Connie could do anything.
She put out albums in (or partially in) Italian, Jewish, Spanish and German.
She sang rock, pop, Broadway standards, film songs, country, vocal jazz, R&B, vocal jazz, children's music, spiritual music, schlager music, waltzes, traditionals from various ethnic groups … and that’s just in the 1960s!
So why not a series of Tin Pan Alley songs from depression era America?
This album was allegedly inspired by the success of Arthur Penn's 1967 motion picture “Bonnie & Clyde” according to the CD reissue liner notes … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connie_%26_Clyde_%E2%80%93_Hit_Songs_of_the_30s
And, this would be about right.
The album title, the clothing, the props, the timing …
“Bonnie & Clyde” was a mammoth hit of a film (the fourth highest grossing film of 1967) and the period it evoked became fashionable for a brief moment, roughly from late 1966 to 1968 (though the film was a culmination of a cycle B-Grade gangster going back to about 1957 as the success of prohibition era TV shows like “The Untouchables”).
The influence comes more from the era itself rather than the actual film music. The film uses a lot of bluegrass banjo which really dates from the 1940s not the 1930s of the film, but the mid-western setting, urban and rural, and the time period led to a lot of interest in Tin Pan Alley and radio trad pop sounds of the 1930s.
There were a lot of “music inspired by Bonnie & Clyde” type albums as well as spinoff singles about all things Midwestern gangster-ish.
Bands like The Match, Harper's Bizarre, Spanky & Our Gang, singers like Nilsson, Randy Newman, Noel Harrison as well as folkies like Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band all dipped their toes in trad pop which was taken even further by The Skyliners, The Manhattan Transfer, Leon Redbone and others.
Most updated the “old sounding” sounds to the late 60s though this was not an attempt to hide the origins but rather to give them a chance in the market.
Some deliberately accentuated the bygone era, as here, where a nostalgic fake gramophone sound is heard on some of the songs.
Of course trad pop and Tin pan Alley had never left – Sinatra, Bing Crosby where still releasing albums and many who followed were popular, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin etc – though rock ‘n’ roll had marginalised it.
The music gets it strength from the quality of the written songs (songs where the lyric wasn’t as important as the melody and music). But what can make or break a song is the musical arrangements and the vocalist.
It was music designed to highlight a melody and a voice.
Don Costa does the arrangements here (and produces) and he is, a legend. He produced and arranged for the “younger’ as well as the “older” artists … Eydie Gormé, Johnny Nash, Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Rydell, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Trini Lopez, Tony Bennett and many others. He straddled the old trad pop and contemporary pop sounds. The old standards sounded fresh.
But all this takes you tom the point of take-off. The vocalist has is the only one who can launch the song.
Connie is a great vocalist and makes the most of the material she sings. She has to be the most overlooked of all female vocalists, again, probably because, she didn’t write (or rather “co-write”) her own music.
Writing in fine but performing the same is something else and there are few people who could touch a lyric like Connie. She is a great interpreter and her voice is full of nuances sensitivity, and asides amidst the emotion and very versatile in style. She does really outshine many female (and male) vocalists
She is in top form here. And, that is more than enough.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Connie & Clyde – (Robert Arthur) – Arthur was an American easy listening, jazz and pop songwriter from the 50s and 60s. I think this is the first recording of this song. This is the a poo-poo-p-doo song and is quite bouncy and fun.
- You Oughta Be in Pictures – (Dana Suesse, Edward Heyman) – originally recorded by Rudy Vallee in 1934. This is the unofficial theme song to the Hollywood film industry. The lyrics are updated to include icons of 60s film including Elvis, Warren Beatty, Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman. Sophia Loren and others. There are sound effects of Connie singing part of this tune as if she were singing on the radio in the 1930s.
- Ace in the Hole – (James Dempsey, George Mitchell) – the first recording was by Chick Bullock & His Levee Loungers (1936) though the song was also done by Alexander's Jazz Band (1947), the Four Lads (1960), Bobby Darin (1961) and many others.
