Tag Archives: Johnny Mercer

New Johnny Mercer DVD Collection from TCM is a Must-Have for Music Fans

15 Feb

Can’t wait to see this new Clint Eastwood production. As many of you know, Clint is a huge Jazz fan and has always stated his admiration for Johnny Mercer, a master songsmith from Savannah, GA. Mercer’s body of work is truly amazing … as you will learn in this loving, 2-disc DVD tribute released to mark what would have been Johnny’s 100th birthday.

Here is the glowing review from DVD Talk …

Johnny Mercer is a name not everyone may know, but you can almost guarantee that everyone knows one of his songs. A lyricist whose wit and sentimentality, as well as his eye for talent, defined popular music from the Great Depression through the early 1970s, Mercer has written such classics as “Moon River,” “Jeepers, Creepers,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).” Hell, if you’ve ever seen Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck sing “My momma done told me…” then you’ve heard Johnny Mercer. They are riffing on his song “Blues in the Night,” written with Harold Arlen in 1941.

November 18, 2009, marked the centennial of Mercer’s birth, and it’s on this occasion that executive producer Clint Eastwood, director Bruce Ricker, and Turner Classic Movies put together the celebratory documentary Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me”, named for another 1941 tune the writer cooked up with Arlen. The movie is part biography, part archive, and part recontextualization, taking Mercer’s tunes and putting them in the hands of modern singers like Jamie Cullum and Dr. John to show they are still relevant today.

Ricker builds the film based on the songs, letting them create the map for how he will weave through Mercer’s history. He covers all aspects of Mercer’s life: early childhood in Georgia, his trek to Hollywood, his love for his wife Ginger and affair with Judy Garland, the many musical collaborators, and an aspect of the story I didn’t know, that Johnny Mercer was one of the co-founders of Capitol Records, signing Nat “King” Cole as one of his first artists. Many of Mercer’s tunes were written for the movies, and relevant clips of their staging are shown alongside television performances from the 1950s and 1960s featuring Cole, Andy Williams, Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, and many more–most notably, Mercer himself in quite a few of them. There is also a ton of later footage of Mercer appearing on the Merv Griffin talk show and on the BBC talking about his art. He’s a dashing raconteur, often rolling straight out of an anecdote and into a song, his pianist jumping right in with him.

Interspersed in this is Eastwood organizing performances in a studio, sitting alongside composer John Williams, listening to stories from Michael Feinstein, or capturing singers like Maude Maggart or even his own daughter. There are also new interviews with Blake Edwards, Andre Previn, Tony Bennett, and Julie Andrews, all of whom either collaborated with Mercer or performed his music in some way.

This archival video features a Mercer duet with Nat King Cole

Overall, Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me” is an informative, lively look at the man and his art, a testament to the vitality of the material and an appreciation for the creative mind behind it. I was unaware of Mercer’s vast influence, as well as his own accomplished career as a performer. (The film doesn’t even touch on his famous recording of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” sung with Margaret Whiting in 1949 and released on his then young Capitol label; I am sure I am not the only one who thought Mercer actually wrote the famous track.) For any fan of old movies or of vintage jazz, chances are you have appreciated Mercer’s songcraft at some point, and Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me” will make you appreciate it even more.

Read more about Mr. Mercer @ www.johnnymercer.com and http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=253202

Concord Re-Issues “Strangers in the Night” CD

29 Jan

Concord Music continues its streak of winning CD re-issues with this classic from “Old Blue Eyes.” This is swinging mid-sixties Frankie at his finest. The first two tracks are gold — the title cut and “The Summer Wind,” which features lyrics by the amazing Savannah, GA native, Johnny Mercer. I am also very fond of Sinatra’s groovy take on Tony Hatch’s timeless “Call Me.” The album’s only clunker is “Downtown.” Yes, the same tune that Petula Clark rode to the top of the pops. It just doesn’t click in Sinatra’s hands and, frankly, he seems a little annoyed during the take.

