Verve has recently released a number of vocal jazz records as part of their LPR series. Before handling the heavyweights, here are two discs from forgotten artists.
After the Ball
Frank D’Rone was one of many singers after a piece of the Sinatra pie, and the suave, debonair fellow on the cover certainly had the promising look of the next big crooner. However, although D’Rone is a fine singer, he lacks that elusive quality that allows one to jump the gap between an interpreter and an artist. To be fair, D’Rone would probably be satisfied with this assessment, and pleased to note that he turned out as pleasant an album as he did. After the Ball has two elements working tremendously in D’Rone’s favor. First, Billy May’s orchestrations contain the same usual bright punch and peaceful swing of his sessions with Ella and Nat. May can make any artist seem like a star, and his charts work like a great dancing partner to D’Rone’s delivery, highlighting his strengths while hiding his occasional stumbles. Second, the concept works remarkably well, giving the album a unity and logic missing from other albums that are no more than a collection of pop tunes. Starting with “After the Ball”, the songs follow the progression of two lovers sharing an evening together, from “Warm All Over”, through “Two Sleepy People” and “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever”, and finishing with “We’ll Be Together Again”. Along the way are some true gems from Arlen, Porter, Loesser, and other greats from the American songbook. D’Rone’s voice has an earnest youthfulness reminiscent of Bobby Darin that suggests that in between the songs, nothing indiscreet happened that would be unsuitable subject matter for a record, and the collection defines itself as a pleasant, albeit shallow, collection of pop singing that while not a masterpiece, has a certain degree of naïve charm. Featuring bouncy fox-trots and dreamy ballads in equal measures, After the Ball is a fine record and a satisfactory alternative to other better known and more talented singers.
Songs I Love To Sing
Brook Benton came up with the concept of Songs I Love To Sing while recovering in the hospital from an illness. He wanted to record an album of songs that in his estimation were among the best ever written, and recruited his collaborator Clyde Otis to write the charts. This was quite a departure for Benton and Otis, who prior to this album had achieved success with a handful of rhythm and blues singles, and probably no one predicted the wonderful music that would emerge from the departure. What resulted is an album of gorgeously rendered standards that sound remarkably similar to Nat King Cole’s work for Capitol, a testament to the genre hopping abilities of the creators. All the ingredients for lush romanticism are in place: sweeping strings, English horns and harps, and Benton’s burnished vocals, lavish with perfect pitch and gentle vibrato. Beautiful melody after beautiful melody gently unfold over the course of the album, and Benton wisely chooses songs that are vaguely familiar, yet not worn thin. “Moonlight In Vermont” gets a rare vocal treatment, and “Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)” managed to crack the Top 25 with its dreamy and airy presentation. However, a little of this style of music goes a long way, especially without the company of a member of the opposite sex close at hand, and Songs I Love To Sing is recommended more as the backdrop to an intimate evening rather than a disc that demands close listening. Usually when pop singers attempt an album of standards, one gets the sense of an artist who hasn’t done justice to the body of work he attempts. Benton proves that great singing is great singing, no matter what the genre.
Frank D’Rone-After the Ball
Tracks: 1. After The Ball 2. Oh! Look At Me Now! 3. My Melancholy Baby 4. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To 5. Now I Know 6. Let Me Love You 7. Wil You Still Be Mine? 8. Warm All Over 9. It's You Or No One 10. Two Sleepy People 11. Why Can't This Night Go On Forever 12. We'll Be Together Again.
Personnel: Frank D’Rone – vocals; with the Billy May Orchestra.
Brook Benton-Songs I Love To Sing
Tracks: 1. Moonlight In Vermont 2. It’s Been A Long, Long Time 3. Lover Come Back To Me 4. If You Are But A Dream 5. Why Try To Change Me 6. September Song 7. Oh! What It Seemed To Me 8. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home 9. They Can’t Take That Away From Me 10. I’ll Be Around 11. I Don’t Know Enough About You 12. Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread).
Personnel: Brook Benton – vocals; with orchestra conducted and arranged by Clyde Otis.
Verve on the web: http://www.vervemusicgroup.com