Sunday, October 14, 2018

MUSIC REVIEW: BING CROSBY - SEASONS

Bing Crosby died 41 years ago today. It is amazing how the years are passing by. To commemorate this sad day, I wanted to take a look at Bing's final original album he recorded. It was a fitting end to a mammoth career. Seasons is a 1977 vinyl album by Bing Crosby which was issued by Polydor Records under catalogue No. 2442 151. The album is particularly significant in that it was the final studio album completed before Crosby's death on October 14, 1977; it was released posthumously, and was marketed with the tagline "The Closing Chapter". Crosby was backed by Pete Moore and his Orchestra and the Johnny Evans Singers. Moore also did all the arrangements for the album, which was recorded at CBS Studios, Whitfield Street, London on September 12,13 & 14 1977 - except for one song "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year" which was recorded at United Western Recorders, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood on January 19, 1976. This song was also produced by Ken Barnes and arranged by Pete Moore.

The album entered the UK album charts in December 1977 and remained there for seven weeks with a peak position of #25.

Variety commented: "If it were merely that this is the last recording Bing Crosby ever made, it would be more than enough reason to run and buy it. But it also happens to be a marvelous representation of the later Crosby years."

Billboard reviewed it and said: "This album is billed as the last commercial recording by the beloved crooner, who died one month after recording these tracks. This is a concept album in that it contains 12 songs which either deal with a specific time of the year or more generally on the passing of time. Excellent mix of rousing sing-along numbers like “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “Sleigh Ride” (which feature some high-stepping female background singers) with more sophisticated, elusive melodies like “Autumn in New York."


Song Listing:
1. "Seasons"
2. "On the Very First Day of the Year"
3. "June in January"
4. "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year"
5. "April Showers"
6. "June Is Bustin' Out All Over"
7. "In the Good Old Summer Time"
8. "Summer Wind"
9. "Autumn in New York"
10. "September Song"
11. "Sleigh Ride"
12. "Yesterday When I Was Young"


All of the songs we well sung. I think Bing could have picked a better song to record than the ancient "In The Good Old Summertime", but the marjority of the songs are spot on. My favorite songs are "Seasons" (the title song - written especially for the album) and the fitting "Yesterday When I Was Young". Bing's voice was a little weak on "Autumn In New York", but again it is not a song that needs to be sung powerful.

For the album cover, Bing was supposed to be captured in different seasonal poses, but in typical style Bing came in one day and told the photographer to take a picture as he was. The result again is very fitting. The "Seasons" album is widely available on CD with many special tracks, so I highly recommend this album. It was the end of Bing Crosby's recording career, but it was not the end of the enjoyment he gave to millions of fans...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

SINGER SPOTLIGHT: KITTY KALLEN

While she was best known for her wistfully romantic 1954 chart-topper “Little Things Mean a Lot,” singer Kitty Kallen had previously enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a swing-era, big band vocalist.

A gifted child with an expressive voice, Kallen had her own radio show on Philadelphia‘s WCAU at age 11 and within a few years, when she was just 14, was featured as a vocalist for bandleader Jan Savit. By 16, she had graduated to a spot with the great clarinetist Artie Shaw.

Billed as “Pretty Kitty” Kallen, she was far more than just easy on the eyes. As a band vocalist, Kallen was compelled to hold her own against the best girl singers in the business, giants like Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Forrest and Anita O’Day, and demonstrated more than a few times that she had the pipes and chops to compete. Her resume included stints with the biggest and most artistically progressive units in the field: Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, Harry James and Shaw, with whom she recorded a highly regarded version of the steamy standard “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Replacing Helen O’Connell in Dorsey’s aggregation, Kallen’s arresting vocals propelled his 1944 version of “Besame Mucho” to No. 1 on the pop chart.

By the early 1950s, the heyday of the great swing bands was ending and Kallen concentrated on radio and nightclub work. She was sidelined temporarily in the early '50s when her voice gave out but, but by 1954 Kallen’s throat and drive were again in top condition. Recording for Decca, her “Little Things Mean a Lot” was a smash that Billboard magazine designated as the year’s top disk, and ably characterizes Kallen’s impressive, and graceful, transition from classic big band swing to modern post-war pop.


Her first marriage, to Clint Garvin, a clarinetist in Teagarden’s band, was annulled. In 1947, at the Copacabana in New York, Frank Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy, introduced Ms. Kallen to Budd Granoff, a press agent who represented Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Doris Day and many other entertainers. Mr. Granoff was instantly smitten and told a companion that he had just met the girl he would marry. They did marry, in 1948, and Mr. Granoff soon gave up his other clients to manage Ms. Kallen’s career full time.

The couple and Jonathan, their only child, lived most of the time in Englewood, except for a few years in the Los Angeles area, when Mr. Granoff worked in television. Jonathan Granoff said he was 12 or so before he realized that not everyone’s mother sang on “The Ed Sullivan Show” or had strange, loud, funny friends like Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Zero Mostel.

She went on to spend five “lost” years “in the clutches of psychoanalysts,” she told The American Weekly in 1960. One therapist urged divorce (she refused) and dragged her back through painful childhood memories of her mother’s death and of being called homely and nicknamed Monkey.


Another therapist, she said, thought everything was based on sex and had an office full of “strange contraptions.” Expected to undress for psychotherapy sessions, she quit. Yet another talked mostly about himself but also counseled divorce, she said. A fourth hypnotized her.

