen anything like it – the 'scroll' on the computer screen listing,

Bows – My Way, MY WAY, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, Send in the Clowns, The Tea Break, Bows: My Way Philadelphia, You and the Sunshine of My Life.

An extravagance of riches from which to choose. Let's just take the very first offering from the entire concert at YouTube this day: "IF" – concerning which Frank says,

“This is a little bit more positive of a love song. It's by David Gates. And we feature our guitarist Mr. Al Viola [applause from 'pickers' in the audience] and of course, the orchestra!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhmYH0KZINg
 

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Favorite 'live' TV performance of WHERE OR WHEN

New favorite 'live' performance (How have I managed never to see this before right this minute?) The very next offering sent to me by YouTube's not-so-random shuffle play. My favorite opera singer when I was a teenager was Robert Merrill. And there he is, allowing his mouth to be shaped by Frank who impersonates with a 'strong man' gesture Mr. Merrill's mighty voice.

Just look at Frank, at the peak of his powers, a TV audience of millions in the palm of his hand. Really, did it ever get better than this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKxRor4k8hM

[An informed note from “Frank Sinatra” nearing 2.8 million “views”]

Frank Sinatra's "Where Or When'" performance from the "Sinatra and Friends" special, featuring guests Loretta Lynn, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Dean Martin, Leslie Uggams, John Denver and Robert Merrill. This performance is part of the Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection 7-DVD box set.
 

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I GOT THE SONG RIGHT HERE! (my favorite musical commercial 'evva')

Giving my wife a knee rub in the pre-dawn – we both hear a sudden, unusual 'pop' and we both say in unison: “Snap, crackle pop.” For only the umpteen-thousandth time in our 50 year musical marriage. Always mean to search for the Kellogg's commercial of sixty years ago, just to see if it's at YouTube. (What isn't?) Still in the dark, click on the little mic on the smart phone, and say

“Snap, crackle, pop – Rice Krispies, old black and white TV commercial."

And there it is. Instantly. I can remember most of the middle stanza and can't wait to hear the words I've forgotten.

For those of us 'of an age' who are literate in old Broadway and Hollywood musicals -- like GUYS & DOLLS we know the particular type of song – a 'round' it's called – the best example from Frank (Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat) Loesser whose memorable opening words are: I GOT THE HORSE RIGHT HERE (“his name is Paul Revere”) -- the title I can never remember (something about “Tinhorns”).

A little research -- to learn this is thanks to hero of mine Gene Puerling of the Hi-Lo's (who invented two of the best a capella singing groups ever -- 'The Singers Unlimited' was his other crowning glory). Mr. Puerling won a late-in-life Grammy for MANHATTAN TRANSFER's "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." But back at the start of his career he paid the bills writing and performing great musical “jingles” for radio and TV.

With two of his future Hi-Lo buddies singing along on the 'round' – each of them solo for 15 seconds, then the final quarter minute the three overlapping in glorious harmony. (Always wondered if Kellogg's appreciated the greatness of this one.)

How memorable was this for me personally? For almost 60 years now, in my mind's ear, I can hear all three variations of melody and snippets of lyric – but especially the middle stanza -- where “Crackle” is whimsically tethered to “geese cackle, feather's tickle, belts buckle” and one other . . . BEETS PICKLE!

What's the point? I can hear 'The James Taylor Trio' doing this one justice. It deserves as much, don't you think? That's what his 'Chock Full O' Nuts' musical memory on the James Taylor Facebook page can lead. Okay now. Your attention please . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6TIsxTdrCU
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Frank Sinatra Junior -- my favorite version of CRY ME A RIVER

Just for me (I like to think) Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing one favorite after another. At this moment it's Sinatra's MOONLIGHT MOOD:  I'd forgotten it opens with Frank alone together with his pianist Bill Miller -- the first 40 seconds of opening verse, before the gorgeous full orchestral treatment by Nelson Riddle from "Moonlight Sinatra" -- one of my Top 10 favorite albums, yours too?

The track before that one -- Frank Junior with the best jazz band arrangement of CRY ME A RIVER. Is this also a Nelson Riddle arrangement? It's certainly 'Nelson influenced'! One reason for the five minute length of this track are two gorgeous solos, first a sax virtuoso, wish I knew who: ditto for the two choruses of world-class trombone virtuosity. Somewhere in a box in the basement is my copy of that CD gathering dust with only Sirius radio to blame.

