Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sammy Davis Jr.

Probably working next door to an HMV outlet wasn’t the best idea in the world. It was happenstance. I got transferred to a new office in the spring of ’94, and the music store just happened to be next to the office.

Considering, I didn’t spend so much there. I remember buying Still Cruisin’ by The Beach Boys, two Stones singles from Steel Wheels, with non-lp b sides, a Poco box set.
I’d chat with the cashier:

Me: (hearing an unfamiliar version of Tears On My Pillow): who is this?
Cashier: Kylie Minogue
Me: Ah. I knew it wasn’t Little Anthony & The Imperials.
Cashier: No. … Um … Who?
Me: Little Anthony & The Imperials
Cashier: They did this?
Me: Yes. They did the original in 1957.
Cashier: Oh.
Cashier: You wanna work here?

But it seems to me that I bought at least one Sammy Davis Jr. CD there, that would have been The Decca Years. And maybe others.

I know that I went to great lengths to put this collection together. The other CD I used here was called Greatest Hits. And there seems to have been one more but I can’t remember it. There was an LP which was the original Reprise Greatest Hits, And Don’t Blame The Children came straight off the single.

I lost the CDs in 2006, in a break-in, in a house I had not moved into yet. I replaced some of the CDs, but not those.

And I can’t say anything about Sammy Davis Jr. himself that you don’t already know…

Sammy Davis Jr.:

Something’s Gotta Give – From the summer of 1955. The Fontane Sisters did this also.
Hey There – A big hit for Rosemary Clooney. Sammy did it in the fall of ’54, and not as well as Rosemary. Also Johnny Ray had a crack at it.
The Birth Of The Blues – Musical history as only Sammy can do it.
Easy To Love – I’m convinced that nobody is easy to love. But easy is not the point.
Love Me Or Leave Me – Sammy does an up-tempo scat-laden version of what is usually presented as a smoky barroom ballad. This was the flip of Something’s Gotta Give, and was also a hit in the summer of ’55.
Stan’ Up An’ Fight
Because Of You – A hit for Les Baxter and for Tony Bennett. Sammy does a cut-up impression-laden version.
Too Close For Comfort
That Old Black Magic – From spring / summer of ’55. A hit for Louis Prima & Keely Smith, and later for Bobby Rydell.
New York’s My Home – Montreal’s my home. I live 8 hours away by car, and I’ve never been to NYC. Call me deprived. This is from the fall of ’56.
There’s A Small Hotel – A little hanky panky never hurt anyone…
Six Bridges To Cross
Frankie And Johnny – Frankie is a girl. Johnny is a boy. Frankie kills Johnny. Oops. So many versions of this, Sam Cooke, Brook Benton, Elvis, even Dylan did it, though he called it Frankie And Albert.
My Funny Valentine – An old standard
I’m A Brass Band – He was that loud…
All Of You – A bit weird this: “I’d like to gain complete control of you, handle the heart and soul of you.” Doesn’t sound healthy to me…
Change Partners – Not the Patti Page song. Same idea though. Sammy schemes to get the girl away from her guy, get the waiter to tell him he’s wanted on the phone…
After Today
Fabulous Places – Theme for a travel agent
Where Are The Words
New York City Blues – Another tribute to the big apple.
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows – Aren’t we all.
All The Good Things In Life – A song about the vicissitudes of life.
The People Tree – From the fall of ’72. Here is where he is trying to milk the success of The Candy Man, except The Candy Man was # 1, this was # 92.
The Good Life – A hit for Tony Bennett. I also have a version by Bobby Darin
Please Don’t Take Your Time
At The Crossroads – Of life, he is at the crossroads of life. Very positive, upbeat, a bit saccharine. Not to be confused with Crossroads by Robert Johnson / Cream.
She Believes In Me – A nice sentiment. “I know I’ll never be the man I think I am, but I don’t give a damn, as long as she believes in me.”
Come Back To Me / Birth Of The Blues – A live track featuring Buddy Rich on drums, as Sammy points out off the top. This version of Birth Of The Blues is the same as the standalone version that we heard before. A bit sloppy of me. I’m not sure why these songs go together.
I’ve Gotta Be Me – This wasn’t a huge hit (it reached number 11 on Billboard in the winter of 1969) but it was a defining song for Davis. It’s possible that I heard it on the radio but I don’t remember. And you won’t hear it often on oldies radio. But the sentiment is very real: “I can’t be right for somebody else if I’m not right for me.” Seems I took this off the original I Gotta Be Me album, though I had it on a CD.
What Kind Of Fool Am I – This was one of his best known recordings, but it only ever made # 17, and that was in the fall of ’62. Lot of people did this, and Robert Goulet put it into the top 100.
If I Ruled The World – It was Tony Bennett who put this on the charts, and Stevie Wonder covered it, but not well. I guess we could paraphrase it as If I Were God.
• Gonna Build A Mountain
As Long As She Needs Me – This is from … what … Oliver? There are more versions of this that you can shake a stick at. A minor hit in the winter of ’63.
Once In A Lifetime
Hey There – This is a re-recording. He did the original in 1954 on Decca, and this is about 10 years later on Reprise. It’s a bit more jazzy.
The Shelter Of Your Arms – This is what Sammy was putting on the charts as the Beatles were invading America, that was winter, 1964.
Birth Of The Blues – I don’t know why this is here again.
Talk To The Animals – From Doctor Doolittle. There is no getting around the fact that this is a very dumb song.
On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever) – From the musical. This is the scat version
Yes I Can – “I can do anything, yes I can.” Another personal statement of can-do prowess. This was the name of his autobiography, which I read and which I have on a shelf somewhere. I can sort of relate to this these days… “I have just found the key…”
Don’t Blame The Children – A bit of social commentary. From the summer of ’67.
The Candy Man – This was huge. The radio played it about five times an hour. That was in the spring and summer of ’72. And it’s dumb. It’s just plain dumb. It’s not one of those songs that it’s so bad it’s good. This one’s just bad. You can even eat the dishes?
Spinning Wheel – The Blood Sweat & Tears hit. Sammy isn’t the best rock singer in the world.
What Kind Of Fool Am I – A live version
Birth Of The Blues – A different live version.
Didn’t We – A Jimmy Webb song, recorded by Richard Harris.
As Long As She Needs Me – Live
You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You – A hit for The Mills Brothers, and for Dean Martin.
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy – Originally by Brenda Holloway but better known by Blood Sweat & Tears. As talented as Sammy is, David Clayton-Thomas needn’t have lost any sleep.
Exodus – From the movie, which is from the Leon Uris novel. It was a hit for Ferrante & Teicher, and for Mantovani and for Eddie Harris. But none of those recordings had words.
Time To Ride
Mr. Bojangles – By Jerry Jeff Walker, a hit for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and recorded by everyone from Bob Dylan to Neil Diamond to Harry Nilsson. Nilsson’s version is best of course, and I like the Dirt Band. Davis’ version is so-so.
I’m Over 25 – But You Can Trust Me – A message song. Duh
Singin’ In The Rain – This is waaaay too happy…
I Want To Be Happy
Willoughby Grove
Have A Little Talk With Myself – A hit for Ray Stevens

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