At the height of her popularity, Connie's hit singles left me somewhat unmoved but as the years progressed, I heard some superb tracks from the plethora of albums she recorded for MGM as well as her German-language platters that seemed to deliver something extra - maybe the harshness of the lingo suited Connie's metalic sounding sob-sister delivery.
Without a doubt, her albums reveal a maturity and versatility not obvious in those hit singles with it being fortuitous many are now reaching CD with this sing-along coupling the latest. CONNIE FRANCIS SINGS FOLK SONG FAVORITES was the first of a trio of albums the singer recorded with Cliff Parman and his Orchestra and the Jordanaires in Nashville in mid-1961. Whilst it can be argued the dozen selections do not necessarily represent the true folk genre, the mood throughout remains true to the concept with OH SUSANNAH! a cheery Stephen Foster opener and TRUE LOVE TRUE LOVE, RED RIVER VALLEY, SHE'LL BE COMING 'ROUND THE MOUNTAINS, BEAUTIFUL BROWN EYES and CLEMENTINE varying the tempo as well as utilising Connie's emotional outpourings to best advantage. THE BOO WEEVIL SONG, once the territory of Huddie Leadbetter and later Brook Benton, receives a notable performance and I was surprised to discover that AURA LEE's tune - a soulful performance by Connie - was later resurrected to carry the lyrics of LOVE ME TENDER for Elvis! COME ON JERRY (TIMBER!) is represented by a definite FEVER-type arrangement whilst blues number CARELESS receives a more jaunty tempo.
Sharing disc space, SING ALONG WITH CONNIE FRANCIS was never intended for MGM release but licenced directly to Mati-Mor Records for brand-name purposes via TV commercials and a television Special sponsered by Brylcream, with purchase of the men's hair product presumably offering a low-priced deal on the album. In mono with a annoying echo, Connie gallantly joins a male chorus for ten oldies including TAVERN IN THE TOWN, AND THE BAND PLAYED ON and IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, with AULD LANG SYNE the set's appropriate closer. Think Mitch Miller's sing-along series or BBC radio's SING SOMETHING SIMPLE and you will get my drift with little for Connie to artistically rise above. However, the album's rarity and its specific commercial aims will attract the attention of buyers.
Four bonus numbers are excellent interpretations of PEACE IN THE VALLEY, NOW IS THE HOUR, YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU plus a terrific "live" melding of WHEN THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN with BILL BAILEY WON'T YOU PLEASE COME HOME from a COPACABANA nightclub performance to give a great finish.
Unfortunately, Connie's personal life was later dogged by ill-health and misfortune so it's appropriate to recall her in good spirits at the height of her popularity with Sepia's remasterd sound, thorough notes and attention to detail reaching the usual high standards.