Finally, in 1959, she began to recover — no thanks, she said, to her therapists. The turning point came when her son, then 11, found her weeping over her mother-in-law’s death and tried to comfort her by saying that everything was in God’s hands. It was what she needed to hear, she said. Those words inspired a new degree of religious faith and enabled her to return to work. She retired in the mid-1960s.

At some point after retirement, her son said, several women in different parts of the country tried to pass themselves off as Kitty Kallen, showing up to sing at retirement homes and other places. His father, he said, would call them and say: “Stop it. You’re crazy,” but they were incorrigible.



In 1978, Ms. Kallen and her family were startled to hear reports of her death. One of her impersonators had checked into a hospital in a Los Angeles suburb and died there. The hospital announced Kitty Kallen’s death, and the news spread.

Frank Sinatra called to offer his condolences, Mr. Granoff recalled. His father said: “She’s here. She’s just sleeping.” But Sinatra would not desist until his father finally put Ms. Kallen on the phone.

In 2008, Kallen joined artists Patti Page, Tony Martin, Dick Hyman, Richard Hayman and the estates of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Woody Herman, Les Brown, the Mills Brothers, Jerry Murad, Frankie Laine, and the gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a suit against the world's then largest music label, Universal Music Group, alleging the company had cheated them on royalties.

In 2009, Kallen was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

Kallen died on January 7, 2016 at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the age of 94. The beautiful songbird was survived by her son, her three grandson, and millions of fans...


Sunday, October 7, 2018

RIP: SCOTT WILSON

Scott Wilson, who played the murderer Robert Hickock in 1967’s In Cold Blood and was a series regular on The Walking Dead, has died. He was 76.

AMC, the show’s network, announced Wilson’s death on Saturday. The network calls Wilson’s character on The Walking Dead, veterinarian Hershel Greene, “the emotional core of the show.”

Wilson starred on the series from 2011 to 2014. His return for the upcoming season was announced just hours earlier on Saturday. Wilson had already filmed his scenes for season nine.

In the same year as Wilson’s breakthrough in In Cold Blood, the movie version of Truman Capote’s devastating nonfiction novel about the murder of a family in Kansas in 1959, Wilson also played murder suspect Harvey Oberst in the smash “In the Heat of the Night.”

He appeared in the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby as George Wilson and in The Right Stuff as pilot Scott Crossfield. The actor earned a Golden Globe nomination in 1980 for his performance in The Ninth Configuration, in which he played a former astronaut.


Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, also paid tribute on social media. She tweeted: “Scott was one of the greats, both as an actor and a man. We in The Walking Dead Family are truly grief stricken. He lived life to the fullest with his true love, his wife Heavenly. He is now a shining star in heaven spreading kindness and light forever.”

He also portrayed a prison chaplain in Sean Penn's Dead Man Walking (1995), and his character, a john, was slain by Charlize Theron's victim turned serial killer in Patty Jenkins' Monster (2003).


For a performer of his obvious ability, Wilson went lengthy stretches without working. He filled one slow period by painting drug stores.

"Not many people survive a long period of time as actors," Wilson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2016. "I've been fortunate to have a long career and play a variety of roles. I've had my down periods. I went four years without work. You have stretches where it feels like starting over. But a lot of people never even get the first break. You're incredibly fortunate if you get that."



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

HISTORY OF A SONG: SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

What I enjoy about the great songs of tin pan alley is that they are timeless. There are so many songs that I forget about and then get reintroduced to. I recently heard a recording of the song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", and I realized who great the song was all over again. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is a show tune written by American composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach for their 1933 musical Roberta. The song was sung in the original Broadway show by Tamara Drasin. Its first recorded performance was by Gertrude Niesen, who recorded the song with orchestral direction from Ray Sinatra, Frank Sinatra's second cousin, on October 13, 1933. Niesen's recording of the song was released by Victor, catalog# VE B 24454, with the B-side, "Jealousy", featuring Isham Jones and his Orchestra.

Paul Whiteman had the first hit recording of the song on the record charts in 1934. The song was later reprised by Irene Dunne, who performed it in the original 1935 film adaptation of the musical, co-starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Randolph Scott. The song was also included in the 1952 remake of Roberta, Lovely to Look At, in which it was performed by Kathryn Grayson, and was a chart hit in 1958 for The Platters.


The song has been covered by numerous artists; the first being Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, with a vocal performance from Bob Lawrence. This version of the song topped music charts in 1934. Other early covers of the song include that of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, who released their contemporary version in 1938, with His Master's Voice. The B-side to Dorsey's single was "Night And Day". During the mid-to-late 1930s Larry Adler and Henry Hall recorded live radio performances of the song on BBC Radio broadcasts; Adler's rendition, a complex, syncopated, harmonic arrangement, and Hall's, a full orchestral performance with the BBC orchestra and a vocal performance from Dan Donovan. Henry Hall's version was also released as a 10" single. Art Tatum said in an introduction to a 1955 performance of the song that he performed "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in the 1930s, contributing to the song's popularity. However, it is unclear whether Tatum recorded the song during that decade; if a recording was made at that time, it may not have survived to the present day.

Possibly the most well-known version of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was recorded in 1958 by The Platters, for their album Remember When?. The group's cover became a number one hit in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. In 1959 the version went on to peak at number three on the Rhythm and Blues chart.The song spent 20 weeks on the UK charts, peaking at Number 1 for one week on 20 March of that same year. The Platters' producer, Buck Ram, reported that Harbach "congratulated Buck Ram and the Platters for reviving his song with taste." Jerome Kern's widow, on the other hand, disliked the recording so much she considered taking legal action to prevent its distribution...