“That Old Feeling,” the first track on Torme’s 1958 self-titled album, is a lively tune tinged with sadness – he’s happy to see his old lover, but he recognizes that he won’t fall in love again until he gets over her, which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. On the next track, it’s a lonely Sunday morning, it’s gloomy, and he hasn’t been able to sleep. The somber mood pervades the rest of the album, turning this into a soundtrack for a late night alone with a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes.
However, good singing is good singing, no matter what the subject matter, and Torme makes beautiful music out of several songwriters’ tales of loneliness and abandonment. Torme comes at the beginning of the most successful phase of the singer’s career, one that established him as a successful interpreter of popular songs. On this album Torme taints his boyish lilt with a weariness that suits the cheerless material well; although Torme can obviously swing with the best of them, he knows that the songs here call for intimate sorrow.
Marty Paich’s orchestrations are tight and muted and a bit spartan, forgoing the ornamentation and lush setting that would have turned many of these songs of loneliness into maudlin slush. The top-notch West Coast session men that make up the orchestra handle the arrangements expertly and contribute tasteful solos when the moment arises. Especially effective is a bare-boned arrangement of two songs in which Torme is accompanied only by guitar; when he sings “no one’s heart belongs to me today” the sparse setting effectively highlights his solitude. Also welcome is a rendition of “’Round Midnight,” seldom heard with lyrics, and the Latin vamp that permeates “I Don’t Want To Cry Anymore.” However, “Blues In the Night” is turned into a lengthy tone poem and, while Paich can’t be faulted for being ambitious, he attempts to create lofty art out of a song that never really called for such aspirations.
Torme can join the ranks of some of Sinatra’s work as a great break-up album. A bit of a downer, but an engaging listen nonetheless.
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