Apologies for my lengthy absence, gentle readers! I lost my MP3 player on Saturday night and have not been able to listen to music on the walk to work for most of the week as a result.
There is a silver lining though, at least for me. My old MP3 player was a 2008 Zen Mosaic that held 2 GB of music. It’s most salient feature was its annoying refusal to die.
My new player is a fancy 64 GB Sony Walkman A17 with all the bells and whistles a fella could hope for. So the reviews were slightly delayed, but now the music sounds so much sweeter as a result.
Disc 904 is….Wild, Cool and Swingin’
Artist: Various Artists
Year of Release: 1996 but featuring music from 1949 to 1964
What’s up with the Cover? A microphone holds a microphone. Do not be alarmed, the smaller microphone is not holding yet another smaller microphone.
This guy looks like he could date the martini garnish lady from the cover of “Bachelor Pad Royale” (reviewed way back at Disc 372).
How I Came To Know It: Back in the mid-nineties I fell for the swing and lounge craze like a lot of other people. I didn’t fall hard, and I didn’t fall long, but it was long enough for me to buy this compilation album of classic lounge tracks.
How It Stacks Up: Compilation albums don’t stack up but since I have three of these “Ultra Lounge” albums I’ll stack it up against the other two. “Wild, Cool and Swingin’” is easily the best of all of them by a wide margin so #1, baby!
Ratings: compilations don’t get ratings!
This record is like a Sunday walk in the park: easy, breezy and fun. These are songs that make you happy to be alive, skillfully written, sung and played.
Hearing “Wild Cool and Swingin’” made me feel like artists paid more attention to their craft then than now. It isn’t likely true, but hearing these artists deliver such perfection it is easy to believe. The album features multiple vocalists, but all of them share an exceptional talent for settling down in the pocket that makes swing music work.
The musicianship is also incredible, likely because this is from a time when studios had stables full of musicians at their beck and call, and the best artists got the pick of the litter. It really shows.
The times were never ‘simpler’ (every age has its issues) but the music on this record paints a picture that suggests it was. People went out and about, met one another, batted eyelashes and fell in love. The songs on this record are usually playful, occasionally sexy and always full of energy.
Back in our Lounge revival days of the mid to late nineties Sheila and I both played this album often, and it was a staple at parties in the era before you could just load music onto a memory stick. It is just good music for sunshine, laughter and the tinkling of bar glasses.
It is hard to pick out favourites, but there are a few. The record starts with the flourish of trumpets and swingin’ Dean Martin singing “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” as though that would be the most marvelous experience ever. Peggy Lee’s sultry rendition of “Fever” is an all-time classic and for a more playful couple’s version of similarly heavy flirtation I recommend Louis Prima and Keely Smith singing “That Old Black Magic”.
Prima does a solo number, “Closer to the Bone” that is mildly inappropriate but undeniably fun about a guy who likes skinny girls, full of metaphors about just how skinny his gal is:
“Now she’d make a good thermometer
If she drank a glass of wine
She’s built just like a garter snake
She climbs up like a vine.”
The idea that sixty years ago someone would write a song feeling the need to defend how he likes slender women shows just how inconstant the nature of beauty is. It would be easy to see this song as a slice of fifties sexism, but I prefer to see it as a reminder that we shouldn’t get all wrought up about classical notions of beauty; they’re going to change soon enough anyway.
My favourite song on the record is “Sunday In New York” which is a Bobby Darin track I’d never heard until I got this record, but damn if it isn’t perfection. Sunny horn flourishes match ambling piano riffs in the perfect song for a stroll. The song begins:
“New York on Sunday,
Big City taking a nap!
Slow down, it's Sunday!
Life's a ball, let it fall in your lap!”
The way Darin snaps out the second line is perfect; New York City’s feeling a bit snoozy, but even a nap in the Big Apple has some pizzazz to it, and in Central Park love is around every corner.
The album could feel a bit bloated at 18 tracks, but I’m going to let it slide. For one thing, the songs are all so short that the total playing time is still only 49 minutes. Also, I’d have a tough time cutting many of them out, they are so good. There are a couple of schmaltzy numbers like Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” (I’ve never liked that song) but for the most part even the lesser tracks are still a fun little musical stroll.
Best tracks: Ain’t that a Kick in the Head, Dig that Crazy Chick, Fever, Jump Jive n’ Wail, French Poodle, Sunday in New York, Closer to the Bone, That Old Black Magic