Moon River

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The nicest thing about selling used books and CDs is things you don't know you'd like to have present themselves and come home with you. Even if they aren't what you hoped there easier to get rid of than an unwelcome date.

I'm listening to the new JB's Reunions Bring The Funk On Down as I type. There's no disputing James Brown's nutty genius. But even he could've never have achieved as much he did without some of the guys who while technically his employees were artistically his collaborators. Fred Wesley is everywhere in the disc. Sadly Maceo Parker and Bootsie play on one track only. You couldn't expect it to be as good as the stuff of the original vintage but it is good enough indeed.

For me Billy Eckstine "Now Sining" In 12 Great Movies is a much niftier find. When I first started listening to music again I bought Eckstine because Nick Toshes said that he was one of Elvis Presley's favorite singers. I bought the two disc collection from Eckstine's MGM years. Poised between his brief time as the leader of an early Bop band and his years on Roulette the MGM work is pure, often lushly produced pop.

Like many listeners from later days I had problems with the production, particularly the strings. Several times I started to get rid of the set. But it is clear in Will Friedwald's Jazz Singing that Eckstine is one of the singers Friedwald esteems the most, perhaps third after Sinatra and Armstrong.

I kept on listening to it. When I made my own little aesthetic breakthrough and was able to listen past or enjoy the arrangements I became a fan. And scooped up a bunch of his discs. His collaborations with the Divine One would've kept my curiousity alive anyway.

Do you remember the first song that you loved? I do, it was Moon River. I paid a dime to play it inbetween the Hank Williams songs. It had to have been Andy Williams' version. He had such a big hit with that every episode of The Andy Williams Show opened with it. (The show will probably go down in pop culture history for introducing the world to the Osmond puppets.)

For years I've half-meant to buy an Andy Williams disc containing Moon River. Williams was the poster child of MOR pop when I was a kid. And Moon River comes from the days when Columbia's mainstream pop was produced by Mitch Miller who had a knack for high charting but often awful pop. (I have similar problems with Perry Como whose voice I greatly admire but the final products usually just annoy me.)

The new Eckstine reissue has Moon River on it. An undiscovered cover of the song that I can enjoy. My favorite is a late version by the song's author and a fellow Savannah boy, Johnny Mercer.

What was the first song you heard that you'll never forget?

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