I have an embarrassingly large CD and record collection – spread across two flats (not both mine, in case you were wondering) and occupying everything from shelves to suitcases. Courtesy of YouTube, I thought I’d share some of the choice items – particularly some of the less well known ones.  Think of it as a slowly evolving, digital mixtape...

There’ll be a new song most days (at least that’s the plan) so keep checking back and please post your comments and suggestions as well.

Carly Simon is often underrated as a songwriter.  Maybe it’s the occasional middle class angst or the dodgy albums of standards (although Torch is pretty cool).  Or maybe people can’t get past the smoked-glass voice and those gams.

But when it comes to stories set to music she’s up them with the best of them. Witness this bittersweet little tale on the subject of being careful what you wish for.  I love the turns of phrase:

On a carefree note he said, "Forget your coat

There's a chill about every ten years"

The story seems all the sadder for being told with a wink and a smile.

Oh, and Dripping Springs is a real place – I checked.

 

A good song is endlessly mutable. If you only know this one courtesy of Slim Whitman, Eddy Arnold, Kate Smith or, God help you, Foster and Allen, then you might think its sentimental tosh.

Fortunately for Henry Tobias, Larry Vincent and Moe Jaffe (who wrote it back in 1939) Lou Rawls eventually got hold of it.  This recording is from a 1965 album called Nobody But Lou with arrangements by the great Benny Carter - recorded a year before Capitol steered Rawls towards recording more R&B flavoured material and he had a huge it with Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing.  He would return to jazz and, particularly, the blues on his later recordings but here he is in all his youthful glory.

 

Once Upon A Time is from the 1962 musical All American by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, the authors of Bye Bye Birdie, Golden Boy and Applause.  Strouse also wrote Annie with Martin Charnin.  So, with that pedigree, how come All American (which also featured a book by Mel Brooks) failed so utterly?  A glance at the plot (courtesy of Wikipedia) may provide some explanation:

Based on the Robert Lewis Taylor 1950 novel Professor Fodorski, it is set on the campus of the fictional Southern Baptist Institute of Technology where the worlds of science and sports collide when the principles of engineering are applied to football strategies, and football strategies are used to teach the principles of engineering.  The techniques of a Hungarian immigrant, Professor Fodorski, prove to be successful, resulting in a winning team, and he finds himself the target of a Madison Avenue ad man who wants to exploit his new-found fame.

Hmmm.

Tony Bennett recorded the song on his ...San Francisco album thereby rescuing it from obscurity - and subsequent versions by Frank Sinatra and Jack Jones helped to assure its place as a minor standard.  If anyone can find Moira Anderson’s version (I kid you not) please let me know.

As well as possessing one of the most beautiful and technically perfect voices in the business, Maureen McGovern has recorded more film themes than any one woman should have to (look ‘em up, youngsters).  She’s also appeared on Broadway and recorded CDs dedicated to Gershwin and Arlen as well as two duet albums with pianist Mike Renzi.  This is from the second, The Pleasure Of His Company

 

Lush Life was the first Nancy Wilson album I ever bought and I remember being particularly struck by this track.  It was written in 1952 by John Benson Brooks and Joseph Allen McCarthy.  Brooks wrote the music for both Where Flamingos Fly and You Came A Long Way From St Louis (some range!) and McCarthy the lyrics for I'm Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life (his father, also Joseph, wrote the words for You Made Me Love You and I’m Always Chasing Rainbows so quite the pedigree there).

Over The Weekend was first recorded by Mabel Mercer and Johnny Mathis picked up on it a decade later (quite the underrated song curator our Mr Mathis – check out his 60s albums).  The song remained in his repertoire for some time as a heartfelt interpretation from 1978 on YouTube attests.  Dianne Reeves revived it on When You Know in 2008.

I remember the now defunct Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD being absolutely vitriolic about the Lush Life album and Wilson does seem to infuriate the jazz police – somewhat unfairly since she publicly eschewed the title ‘jazz singer’ in favour of ‘stylist’ and actively chose to sing in jazz, blues, pop and soul idioms as her mood and the market took her.  Her style can be quite baroque with lots of swoops, growls, purrs and gospel inflections but she can be subtle and very swingy on her small group sides.  Many singers revere her – not least because of the extraordinary range of vocal colours she has at her disposal and her ability to combine emotion and technique.  With arrangements by Billy May, Sid Feller and Oliver Nelson (May in this instance), Lush Life is undoubtedly Wilson’s plushest album and the sea of strings do work well against some of her most dramatic interpretations of what are, largely, a set of art and cabaret songs with a few jazz standards thrown in for good measure.