I've been thinking a lot lately about how musical history gets diluted by a constant drumming of media spin. Voices that were once called "golden" or "legendary" now can be sneered at by using the two dreaded words "easy listening". Is listening supposed to be hard? Sure there is music that sounds like it belongs in an elevator. Hey, the Beatles music has been converted into that. And some singers do have ordinary voices or predictable phrasing and aren't very interesting - some from the 50s and 60s . . . and even some from the "contemporary 2000s". All one has to do is turn into American Idol every now and again to be convinced that there are hundreds of ordinary voices out there.
I do realize that many people simply do not like "standards" or "those kind of arrangements" or "that kind of voice" and I understand as I've never understood the appeal of Madonna or much pop music for that matter. Or rap. Give me blues and rock any day but I have zero interest in hearing Shakira or Katy Perry. And while I love r&b - it's the voices of Sam Cooke or Otis Redding I long for - not much of what is contemporary r&b. So I do understand when people listen to standards and just don't care for it. But I also think that many others simply don't really know the music they are quick to dismiss. Sometimes sounding "easy" is really really difficult and takes considerable talent.
I intend to write more about Tried and True later, especially since it includes some amazing arrangements -- and Linda Eder's vocals on Crying and David Sanborn's sax on What Kind Of Fool Am I (two artists I adore) - but today, listening to some recent interviews with Clay about why this album means so much to him and why he wanted to sing what he has been calling "singer's songs" - I've been drawn to hearing some of the voices Clay has mentioned: Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. WHAT?????? Snoozy Andy in his cardigan? Boring Johnny of the lush romantic elevator music? Nope. Not those people because I don't know who those people are. I've been thinking and listening to the real Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. That's right.
Andy Williams, the man who in the 1960s was one of the most popular vocalists in our country. The man who, at the time, was signed to the biggest recording contract ever and who earned more gold records than any man other than Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and . . . oh yeah, Johnny Mathis. Andy Williams, who's television variety show ran for nine years and won three Emmy's. That Andy Williams. So I relistened to some Andy Williams music and remembered why he was so popular. The ease of his vocals, the smoothness, the control. His lovely vocal ability shines in this version of Scarborough Fair with Simon and Garfunkel:
. . . or the way he can mix it up with the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim in The Girl From Ipanema:
And then I thought, I haven't really listened to Johnny Mathis in a long long time. I mean everyone made out to Johnny Mathis music - but had I really listened? I admit I don't own any Johnny Mathis songs. I wasn't a fan although I recognized his beautiful voice. So I needed to really listen. And once I did I had my "aha" moment. Put that voice together with a great song like Michel Legrand's Pieces of Dreams and I'm lost in it.
And it's perfection when connecting so emotionally to a song like 99 Miles From LA:
So Clay - if you want to show your wonderful vocals and your sublime interpretative skills singing "singer's songs" - like you did in this version of Unchained Melody on The View - please do.
I know a great song by a great singer will never go out of style.
Tried and True
What Kind Of Fool Am I
Simon & Garfunkel
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Girl From Ipanema
Pieces of Dreams
99 Miles From LA