So there I was trying to explain to someone who Johnny Mercer was, without beating them brutally about for the head for ignorance, when a quick Amazon trawl threw up another splendid release from Sepia Records. Now, as they're responsible for my favourite release of 2012 so far - the soundtrack to "Up In Central Park" with Deanna Durbin - I chucked down my money and ran off laughing.
And it was worth it. If you don't know, and too many people don't, Johnny Mercer was your actual musical genius. He may not have been the greatest singer in the world, although his warm, rich timbre is always enjoyable, but he wrote the lyrics to some of the greatest songs ever. I couldn't list all 1500 plus here, but he was co-responsible for the likes of 'Lazy Bones', 'Hooray for Hollywood', 'You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby', 'Jeepers, Creepers!', 'Fools Rush In', 'Blues In The Night' and many, many more. And that's when he wasn't busy co-founding Capitol Records, appearing in films and making his own records.
This CD is remarkably good, and would have been so, just for the first ten tracks. Those are the songs performed with the Paul Smith Trio, and sees him taking on 'Blues In The Night', 'Accentuate The Positive' and others, before you head off into nine demos he composed with contemporary and colleague Hoagy Carmichael for an aborted film project, "The Keystone Girl" which was to star Betty Hutton. It's just Mercer singing and Carmichael playing the piano, and is thoroughly enjoyable. The last four tracks are demos from a Mercer / Andre Previn stage musical "The Good Companions", which starred a young Judi Dench. They're the least essential off the 29 tracks, but are certainly of historical interest.
As always with Sepia, the booklet provides some useful biographical information and some delightful pictures. An absolute winner.