And . . . before Frankie, Jersey Lou Simon included one of his own favorites “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” – from James Taylor's new (2020) AMERICAN STANDARD album. Just as an aside, I smell a Grammy award coming for that one, in the 'Traditional' category Mr. Taylor's good friend Tony Bennett has a lock on, every time Tony's name is entered.

Coincidentally, or not, the track before James Taylor: Tony Bennett and “They All Laughed” – just about my all-time favorite version of that classic Gershwin tune.

Yes, when we're still 'hunkered down' and in need of an uplift, isn't it nice to stay home with Siriusly Sinatra?

Now. Is Frank Jr's CRY ME A RIVER at YouTube? Yes! His voice is at its very best -- his reading of this lyric; and what an arrangement! Listen to the depth of the bass notes at the opening. Plus, brilliant sound engineering. Wonder who? Isn't this beautiful.
 
 
 

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I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU -- Canada's Carol Welsman

At this moment Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my new favorite version of a lesser-known Duke Ellington song, I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU byCarol Welsman. Jersey Lou Simon includes Carol on his playlist once or twice a month and I always mean to celebrate her -- and her rendition of this song. A bit of background (you know me).

Exactly 80 years ago, Duke Ellington wrote a melody with the working title “Never No, Lament” and when one of my favorite lyricists from the 40's Bob Russell heard the incomparable Ellington orchestra perform the instrumental, he offered to write a lyric. Two years after the Duke took him up on his offer, Bob Russell delivered the goods – for what became a No.1 hit – DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE.

I can hear Duke asking him, Any other ideas, Bob? I imagine Mr. Russell answering, Yeah, I can hear some words for your 'Concerto for Cootie' (a melody Mr. Ellington had written for trumpet giant Cootie Williams (no one could play higher notes!) Anyway, that pretty tune became another classic: DO NOTHING TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME.

Bob completed the trifecta with another – almost as wonderful as those first two: “I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU” for an earlier instrumental by The Duke. [The song's Wikipedia entry notes]

"I Didn't Know About You" is a song composed by Duke Ellington, with lyrics written by Bob Russell.[1] Recorded in 1944 with vocal by Joya Sherrill, it was based on an instrumental first recorded by Ellington in 1942 under the title "Sentimental Lady".
The recording by Count Basie & His Orchestra (vocal by Thelma Carpenter) briefly reached the No. 21 position in the Billboard charts in 1945 [2] and other recordings available that year were by Duke Ellington, Mildred Bailey, Jo Stafford and Lena Horne.[3]

Yes, one of my favorites by Carol Welsman. It it at YouTube. Nope. But there it's there at Spotify. Hope the link works for you!

https://open.spotify.com/album/1m9ArV4tZ0cTMHImByD0UB?highlight=spotify:track:0H1LXpwmz6EghcaA98VP49
 
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Posted (edited)
Left my favorite musicologist Mark Steyn a note about his friend Carol Welsman (above) and found he had shared THE SLOW TRAIN by Flanders & Swann -- a most obscure, most beautiful favorite of mine from a black vinyl English LP of 60 years ago. Left Mark a note in return:
 
Michael Flanders & Donald Swann -- two of my heroes with songs so memorable I can recite all their lyrics verbatim. Such as THE ENGLISH ARE BEST ("and clever, and modest, and misunderstood" and my favorite line: "A German's a German, a Russian's a Red, and the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed." But I've never admired you more, Mr. Steyn than for your selection that most beautiful ballad -- a gorgeous melody by pianist Donald Swan: SLOW TRAIN ("they've all passed out of our lives on the slow train")
 
Naturally I smiled with joy as a kindred spirit BART NIELSEN recalled: "Mark, this was great fun. I really enjoyed your take on how railroad songs help familiarize foreigners with American geography, since this insular Midwesterner married a lovely Cheshire lass and I used the Slow Train song to enrich my grasp on the geography of the Land of Hope and Glory.
 
"In our travels about England, Scotland and Wales we have had to "get off at Edge Hill" as it were and so have not visited most of them, still it is fun to namecheck them with the locals when you find yourself in the vicinity of any of them.
 
"One of my favorite stations was Troublehouse Halt, the only British Railway station in a pub. St. Erth and St. Ives survived Dr. Beeching, although the line is isolated from any other railway.
 
"Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch was not in Beeching's sights, but still I wish Flanders and Swann had tried to work that one into the song."
Anyway, I really enjoyed this. Cheers!
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Barbra & “Chris Pine” – my new 'favorite duet'

Streaming Siriusly Sinatra on computer, hit the 'back one hour button' a couple or three times and -- an amazingly beautiful duet, Streisand & Pine (Chris). Google for him first, then to YouTube (below). Barbra opens solo and slowly, almost out-of-tempo with maybe the most poignant song for those who lost their loved one . . .

