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The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums Hardcover – 7 Nov 2017
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"Will Friedwald's thoughtful analysis and insight into the background and nuances of the music by the artists featured in his book make each song a more enriching experience for casual listeners and music aficionados alike. I'm honored to be included and grateful to Will for keeping the American Songbook and jazz classics relevant for generations to come."
--Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review) "With verve and an infectious love of music, jazz critic Friedwald tells the stories of fifty-seven jazz and pop albums that have become benchmarks by which subsequent records have been measured. . . . His passionate description of each album in this indispensable guide will drive readers to listen to the albums once again, or for the first time."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
About the Author
WILL FRIEDWALD has written about music for The Wall Street Journal and was the jazz (and cabaret) critic for The New York Sun. He is the author of nine books, including A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers; Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs; Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond; Sinatra! The Song Is You; and Tony Bennett: The Good Life (with Tony Bennett). He has written liner notes for nearly five hundred compact discs, for which he has received eight Grammy nominations. He has also written for Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, American Heritage, and The New York Times, among other publications.
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The selection is drawn mainly from a period around 1950-1965, give or take. Frank, Ella, Billie, Sarah are all here, but you’ll also rediscover the greatness of Lee Wiley, Steve and Eydie, Matt Dennis, and many others.
Certainly a book for connoisseurs, and a brilliant, mature collection from a true master of his field.
No one according to the author can say what the first pop album actually was, but as he states and I quote: but one point that needs to be made at the outset is that the album-as both a concept and a commercial reality-predates the long=playing record of LP by many years. Albums were a viable and familiar concept to record producers and buyers deep in the 78 era, well before the Second World War. Artists that are features in this great collection such as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington were inspired by the technology of the long-playing album and as a result crafted more ambitiously and extended projects for a bigger canvas, but in fact it was the other way around: It was artists according the author who drove the technology. The concept of the album had a respectable run. Pop albums go as far back as 1926 and when the mainly dominant format was individual 79rpm discs.
Let’s get to the heart of this book and the author’s purpose for writing and sharing these wonderful artists with readers. “The purpose of this book is to talk about the great jazz and pop vocal albums, and in this introductory chapter we trace the development of the concept-the events that led up to the development of the pop music album.” The timeline he uses goes from the first pop album, well before the beginning of the Depression, up to the successful introduction of the long-playing record after the war. Before highlighting some of the artists let me state that the author shares throughout this entire period there were three types of albums:
Existing Songs/Existing Recordings: The most basic kind of album was a collection of tracks that had already been recorded, and in most cases, already released. New Songs/New Recordings: On the other end there was the all original=album which began in 1946 with the release of Manhattan Tower. Finally the Existing Songs/ New Recordings was a halfway point between the two above extremes) completely unoriginal and completely original). Sinatra perfected this in 1945 with the first pop music concept album.
The book begins with Louis Armstrong meeting Oscar Peterson as they delve into something that pop artists might have started during this time and that is working with another artist or collaboration. Louis Armstrong said that the singing of Bing Crosby as “having a mellow quality that only Bing got.” The simile he related comparing his voice like gold being poured out of a cup. He describes himself as having a “sawmill voice, and indeed in the younger years sounding like a bearlike growl. His voice was distinct and he was successful as a pop singer in his 50’s and 60’s because at that point his voice had mellowed so much and it was sweet as well as rough. He created an album called Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson. He had relationships with Tony Bennett, Ray Brown and many others. Norman Grantz recorded Armstrong as a serious popular singer and should be commended for that. Armstrong’s singles and albums for Decca, tried to take the long view, Glaser the author shares sold Armstrong short in trying to maximize his time by book recording sessions on the same nights that he was doing concerts and clubs causing the artist to become exhausted. When listening to his last album you might say the same applies to what he said about Bing. This was his manager Joe Glaser that kept him working so long and exhausted but Louis’ got energy and never stopped. Listening to him today brings him to life.
The author shares some of my favorites like Fred Astaire, Doris Day, Steve and Edie, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. This book contains the work of over 57 artists and albums and as you read each chapter and learn about the music you can close your eyes, sit back and hear the sounds of pop vocal, jazz, classical and much more. Using many different sources to gain insight to these artists the author shares their work, music but their careers. Interviewing artists like Tony Bennett, Doris Day or even Rosemary Clooney helps make the artistry of the book more realistic and allows readers to hear the words of these amazing stars first hand. According to an interview that I read the author began compiling the information around 2009 and then he states these last 8 years including and I quote about 300-350 stories for the Wall Street Journal.
about 300-350 stories for The Wall Street Journal. Choosing the artists that he loved and wanted to spotlight and the albums that represented each one. So, before completing my thoughts I did what the author did and listened to some of the music of these artists before choosing the ones that I wanted to spotlight. Tony Bennett’s: Who Can I Turn To with Bill Evans and Lonely Girls and Maybe September are themes and lyrics by filmland’s Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Next I chose to spotlight the work of Doris Day along with Bing Crosby two of my mom’s favorites. The album-helped Doris’s career for many reasons, not least of which was that if afforded her the means to move beyond the limitations of 150 singles. In the immediate post war year, she graduated from big band singer to a sole career and, from there quickly to the movies. Believe it of not she was considered the only female equivalent of Sinatra and Bing Crosby in following their,” trajectory out of the dance bands and into the upper heights of solo stardom, a career achievement that Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and many other former band chirps surely envied.” My favorite was song was Que Sera. Day-by-Day was released December 17, 1956 and what is great that you can listen to her music on Tube, which I did. Of course how can I not spotlight Judy Garland and the Wizard of OZ, which is a classic today? Her life and her music are described and her career quite eclectic but my favorite was one my mom loved: Do it Again which was a concert highlight. Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence sing the golden hits in 1960. Television the author shares was their medium and even their albums have the feel of TV specials their performances he relates were never just a bunch of songs, even well-selected, carefully arranged bunch of songs, but he relates there’s always some kind of larger point to what they were singing. Eydie’s one favorite solo was “And the Angels Sing and she and Steve would sing together Who Wouldn’t Love You? Della Reese, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and so many other artists are spotlighted in this outstanding book that brings back a time when music was really at a high level and quality. Including all different singers of different times classical, jazz, upbeat and of course some swing, author Will Friedwald brings the sounds and passion of the 20th century inside every home and everyone’s front door. Social issues are part of the many eras and the history of the many albums, their start and how they impacted the world with their music like the late great Mel Torme where the author says it was hard or difficult choosing a the single best album by this artist. He chose between the 1956 Mel Torme with Marty Paich Dek-Tette and the 1960 Mel Torme swings Schubert Alley, both of which derive from his remarkably fruitful collaboration with arranger-conductor Marty Paich. Sarah Vaughan Live in Japan and Cassandra Wilson, Belly of the Sun (2002) round out the collections spotlighted. Several titles from this century are included and some from the later eras of the sixties and seventies. From Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee whose voice was raspy and unique to the talents of so many who are spotlighted in this amazing book. Let’s not forget the collaborations such as Tony Bennett and Bill Evans along with Armstrong and Peterson plus my favorite Robert Goulet and Doris Day.
This is one volume or book that will remain on shelf so that I can revisit the many artists, decide which I want to honor and listen too again. The music of the 20th century is unique, special whether Jazz, classical, Opera, long playing or in an album. This is truly a FIVE STAR COLLECTION. Imagine that true with 57 lights with the albums of these artists ready for you to listen to as you touch the one that you want lit up and hear the music that will live on forever.
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