The full title of this album (as on the cover) is “Connie Francis sings "Never on Sunday" and Other Title Songs from Motion Pictures”.
Now, this is a treat for me because, as you may know, I love my film theme albums.
They are, perhaps, a thing of the past but for a while, especially in the 1960s, they were quite popular.
As I have said elsewhere on this blog, about the logic of covering film songs, “after all they were songs people had in their collective and individual memory from the films … “
For a competent vocalist to pump out an album of film songs (usually, it seems, without a single because the album was aimed at a different market) was a no-brainer.
Bobby Darin did "Hello Dolly To Goodbye Charlie" (1964), Bobby Vinton did "Drive-In Movie Time: Bobby Vinton Sings Great Motion Picture Themes" (1965), Pat Boone did “Days of Wine and Roses” (1963), Dionne Warwick did "Greatest Motion Picture Hits" (1969), Gene McDaniels did “Sings Movie Memories” (1962), James Darren did “Gidget Goes Hawaiian – James Darren Sings The Movies” (1961), and Frankie Avalon did “Muscle Beach Party And Other Motion Picture Songs” (1962) …
The trad pop acts weighed in heavily as Frank Sinatra did "Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners" (1964), Tony Bennett did "The Movie Song Album" (1966), Matt Monro did "From Hollywood With Love" (1964) and "Born Free (Invitation To The Movies)" (1967), Joni James did "100 Strings & Joni In Hollywood" (1961), Helen Merrill did "Sings Screen Favorites" (1968), Eddie Fisher did "Academy Award Winners" (1955), Andy Williams did "Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes" (1962) and "The Academy Award-Winning "Call Me Irresponsible" and Other Hit Songs from the Movies" (1964), The Four Aces did “Hits from Hollywood” (1958), Sammy Davis Jr did "Sammy Awards” (1959), Ed Ames did “Sings The Hits Of Broadway And Hollywood” (1968), Nat King Cole did “Sings His Songs From Cat Ballou And Other Motion Pictures” (1965) …
Country act Tex Ritter did "Songs from the Western Screen" (1958) and country instrumentalist Chet Atkins did “Chet Atkins in Hollywood” (1961) …
And, then there were the instrumental albums by Los Indios Tabajaras , Henry Mancini, Heal Heft, Nelson Riddle, Frank Pourcel and just about every instrumental act or band leader of the 1960s …
You get the idea.
Albums of film songs were popular.
The great joy on this album is Connie Francis.
I’m a late convert to Connie. I have had her “Greatest Hits” album (or one of them) for a long time but I kept coming across her individual albums in op-shops and second hand stores. I bought them because of individual tracks or covers that appealed to me. But, once I started playing the albums, I realised there was a lot going on, and, the they stood tall alone. Sure, some have more filler than others but what makes them good is Connie.
She can sing.
Perhaps she isn’t as highly regarded as some of the other female stylists of the 60s … probably because she didn’t write her own music and covered a lot of genres (and didn’t sing black soul) but that is what I like about her.
Her recordings show she was talented enough to tackle a lot of music genres: pop, trad pop, rock, country, tin pan alley, pop soul, folk, twist, light jazz, foreign language.
She is a great interpretative singer and also a personal one. She makes any song fit her style but never loses sight of what the song is trying to get across.
All this from (yet another) Italian-American singer …
Wikipedia: "Connie Francis (born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, December 12, 1938) … was born in the Italian Down Neck, or Ironbound, neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, the first child of George Franconero, Sr., and Ida Franconero (née Ferrari-di Vito), spending her first years in a Brooklyn neighborhood on Utica Avenue/St. Marks Avenue before the family moved to New Jersey" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connie_Francis
Allmusic: "Francis started her music career at three, playing an accordion bought for her by her contractor father, George. Her father's dream was not for his daughter to become a star, but for Francis to become independent of men as an adult with her own accordion school of music. At age ten, she was accepted on Startime, a New York City television show that featured talented child singers and performers. The show had no one else who played an accordion. Its host, legendary TV talent scout Arthur Godfrey, had difficulty pronouncing her name and suggested something "easy and Irish," which turned into Francis. After three weeks on Startime, the show's producer and Francis' would-be manager advised her to dump the accordion and concentrate on singing. Francis performed weekly on Startime for four years … After being turned down by almost every record label she approached, 16-year-old Francis signed a record contract with MGM, only because one of the songs on her demo, "Freddy," also happened to be the name of the president's son. "Freddy" was released in June 1955 as the singer's first single. After a series of flop singles, on October 2, 1957 she undertook what was to be her last session for MGM. Francis had recently accepted a pre-med scholarship to New York University and was contemplating the end of her career as a singer. Having recorded two songs, she thanked the technicians and musicians, hoping not to have to record the third song her father had in mind, an old tune from 1923. After a false start, she sang it in one take. When Dick Clark played "Who's Sorry Now?" on American Bandstand, he told the show's eight million viewers that Connie Francis was "a new girl singer that is heading straight for the number one spot." … "Who's Sorry Now?" was the first of Francis' long string of worldwide hits". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/connie-francis-mn0000117064/biography
By 1967, she had sold 35 million worldwide, with 35 U.S. Top 40 hits including 3 #1s and 13 Top 10s.