I'll be seeing you . . . in that small cafe, the park across the way, the children's carousel, the chestnut tree, the wishing well . . . I'll find you in the morning sun, and when the night is new . . . I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.

Then a perfect jazz samba rendition by Mr. Pine (of one James Taylor included as a bonus track on AMERICAN STANDARD (2020):

I've Grown Accustomed to her face, she almost makes the day begin . . . accustomed to the tune she whistles night and noon . . . [it's] second-nature to me now, like breathing out and in . . .

Two songs that belonged in medley

Gorgeous harmony for the closing lines, rubato out-of-tempo

intermingling the lyric “I've grown accustomed to her face, but I'll be seeing you.”

Ah, an official “here's how it happened” video nearing 1.5 million views. Raising more questions than it answers! London Symphony/Philharmonic orchestra? Who's conducting etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp9GXXzwHOs

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The guy "who laughed at those blue diamond rings" (live)

[This song means] more for me, than any other song I know" says Frank -- "from singing in a band with the great Tommy Dorsey in 1940. [He] picked this song for me – it was written by Joe Bushkin his piano player. This kind of 'helped me on my way' – helped many people, I believe, including the Pied Pipers, and the band, and myself! I think you'll recognize this IF you're over 20 years old. [laughter] And if you're NOT? You SHOULD be – 'cause you're not allowed in a bar, until you get that age!"

---

Suddenly the musicians are replicating to perfection just about my favorite up-tempo orchestration by Nelson Riddle. “This brings back such wonderful memories for me!” adds Frank, midway through the musical introduction. The laughter in his voice! The sheer Joy.

Is this from the (legendary quality) '57 Concert I wonder? The on-screen graphic doesn't say. And I'm not Wise enough to know for sure. Is it at YouTube? Not that I can see. So, we must settle for the original studio recording.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwyK7dNr4ag

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FRANK SINATRA – Night

Sirius radio's computer scroll says "Frank Sinatra – Night" and it's not listed as such, at either YouTube or Spotify. But this is from the “Frank sings Rod McKuen" album -- one that's not among my 70 Sinatra CDs (in boxes in the basement). Sure enough (links below). This track features Frank's speaking voice:

“I can just about get through the day, but the night . . . makes me nervous. Not for any reason. Except maybe . . . that it catches you – unaware . . . and follows you . . . the way a woman follows, when she wants something.”

[up sound for a one-minute musical interlude – a full orchestral arrangement of such beauty – something only Don (“Sinatra & Strings) Costa could have written. Up sound as Frank resumes]

“I've been in every kind of night . . . I shouldn't be afraid of darkness . . . but for some reason [long pause] the night makes me nervous.”

[Up sound – as orchestra resolves the singer's fears with one of the most 'comforting' (no better word) resolutions. Sort of an invitation to 'sleep warm.' It's at Spotify.

https://open.spotify.com/album/6O7UYmA1X6TACiSYBSK8LL

Next track: I've Been to Town. “You ask me why it is I frown. I guess it's 'cause I've been to town.”

Ah the things we might have missed. And the happy moments of 'discovery' thanks to Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio.

Track two on an album that opens with A MAN ALONE – one we've celebrated here before, I think. Again, one of my very favorite Don Costa arrangements. Isn't this lovely?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk2l...uxer41S0wYsaUH
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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You're Driving Me Crazy – Cat Conner

Some of the best music I've heard lately is 'middle of the night' on Siriusly Sinatra. At the moment it's Sammy Davis Jr and an old, seldom-heard torch song “I want to be Wanted” (“Where is that someone, somewhere – there for me?”) Awoke a few minutes ago, 'at the stroke of three' as Scrooge and the Ghosts would say – and it's one of my favorite jazz singers, Cat Conner with my new favorite version of (You) You're Driving Me Crazy, complete with seldom-heard opening verse (“You left me sad and lonely”). Her New England supporting cast includes a guitar hero of mine John Chiodini and one of the greatest living trombone virtuosos Dick Nash. Please, may it be at Youtube. Yes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewEgYvoHzVY

No Wikipedia entry for Cat's superb guitarist, but his entry at “Inside Jazz” says, Guitarist and composer John Chiodini began his performing career in clubs, recording studios and theaters throughout New England in the 1960's and 1970's . . .

