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NACIO HERB BROWN

Singin’ in the Rain: The Songs of Nacio Herb Brown

Retrospective RTR 4299

 

 

 

 

1. Singin’ in the Rain – Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards (1929)

2. When Buddha Smiles – Benny Goodman

3. The Doll Dance – Nat Shilkret

4. The Broadway Melody – Charles King

5. You Were Meant for Me – Nat Shilkret

6. The Wedding of the Painted Doll – Layton *& Johnson

7. Pagan Love Song – James Melton

8. Chant of the Jungle – Nat Shilkret

9. Paradise – Russ Columbo

10. Eadie Was a Lady – Sam Browne

11. After Sundown – Bing Crosby

12. Temptation – Bing Crosby

13. All I Do Is Dream of You – Connee Boswell

14. Broadway Rhythm – Richard Himber

15. You Are My Lucky Star – Frances Langford

16. I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ – Carroll Gibbons

17. Alone – Allan James

18. Would You? – Gracie Fields

19. Smoke Dreams – Mildred Bailey

20. Everybody Sing – Judy Garland

21. Je Cherche un Millionaire (I’m Looking for a Millionaire) – Mistinguett

22. Good Morning – Bobby Hackett

23. You Stepped out of a Dream – Tony Martin

24. The Moon Is Low – Benny Carter

25. Love Is Where You Find It – Kathryn Grayson

26. Should I? – Frank Sinatra

27. Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly (1951)

When this disc came in the mail, I must confess that “Nacio Herb Brown”( Nacio was an abbreviation of Ignacio, apparently) rang no bell for me—but most of the tunes that appear on it did, and they were all composed by him. Brown began his career engaging in entrepreneurial concerns, starting a tailoring business and then becoming a financially successful realtor. However, neither of these enterprises was enough for him. His heart was in music, especially composing—he had attended the Musical Arts High School in Los Angeles, California, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UCLA—and he had a hankering to get into writing music for the movies after the advent of sound in the “talkies.” He went on to make some Hollywood contacts and became a prolific movie songwriter as one can see from the song list, the twenty-seven entries not comprising his total output but including some of his best. Many, if not most, of the titles will be familiar, and they are performed by a wide variety of artists.

The tune list is book-ended with two renditions of Singin’ in the Rain—the first recorded in May 1929 by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards not long before the stock market crash. Edwards introduced it, after which it became number one on the hit parade of the time (but not, I should imagine, because of the falsetto scatting he engages in). The second version is by Gene Kelly, he with the smile in his voice as well as on his lips, some twenty-two years later in 1952 in the classic movie of the same title, Singin’ in the Rain. Hearing it conjures up again the image of Kelly singing and dancing as he splashes his way through puddles while wielding a closed umbrella and swinging round lampposts (wisely, perhaps, he does not essay the verse, unlike Edwards). Between these two are some twenty-five other titles,

Only a handful of the tracks are instrumentals, the rest featuring vocalists, the list of which is star-studded—from Crosby to Sinatra (the latter at the beginning of his comeback) and from Connee Boswell to Judy Garland. Crosby is given two songs, the second being Temptation, although after 1947 the version that was sung by Jo Stafford (Cinderella G. Stump) in a funny sendup of the piece probably first comes to mind for those listeners old enough to remember it. Of the instrumentals, some, such as When Buddha Smiles and The Moon Is Low, are jazz adaptations, showing how amenable the tunes were to being jazz vehicles.

Of all the songs Brown wrote, perhaps none surpasses Singin’ in the Rain, so it is fitting that it begins and ends this collection. As well as being entertained by this CD’s seventy-eight plus minutes of musical fare, I now can place Brown in the company of Gershwin, Berlin, and the other great songwriters of the first half of last century.

Bert Thompson


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