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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Sammy DAVIS, JR
Hey There: Original 1949-1955 Recordings

Nostalgia Naxos 8.120833 [57:37] ADD

 

 



1. The Gypsy In My Soul (1953) [2:34]
2. I Donít Care Who Knows (1949) [2:41]
3. Smile, Darn Ya, Smile(1949) [2:34]
4. Azure (1949) [2:23]
5. Because Of You, Part 1 (1954) [2:40]
6. Because Of You, Part 2(1954) [2:45]
7. Hey There (1954) [2:46]
8. And This Is My Beloved (1954) [2:51]
9. All Of You (1954) [2:42]
10. The Birth Of The Blues (1955) [5:10]
11. That Old Black Magic (1955) [3:17]
12. A Man With A Dream (1955) [2:53]
13. Somethingís Gotta Give (1955) [2:03]
14. A Fine Romance (1955) [2:52]
15. Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) [2:56]
16. In A Persian Market (1955) [2:32]
17. Iíll Know (1955) [3:00]
18. Adelaide (1955) [2:48]
19. The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) [3:10]
20. Lonesome Road (1954) [2:10]
Sammy Davis, Jr. vocals and tap dancing
Carmen McRae, vocals on "A Fine Romance"
Sam "The Man" Taylor, tenor sax on "Love Me Or Leave Me"
With Morty Stevenís Orchestra, Dave Cavinaughís Music, and Sy Oliverís Orchestra Jack Pleisís Orchestra

Recorded in New York and Los Angeles between 1949 and 1955

 

Sammy Davis, Jr. is truly one of the great American performers, and this is a compilation of many of his performances during the height of his popularity. This is not a greatest hits compilation, but rather a collection of many of his lesser known performances. The result is an album that is a bit uneven in places, but does a nice job of capturing the performer at a specific point in his career.

Among the highlights are his renditions of "The Gypsy In My Soul", "The Birth of the Blues", "Azure" and "Adelaide". In each of these recordings, the band and the singer are in perfect sync, and the listener is reminded just how good a singer Sammy Davis, Jr. was when he wanted to be. "And This Is My Beloved" could have been performed by any opera-trained baritone, with all of the power in vocal technique that implies. "All of You" does a nice job of highlighting the orchestra, if just for a few bars. And his version of "A Fine Romance" with Carmen McRae, while not his best musically, highlights the pacing, banter and showmanship that really made him such a great performer.

Unfortunately, there are some tracks that canít be considered ageless. His "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" includes a tap-dancing solo. The thought is nice, as he truly was noted as a dancer. However, tap dancing is difficult to mic well, and is always more impressive to watch rather than listen. "Because of You, Part 1" is adequate as a recording, although not among his best. "Because of You, Part 2" is more of a comedy sketch where he does a collection of impersonations than it is a singing performance. Without a firm knowledge of early 1950s movies, there will be several impersonations that are completely unrecognizable, and even the better ones are really not particularly funny. Additionally, at the tag ending of "That Old Black Magic" he indulges himself with another collection of character voices to try and elicit a laugh from the audience. It is understood that impersonations and character voices were part of Sammy Davisís stage act, so this does fit into the album as a point of interest, but only because this album really does try to show more than simply the highlights.

Throughout most of the album, the recording quality is good. There is no record noise, and only marginal tape-hiss. The fidelity is good for a vintage recording. However, as previously mentioned, the tap-dancing is not well recorded. Additionally, even under optimal conditions, live recordings with big-bands often had balance issues, with the rhythm section disappearing at times or the strings and brass not balancing well. This is better than many recordings, but not optimal at all times.

If youíre only going to own one Sammy Davis, Jr. recording, this is not the best selection. Youíd probably do better to get a greatest hits complication of some kind. However, if you are more than the most marginal of rat-pack fan, this is a fun disc. It does attempt to recreate a good show, just the way Sammy Davis would have done it back in his heyday.

Patrick Gary



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