Dick Nash is more widely known (92 this year) with a Wiki entry that opens on a poignant note:

Richard Taylor "Dick" Nash (born January 26, 1928) is an American jazz trombonist most associated with the swing and big band genres. He began playing brass instruments at ten. He became more interested in this after his parents died, and he was sent to Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Vermont . . .
 

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SARAH VAUGHAN – I Hadn't Anyone Till You

Zero “comments” and no “thumbs up” for this song by Sarah sent my way by the shuffle play miracle at Youtube– my “other favorite version” of a great tune by English band leader Ray Noble. A song so good it was selected as opening track for “Sinatra and Strings” (maybe after Frank heard this one, performed live in Vegas?) Recently one of the Wise Men at Sinatra Family forum, Andrew T shared an audio clip of Frank in live performance urging fans to go to another hotel on the strip so as to catch Sarah “live” So good, Frank quipped, “she made me want to throw in the towel and quit singing.” 

Yes, sent my way by the shuffle play miracle at YouTube with artwork from two album covers: “Snowbound” and “The Lonely Hours” black vinyl LPs released by “Parlophone UK” in the 1960's. “Jazz singing” at its finest, no matter what Sarah Vaughan herself had to say about that (“I'm not a jazz singer” quote below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YspJuP7dLOQ

Sarah left us exactly 30 years ago. Her Wikipedia entry opens on this auspicious note:

Sarah Lois Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American jazz singer.
Nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One",[1] she won four Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award.[2] She was given an NEA Jazz Masters Award in 1989.[3] Critic Scott Yanow wrote that she had "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century".[4]

Specifics about Sarah's vocal genius -- informed words of praise that few singers have enjoyed in their Wiki entries:

Her obituary in The New York Times described her as a "singer who brought an operatic splendor to her performances of popular standards and jazz."[1] Jazz singer Mel Tormé said that she had "...the single best vocal instrument of any singer working in the popular field." Her ability was envied by Frank Sinatra who said, "Sassy is so good now that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor."[18] New York Times critic John S. Wilson said in 1957 that she possessed "what may well be the finest voice ever applied to jazz."[1] It was close to its peak until shortly before her death at the age of 66. Late in life she retained a "youthful suppleness and remarkably luscious timbre" and was capable of the projection of coloratura passages described as "delicate and ringingly high".[1]

Vaughan had a large vocal range of soprano through a female baritone, exceptional body, volume, a variety of vocal textures, and superb and highly personal vocal control. Her ear and sense of pitch were almost perfect, and there were no difficult intervals.[19]
In her later years her voice was described as a "burnished contralto" and as her voice deepened with age her lower register was described as having "shades from a gruff baritone into a rich, juicy contralto".[20] Her use of her contralto register was likened to "dipping into a deep, mysterious well to scoop up a trove of buried riches."[21] Musicologist Henry Pleasants noted, "Vaughan who sings easily down to a contralto low D, ascends to a pure and accurate [soprano] high C."[22]
Vaughan's vibrato was described as "an ornament of uniquely flexible size, shape and duration,"[19] a vibrato described as "voluptuous" and "heavy"[1] Vaughan was accomplished in her ability to "fray" or "bend" notes at the extremities of her vocal range . . .

She held a microphone in live performance, using its placement as part of her performance.[19] Her placings of the microphone allowed her to complement her volume and vocal texture, often holding the microphone at arm's length and moving it to alter her volume . . .

Singers influenced by Vaughan include Phoebe Snow, Anita Baker, Sade, and Rickie Lee Jones.[1] Singers Carmen McRae and Dianne Reeves both recorded tribute albums to Vaughan following her death; Sarah: Dedicated to You (1991) and The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan (2001) respectively.
Though usually considered a jazz singer, Vaughan avoided classifying herself as one. She discussed the term in a 1982 interview for Down Beat:

I don't know why people call me a jazz singer, though I guess people associate me with jazz because I was raised in it, from way back. I'm not putting jazz down, but I'm not a jazz singer ... I've recorded all kinds of music, but (to them) I'm either a jazz singer or a blues singer. I can't sing a blues – just a right-out blues – but I can put the blues in whatever I sing. I might sing 'Send In the Clowns' and I might stick a little bluesy part in it, or any song. What I want to do, music-wise, is all kinds of music that I like, and I like all kinds of music.[23]
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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PEGGY LEE -- best-ever version of THE FOLKS WHO LIVE ON THE HILL

It was, says Peggy Lee's granddaughter Holly Foster-Wells in conversation with Sinatra Family friend Charles Pignone “her favorite song: when people asked her, what is your favorite, she said this was her favorite song [about] growing old with someone, falling in love with someone and going through life with them -- that was something that she hoped to have, but DIDN'T ultimately have. There is another thing too: she always ended up in living in houses 'on the hill' for some reason. And at the time this was recorded, she and Frank both lived in hillside houses – they were neighbors. This was also the Queen Mother's favorite song and my grandmother performed it for her. So . . . very sentimental. And the Nelson Riddle chart is outstanding.”

