At The Movies CD Review by Michael Ferber.
I haven’t presented a lot of fresh music in my blog, but since we are already heading into the second half of the year it’s time to look at this year’s harvest.
There is a great new album to be released officially on September 14 from one of the finest Swing singers and crooners in the UK, from Gary Williams. Very well known for his role of Frank Sinatra in ‘The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas’ from London’s West End, he has put together an album of outstanding excellence: some of the finest arrangers in the UK and some of the best Jazz musicians in the UK have been called up to breathe new life into fifteen songs from Hollywood classics like The Aristocats, Saturday Night Fever, Toy Story 2, The Jungle Book and The Lady and The Tramp.
The CD began with a surprise: The first song called ‘Spooky’, which I know from the late 70′s from the Atlanta Rhythm Section was used in the 1998 movie ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and became a Hollywood classic. The version I remembered was a great piece of US-southern rock music but Phil Steel arranged it very cool with nice horn arrangements featuring Graeme Blevins on flute and Gary’s voice floating above the band. It’s a very elegant opener for the CD.
The next song was an unknown for me. ‘Almost in Love’ is a beautiful Bossa Nova written by Luiz Bonfá and recorded originally by Elvis Presley in 1968. This is my favorite song on the CD, pretty cool and relaxed sung with a piano and saxophone solo and millions of times better than the Elvis version.
The CD continues with a classic pop song. ‘Both Sides Now’ from Joni Mitchell, which is usually presented very openly and softly. The arrangement from Phil Steel and the way Gary sings it however, avoids that it becomes greasy.
The fourth song ‘Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat’ from the movie ‘The Aristocats’ has been pre-released to the public as a free sample track and Gary returns here to his jazzy side with an old-fashioned swinging band and the great Nigel Price playing a slick guitar solo.
The ballad ‘Puppet On A String’ comes next and this song gives Gary the opportunity to show his clean and precise voice and his perfect pronunciation. You may say now, here is a ballad and you talk about pronunciation but for me this is what came to mind hearing this song. A ballad is often used to present the voice with some great dynamics, but this ballad stays soft, gentle and … precise.
Now we need a little bit more power and it comes with ‘He’s A Tramp’ from ‘The Lady and The Tramp’. A very danceable Cha-Cha-Cha version with an excellent wind-section, that sounds like a mix of a big-band and a salsa band. Very nice.
Back to pop music with the next song – ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ from ‘Saturday Night Fever’. I think everybody knows and remembers it. The latin groove with a string arrangement plus saxophone fills and solo give the song a different but pleasant touch.
The CD continues with a Gary as Baloo, the bear from ‘The Jungle Book’ in ‘Bare Necessities’. The comedian in this song however is the band especially Chris Traves who wrote the trombone arrangement and plays the trombone.
The 9th song on the CD is another Elvis Presley song. ‘I Need Somebody To Lean On’ is from the 1964 movie ‘Viva Las Vegas’. Another very soft song with an organ background and guitar and vibraphone playing the kicks and fill-ins.
The next tune ‘Baby Mine’ from the 1941 Disney movie ‘Dumbo’ is again a latin groove. Similar in style and sound like ‘Almost in Love’ – a Fender Rhodes piano, an acoustic guitar and a saxophone – but another perfect scenery for Gary. For me this kind of music is really ideal for his soft and clear voice.
‘When She Loved Me’ from ‘Toy Story 2′ shows Gary and the excellent piano playing of Clive Dunstall in a beautiful duet ballade, comparable to the original version in the movie.
The CD continues with a Burt Bacharach song. ‘Close To You’ from ‘Mirror Mask’ but the arrangement from Paul Campbell does not follow the version from the movie. This song is another of my personal favorites, because there is this killer sound of piano and vibraphone playing unisono, which makes me to get goosebumps.
The Irving Berlin tune ‘Isn’t This A Lovely Day’ from the 1935 movie ‘Top Hat’, originally sung by Fred Astaire comes next and Gary’s version is a classic swing tune with a rhythm section (guitar, bass and drums) plus again a brillant Clive Dunstall on piano. I found a quite similar arrangement from Diana Krall in my collection, but Gary’s version is much more straight and less pompous than Diana Krall’s arrangement. Very tasty.
The last two songs on the CD are reserved for songs sung originally by Elvis Presley:
‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ from the movie ‘Kid Galahad’ is a piano-dominated ballad;
‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ from ‘G.I.Blues’ is arranged as pop-song, with a straight piano beat plus an excellent horn section, a really happy song to end this CD.
Well, that was a long list of tunes to present. 15 songs in total with a total playtime of 49 minutes makes this CD quite entertaining. The selection is a good mix of famous and lesser know songs, but each song received the full attention from the arranger, from Gary and from all musicians, so the the result is a CD Gary can be extremely proud of and which is comparable to productions from big names like Diana Krall, Michael Bublé or Nora Jones.
I also have to say ‘Thank You’ to Gary for taking me to this journey of songs from movies from the last 50 years. I listened to the original versions, discovered interesting material and I guess there are still many treasures to be dug up.