But why focus on the negative when there is so much winning material here. The bonus live tracks are fun, but it’s the studio cuts that you will come back to time and time again. Nelson Riddle’s arrangement work is spot on and future star Glen Campbell even played rhythm guitar on the title track. Betcha didn’t know that!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — “Strangers in the Night” was Frank Sinatra’s best-selling single and — between the single and its namesake album — the recipient of four Grammy Awards including Record of the Year in 1966. But it almost didn’t get to market in time, with Bobby Darin and Jack Jones cutting the song at the same time. Sinatra’s version was the hit, displacing the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to the #2 position in 1966 and proving the biggest hit of his career. The album shot to the top of the charts as well. Even in the rock ’n’ roll era, nine-time Grammy recipient Frank Sinatra was still the Chairman and one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century, selling more than 27 million CDs in the SoundScan era alone.

On January 26, 2010, Concord Records, on license from Frank Sinatra Enterprises (FSE), will release Strangers in the Night: Deluxe Edition, a digitally remastered reissue of Sinatra’s classic album featuring three bonus tracks and liner notes by Ken Barnes. The deluxe edition contains all ten of the original Reprise Records album’s songs as well as three previously unreleased additions: “Strangers in the Night” and “All or Nothing at All,” both recorded live at Budokan Hall in Tokyo in the ’80s, and an alternate take of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” from the original 1966 album sessions.

The Strangers in the Night album was arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle (with the title track arranged by Ernie Freeman). Sonny Burke was the album’s producer, with the exception of the title track, which was produced by Jimmy Bowen, theretofore known primarily for his work in rock ’n’ roll and country. German composer/arranger Burt Kaempfert, known for his production of the Beatles’ first commercial recordings in the very early ’60s, had supplied theme music for the James Garner film A Man Could Get Killed called “Strangers in the Night.” Within days, Bobby Darin and Jack Jones were both recording it. But Bowen heard it as a hit for Sinatra and instantly set up a session to record just that song (most sessions would produce four songs at a time). Sinatra was not initially crazy about the song, but trusted Bowen’s judgment. It wasn’t long before the trust was justified.

Within hours of final mixing, Bowen sent acetates of the song to key radio stations —by private planes. The extravagance paid off, but not overnight. Two months later, the song broke big in the U.K. and a month later, on July 2, 1966, it hit #1 in the U.S. and in every major territory, becoming the biggest record of Sinatra’s career.

The rest of the Strangers in the Night album was recorded in two May 1966 sessions with longtime producer Burke again at the helm and Riddle arranging. The songs were primarily classic standards with a few of them reflecting the current scene. But as annotator Barnes points out, there was no attempt to appeal to teenage America, other than that some of the songs came from Sinatra’s own teenage years: Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s “My Baby Cares for Me” from 1928, Donaldson’s “You’re Driving Me Crazy” from 1930, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” also by Donaldson and Kahn, from 1925. Also included was Rodgers & Hart’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from the 1935 musical Jumbo. Apart from the album’s title track, the most important song on the album was a German tune with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Summer Wind,” which reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.

Two British songs, both popularized by Petula Clark, “Call Me” and “Downtown,” were a nod to current tastes, as was Alan Jay Lerner’s “On a Clear Day,” one of the better show tunes of its period.

Ken Barnes observes, “Despite a marked stylistic difference between the title song and the rest of the tracks, Strangers in the Night became Sinatra’s most commercially successful album. He had dealt with the new pop age spectacularly — and on his own terms.”


The Return of the Mighty Boz Scaggs

29 Oct

Product Description
Speak Low his 17th. studio album; a follow-up to 2003’s But Beautiful – “a sort of progressive, experimental effort … along the lines of some of the ideas that Gil Evans explored” says Boz. Songs on the album include Chet Baker’s “She Was Too Good To Be True,” Johnny Mercer’s “This Time the Dream’s on Me,” the often recorded “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash title track. “I’m a vocalist,” Scaggs says. “I come more out of a blues/rhythm & blues background, but this is a different way of using my voice, and much more musically challenging and adventurous for me.”

Here’s Boz in concert performing his hit, “JoJo.”