Charles Pignone host of "The Chairman's Hour" on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio, then introduces “the definitive version of The Folks Who Live on the Hill – from Peggy Lee's “The Man I Love” album, with the Nelson Riddle orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra.

Just as an aside, I always loved that Peggy 'Americanized' the lyric as “Baby and Joe” in place of the oh-so-English names “Darby & Joan” which Oscar Hammerstein had originally written as the names of “the folks who used to be Jack & Jill.”

Posted to YouTube four summers ago to 10,000 “views” with an attractive slide show, and an informed note:

"The Folks Who Live on the Hill" is a 1937 popular song composed by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. It was introduced by Irene Dunne in the 1937 film High, Wide, and Handsome. It has become particularly associated with Peggy Lee, who sang it on her 1957 album The Man I Love. Lee's performance was conducted by Frank Sinatra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcUG7LDenr0
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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JAMES TAYLOR - Moon River

The James Taylor Facebook page just asked fans: “Did you miss James and son Henry performing "Moon River" on @NBCTheVoice last night?”

Concerning which, a fellow fan SHANNON LANCASTER speaks for kindred spirits 'of an age' (who remember the original) when she says: “I close my eyes and see Audrey Hepburn sitting in the window. Thanks for the smile JT.”

Referring of course to Audrey's character in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' where it's her voice singing MOON RIVER (twice – the second time with a guitar, seated on the fire escape outside her apartment window).

The song's composer Henry Mancini teamed up with Johnny Mercer to win the Best Original Song Oscar in 1961 and they enjoyed a repeat victory the next year (Days of Wine & Roses). Hank left us at age 70 (pancreatic cancer) and thus didn't live to hear any latter-day renditions. But I believe he would have LOVED what James does with it on American Standard (2020).

Concerning Audrey Hepburn's 'original' (nearly cut from the film which was 'running too long' until Audrey put her foot down and said “It stays”). Concerning which the composer shared his personal opinion of the 'best-ever version' (shortly before his death in 1994):

"There have been more than a thousand recordings of 'Moon River,'" Mancini said. "Of all of them—and I am not overlooking the recordings by Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Frank Sinatra—Audrey's performance was the definitive version. It transcended anything I had ever hoped for the song."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hB0TjZlIIY
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Favorite versions on Sirius of YOU DON'T KNOW ME

Hit the newly-restored "back one hour" button at channel 71 (the novelty will never wear off) and it's Harry Connick Jr's splendid version of YOU DON'T KNOW ME. Coincidentally or not, this hour I'd celebrated my favorite "duet" recording of that song -- at James Taylor's Facebook page after he'd singled out that very song this day:

Love the moment in today's "Flash Card Responses" (around the 3:00 minute mark) when James is asked: 'What song do you wish you had written?' His first response (with big smile and a chuckle) “Billy Jean, I guess. I dunno, what's the most successful song ever written?” (i.e the royalties that would have flowed from a song that sold 49 million copies for Michael Jackson!) More seriously then, James nominates the all-time best-selling ballad composed (words & music) by his old friend Paul McCartney: “I wish I'd written YESTERDAY. That's a great song.” (Which in its first decade displaced Hoagy Carmichael's “Stardust” as “most recorded” – over 2,000 versions.)

But then (to my personal delight) Mr. Taylor singles-out YOU DON'T KNOW ME – a song forever 'owned' by Ray Charles. On a personal note I've long considered its lyric the best “show me, don't just tell me, that you love me” song: words by Cindy Walker, from an idea (and beginnings of a melody) by a giant of 1950's Country music, Eddy Arnold (Sinatra's favorite country singer).

YOU DON'T KNOW ME was the centerpiece of Ray Charles' best-selling album – one consisting entirely of Country music songs -- a decision that baffled his traditional fan base, but added millions of others who may not otherwise have appreciated Ray Charles. To this day Country music icons like Vince Gill say the Ray Charles Sings Country recording had the greatest (most enduring) impact of any album in his family's record collection: “It meant more to us than any other recording.” All this, by way of saying: Just had to express my personal delight at hearing James say these words:

“I wish I'd written You Don't Know Me. (long pause) Such a sad song; a real heartbreak song. Real good!”