- Golddiggers Medley: With Plenty of Money and You / We're in the Money – (Harry Warren, Al Dubin) – “With Plenty of Money and You” was from the film “Gold Diggers of 1937” and was originally sung by Dick Powell whilst “We’re in the Money” is a song from the 1933 film “Gold Diggers of 1933”, sung in the opening sequence by Ginger Rogers and chorus. Both songs are Witten by Warren and Dubin.
- Just a Gigolo – (Leonello Casucci, Julius Brammer, Irving Caesar) – The song goes back to the 1920s though is mainly associated with Louis Armstrong (1931), Bing Crosby (1931), Louis Prima (1956), Marlene Dietrich (the title song of film” Just a Gigolo” (1978)), and David Lee Roth (1985) (who reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100). Sung with the right amount of decadence.
- Button Up Your Overcoat – (Ray Henderson, B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown) – Ruth Etting first recorded this in 1928 but Helen Kane had the more well-known version in 1929. It was recorded often afterwards by Johnny Mercer (1946), Bing Crosby (1956) and others. Bouncy.
- Brother, Can You Spare A Dime – (Yip Harburg, Jay Gorney) – "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", also sung as "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?" is one of the best-known American songs of the Great Depression. The song became best known through recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee (both 1932). It was popular with 60s folkies: Peter, Paul & Mary (1965), The Youngbloods (1967), Spanky and Our Gang (1967). Suitably gloomy but I prefer low keen versions than this full throated version. It is very well sung though.
- Maybe – (Allan Flynn, Frank Madden) – a big song for the Ink Spots in 1940. Very enjoyable.
- Am I Blue – (Harry Akst, Grant Clarke) – a big hit for Ethel Waters in the movie “On with the Show” (1929). It has become a standard and has been covered by numerous artists including Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall in the Howard Hawks directed film “To Have and Have Not” (1944). It has also been done by a few rock ‘n’ rollers (which Connie would have known about) : Eddie Cochran (1957), Ricky Nelson (1957), Fats Domino (1961), Brenda Lee (1967). Sexy!
- Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone – (Bee Palmer, Sam H. Stept, Sidney Clare) – originally sung by Bee Palmer in 1930 the song is more associated with Gene Austin and Bert Lown versions from 1931. Bing Crosby (1957), Sammy Davis Jr. (1966), Doris Day (1951), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957), Billie Holiday (1956), Ann-Margret 1962), Dean Martin (1960), The Mills Brothers (1951), Johnnie Ray (1953), Leon Redbone (1978), and Frank Sinatra (1961) also had a chop at it.
- Ain't Misbehavin' – (Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf) – dating back to the 20s the song is often covered but usually associated with Louis Armstrong (1929), (co-writer) Fats Waller (1929) and Bill Bojangles Robinson (1929) (all three versions charted that year)
- Somebody Else Is Taking My Place – (Dick Howard, Bob Ellsworth, Russ Morgan) – the first recording was by Russ Morgan and His Orchestra (1941) though it has also been done by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (vocal by Peggy Lee )(1941), Bill Haley and His Comets(1957), Al Martino (1965), Jerry Vale (1965) and others. Very much like a pop ballad song from the early 60s and Connie excelled in those.
Links to Songs
- You Oughta Be in Pictures
- Golddiggers Medley: With Plenty of Money and You / We're in the Money
- Just a Gigolo
- Button Up Your Overcoat
- Brother, Can You Spare A Dime
- Am I Blue
- Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone
- Ain't Misbehavin'
Its been done this before, often, but this is pleasing … I'm keeping it.
Connie & Clyde
You Oughta Be in Pictures
Just a Gigolo
Button Up Your Overcoat
- The guy on the cover with Connie is a unnamed record label staffer who happened to be around (?). Lucky him.