Canada's Diana Krall -- asked to participate in Ray's latter-day best seller GENIUS LOVES COMPANY album -- got to do the duet on this one – and Ray loved every moment of it (you can hear the joy in his voice). Imagining -- now more than ever -- James Taylor making this one his own on American Standard II (2023). I can dream, can't I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyUXWS5Ftrw

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There'll Be Another Spring – PEGGY LEE

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played comic actor and singer Seth MacFarlane's version of THERE'LL BE ANOTHER SPRING – one of Peggy Lee's lesser-know compositions: she wrote the words to an existing melody by musician Eubie Wheeler (their only collaboration).

Couldn't find Seth's latter-day rendition -- which is sweet and almost reverent, with a large and lovely orchestral arrangement. But I remember Peggy recording this twice – once with 'England's greatest gift to jazz' pianist George Shearing (the two performed it 'live' at least once). Peggy Lee's other version was recorded not long before her death. It's found on Peggy's final album, arranged by one of my favorite jazz pianists Mike Renzi (appreciated by all the other great jazz piano players still with us). Delighted to see that the most recent note for this ten-year-old YouTube video is from him!

Mike Renzi (1 month ago)
I was privileged to play piano and arrange the strings...Loved Peggy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1C5Hd17cl4

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Greg Gutfeld on Fred Willard (and Fred recalling "Best in Show")

It was nearing midnight and bedtime but I thought: “This deserves a transcription” – Greg Gutfeld's appreciation on THE FIVE last evening on Fox News. So I did what I always do: sat there alone in my living room in front of the TV and, with old fashioned pencil and paper, transcribed those words 'by hand.' (And edited: those words of Dana's came four minutes later, at the end of the segment.) Then I typed them into my desktop computer in the next room. Hope you enjoy.

Greg Gutfeld recalled that his “Red Eye” middle-of-the-night show (his first on FOX) “was born from Fernwood 2 Night: [Mine] just wasn't as good!”

“Fred Willard went on to movie fame – Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind – playing the same character, over and over – an idiot.

“When I was editor (in chief) at STUFF magazine” (during Greg's tenure circulation climbed from 750,000 to 1.2 million) “we invited Fred Willard to be our guest editor. Normally this is a publicity ploy: you do it to get free media for both the magazine and the star. No celebrity EVER edits a thing. Maybe they'll drop by the office, and take a picture but they want nothing to do with us lowly 'scrubs'.

“But not Fred. We had to send him all the issue pages; he read every one of them and made notes on every single page! They were genuinely helpful, super hilarious – and one hundred per cent Fred. We ended up just running his comments all over the magazine. They were that great.

“The fact is, you have to be super smart to play dumb and do it well – and man, he was the best.” [and then]

“Dana? I gather you must have seen “Best in Show” . . .

DANA PERINO: Yes and the only comment I would have is this: I have a great memory for a lot of things – but not for movies, generally. But I can remember exactly where I was when I saw 'Best in Show' – how hard I laughed, who I was with – EVERYTHING – and it was partly because his character is so lovable. I would watch that again and again. I think I'll watch it again this week, as well as watch some more Fernwood 2 Night. I'd only watched a couple of those, on your recommendation, and you're right, it was hilarious.
[What Dana had in mind] 
 

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WILLIE NELSON - Young at Heart

"Ninety-nine percent of the world's lovers are not with their first choice. That's what makes the jukebox play."

-- Willie Nelson

Willie of course has gradually become our 'oldest Country music icon' among the great ones still performing and recording. When he was still in his 20's he composed (words & music) Patsy Cline's signature song CRAZY (“most played song in juke box history” according to the recent “Ken Burns PBS Country Music” series).

His recent rendition of YOUNG AT HEART is my own personal favorite since the original – a million seller for Frank Sinatra after Nat King Cole turned it down. (Sent my way this hour by the intuitive genius that is YouTube 2020.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XmWe4J5QX8

When Nat King Cole was introduced to Carolyn Leigh in 1955, his very first words were: “I goofed!” Referring to the fact he had turned down YOUNG AT HEART the year before – dismissing it as a song “for the geriatric set.” In the interim, Sinatra had turned it into a million-seller. Carolyn (“Best is Yet to Come”] Leigh wrote those marvelous words for a melody that turned out to be the only hit for Johnny Richards, a then- avant-garde arranger.

Several lyricists had attempted a lyric for what Mr. Richards had hoped would be a “commercial, singable hit” but none came up the right words to match the sunny mood of the tune; until the publisher approached Ms Leigh. At the time, Carolyn's father – who, she said, “had a great zest for life, but had become ill and depressed” – gave her “the inspiration I needed” – recalling that when the song became a No. 1 hit for Sinatra, “ My Dad was the 'most happy fella' in the hospital!”

Carolyn died young – only 57 when she left us in 1983. So she never got to hear any latter day renditions of YOUNG AT HEART. But you just know she would have loved Willie's late-in-life take on her Dad's favorite of her songs.

Her Wikipedia entry opens and closes with these notes:

Carolyn Leigh (August 21, 1926 – November 19, 1983) was an American lyricist for Broadway, film, and popular songs. She is best known as the writer with partner Cy Coleman of the pop standards "Witchcraft" and "The Best Is Yet to Come". With Johnny Richards she wrote the million-seller "Young at Heart" for the film of the same name, starring Frank Sinatra. . . .

At the time of her death, she was working with Marvin Hamlisch on the musical, Smile.[3] Leigh died on November 19, 1983, of a heart attack. She was divorced from David Cunningham, Jr. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985.[3]

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Put another nickle, in that machine -- Frank (then) Willie (now) at their best

A black & white video from sixty years ago -- Frank and Bill Miller alone together on a London stage. How could I not have seen this one before YouTube sent my way this hour. Posted six years ago it's accumulated 1,282,355 “views” – but not my own until a moment ago! I'd gone to YouTube after hearing on channel 71 Sirius Radio Willie Nelson's latter-day rendition (my second favorite) of this great old Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen song.

Frank with a note-perfect portrayal of a drunk – played with subtlety and artless brilliance: the facial mannerisms! – hands to face, the wagging finger, the cigarette, the distracted looks that convey the pain of lost love. The Voice 'sells' this song better than anyone (himself included) – could ever have hoped to surpass.

London's "Royal Festival Hall". If memory serves, it was off to Paris after this performance, for the final stop on that world tour that raised a million dollars for children's charities from Japan to Israel, before Frank headed back to London – his voice just a little bit exhausted – and recorded in a London studio with Robert Farnon arrangements “Great Songs from Great Britain.” Yes, a week or so earlier he's doing THIS – reminding those lucky English souls, at least the ones in the front rows who could appreciate the subtleties – Frank incarnating the drunk who comes alive before our eyes. How many of us 'of an age' watch this – how many of us guys have the same thought: “That's me, when I was younger – when she handed me my heart.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jHr5JbTeRY


Oh yes – Willie Nelson! -- the reason I came here: “Siriusly Sinatra” satellite radio played his recent rendition this day. A fresh new take with an arrangement that starts off piano simple and then blossoms into a brilliant string orchestration that helps Willie 'make this one his own.' Love the way the strings swell about a minute in. Oh yes, and brilliant 'cinematography' never hurts, does it? Love that ceiling fan, the way the whiskey melts the ice cubes on contact, the wide shot of Willie so you can see the nervous movement of his feet. And the photo of the girl – out of focus so the viewer may substitute for himself the face of 'the one that got away.'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8IOlLlqE28
 

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BETTE MIDLER – You'll Never Know

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played my all-time favorite version of Harry Warren's “You'll Never Know” – one of three “Best Original Song” Oscar-winners from my second-favorite composer.

The opening track from her Rosemary Clooney tribute album (2002) produced and arranged by Bette's early musical director Barry Manilow.

Bette alone for the first 20 seconds, a capella, before the beautifully understated orchestration begins to bloom. Bette's open skies breath-of-fresh-air delivery when she was at her vocal peak. On the album this song segues without a second's silence, into a haunting banjo riff that heralds “This Old House.” Inspired 'programming' – like Siriusly Sinatra itself – let's enjoy them that way here-and-now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouyeHp6VQmU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-TqmfFc25E

This album was literally a “dream come true” for Bette's one-time musical director Barry Manilow who produced the album. Wiki now includes that anecdote I so love!

After the death of singer Rosemary Clooney in the summer of 2002, Manilow claims to have had a dream that he would produce a tribute album and Midler would be the singer on the album. In the liner notes, Midler writes, "When Barry approached me ("I had this dream!") about recording an album of Rosemary's standards, I was excited, but apprehensive. I wanted to be respectful, but I felt we had to find something new to say as well, and in these (mostly) new arrangements...I believe we have."
 

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Posted (edited)

BUT BEAUTIFUL - new favorite version!

A song written the year of my birth (1947) and one of the two greatest collaborations by Johnny Burke & Jimmy Van Heusen. (Five years later, they would gift the jazz world with their most beloved creation -- “Here's That Rainy Day.”)

As it happens, it's a rainy night in 'Canada's coldest major city' and Siriusly Sinatra just warmed my heart with Lady Gaga's duet with Tony Bennett and my "new favorite version."

The first offering at YouTube this night is also the most seen (nearly 5 million views) a delightful 'live in studio' video, featuring some brilliant jazz musicians and a string arrangement unmistakably crafted by Jorge Calandrelli (who has worked with Tony on a dozen previous recordings including some Grammy winners).

You know me -- I'm a guitarist -- and that's one of my heroes, Gray Sargent, who has been with Tony longer than almost any other musician in his almost seven-decade career. Love his tone-setting opening notes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1OdWOLWeCM
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Posted (edited)

JAMES TAYLOR - 'Easy as Falling off a Log' (cartoon version in perfect sync)

The second song (after Teach Me Tonight) that James shared with us from American Standard (2020). I'd been hoping that Mr. Taylor would simply obtain the rights to the 'Merrie Melodies' cartoon and put portions of it into perfect sync. Lo and behold! And as James observed, that is one alarmingly attractive little kitten who smothers the protagonist in kisses. Oh yes, and if you will forgive the presumption, I can really hear you making another old standard sound all your own. MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY -- these timeless words: Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute: Where's the REAL stuff of life to cling to?
Love is the answer -- someone to love is the answer . . . Make someone happy, just ONE someone happy -- and you will be happy too.

https://www.facebook.com/JamesTaylor...8061206504693/

 

 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Posted (edited)

Tony  -- still making us happy, 70 years on

Tony Bennett has sold 50 million records. His wonderful paintings sell for 80,000 these days. God willing he'll turn 94 on August 3. On his Facebook page Mr. Bennett shares an infectious love of music (including the newest artists) plus favorite paintings (now owned by others) and fine Italian home-cooking (most recently his Mom's lasagna recipe). Left him this note a moment ago:

Your "Weekly Zen" – that "Fame comes and goes - Longevity is the thing to aim for" reminds me of two things: the amount of love you have shared with us, your die-hard fans for seventy years now. That, and a line from a song you love -- MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY. In particular:

Fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute; where's the REAL stuff in life to cling to? Love is the answer: someone to love is the answer . . . Make someone happy -- just ONE someone happy -- and you, will be happy too.

That's you, Mr. B -- multiplied in the millions, of course. Best version ever recorded? No contest. You -- and the most influential jazz pianist Bill Evans

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mgEeMauOlU
Since the last time I looked Tony's Wikipedia entry has a new entry about his musical style (and a new favorite quote):

Regarding his choices in music, Bennett reiterated his artistic stance in a 2010 interview:

I'm not staying contemporary for the big record companies, I don't follow the latest fashions. I never sing a song that's badly written. In the 1920s and '30s, there was a renaissance in music that was the equivalent of the artistic Renaissance. Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and others just created the best songs that had ever been written. These are classics, and finally they're not being treated as light entertainment. This is classical music.[114]
 
Edited by Mark Blackburn

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WHEN I LOOK IN YOUR EYES -- Calabria's version (my favorite) at YouTube this day

My new favorite version of one of the best songs composed (words & music) by a friend of the late Frank Sinatra Jr's – Leslie Bricusse. The arrangement which Calabria Foti rightly describes as “stunning and gorgeous” is by her good friend Roger Kellaway – a jazz piano giant whose work TV viewers first heard on the closing theme for ALL IN THE FAMILY (has it really been fifty years?) A young Mr. Kellaway playing 'stride' style piano on his own composition “Remembering You” as a camera pans over a neighborhood in Brooklyn.

To my utter delight the not-so-random shuffle play at YouTube just sent my way a moment ago Calabria & Kellaway's take on this great song – track 5 on her most recent “Prelude to a Kiss” album. Track 9, my second favorite recording (after Peggy's) of THE FOLKS WHO LIVE ON THE HILL features Roger Kellaway's breathtaking solo – one I believe the most influential pianist Bill Evans would have loved. Thanks to Mr. Kellaway himself for sharing this one with us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgZprP-Soaw

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