As Allmusic says, unequivocally, “Connie Francis is the prototype for the female pop singer of today. At the height of her chart popularity in the late '50s and early '60s, Francis was unique as a female recording artist, amassing record sales equal to or surpassing those of many of her male contemporaries. Ultimately, she branched into other styles of music — big band, country, ethnic, and more. She still challenges Madonna as the biggest-selling female recording artist of all time”.
Connie was riding high in 1961 (with a #1 in 1960, “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own “and a featured roll in a (successful) film released in December “Where the Boys Are”) when she was asked to sing at The 33rd Annual Academy Awards (on 17 April 1961) and she chose the underdog tune "Never On Sunday" from the Greek/American film of the same name. The song won the Oscar. As an aside the song was up against one of my favourite tunes “The Green Leaves of Summer” from the film, “The Alamo”, as sung by The Brothers Four). For whatever reason Connie did not release the single but this album soon followed.
The album was, apparently, recorded over two days in August 1961 at Owen Bradley studio in Nashville. It was arranged and conducted by Cliff Parman. The backing vocals are by the Jordanaires.
Connie's voice is at its peak and she takes the lyrics to heart. She plays with the songs also making them suit her musical temperament. Granted, this leans to (heavily) mainstream trad pop but people who dismiss Connie Francis as a fluffy pop singer should still listen to her here. She sings with gusto.
From music its she branched into films, light and frothy perhaps but, which perfectly capture their era … and they were successful. Madonna can’t say the same.
Where are the tributes?
Okay, she is still well know, well known to anyone with a small knowledge of music history, but the details of her musical career are largely unknown and have not been subject to any re-evaluation.
Perhaps it was the era she came to fame in. The early 1960s (pre the rise of the Beatles and after Elvis’ 50s peak) are, still, generally ignored by music enthusiasts, but, as I have said before, it is an era of music that I love. It was, perhaps, the last truly romantic, un-cynical era of music where innocence and optimism were commonplace.
Of course the world wasn’t necessarily like that, but if you close your eyes and listen to this music, it could have been.
And if music isn’t there to send you to another place then what is the use of it?
Tracks (best in Italics)
- Never on Sunday – (Manos Hadjidakis, Billy Towne) – Connie extends here foreign linguistics here by doing a few lines in Greek. A great song though, admittedly, it is more than a little Latin in nature (as was popular at the time).
- Young at Heart – (Johnny Richards, Carolyn Leigh) – Well sung, though I think it, perhaps, suits a male singer more.
- Around the World – (Harold Adamson, Victor Young) – Nice but a song that has never really grabbed me.
- High Noon – (Dimitri Tiomkin, Ned Washington) – She takes a schmaltzy (and very masculine) "High Noon" and turns it into believable drama at its best with a spoken intro.
- April Love – (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster) – exceptionally well sung and a little ethereal … and, she hasn't changed the gender. She is singing / giving advice to a male.
- Where Is Your Heart (Song from Moulin Rouge) – (Georges Auric, William Engvick) – a pretty song
- Three Coins in the Fountain – (Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn) – ultra romantic and other worldly.
- Tammy – (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans) – A girls song if there ever was one though Debbie Reynolds version remains difinitive.
- Anna – (Roman Vatro, William Engvick) – a Spanish vocal on this (as on the original) which is a wonderful. The music defines international tastes circa 1961.
- Moonglow and Picnic – (Harry Warren, Jack Brooks) – nice, but straight.
- Love Me Tender – (George R. Poulton, Ken Darby, Elvis Presley) – not as good as Elvis but one of the best female versions I've heard.
- Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing – (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster) – another otherworldly song and exceptionally well done.
From the films:
- "Never on Sunday" from the 1960 film “Never on Sunday”. ”An orchestral version recorded by Don Costa reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, then returned to the Billboard Top 40 when reissued in 1961. His version also peaked at #27 in the UK Singles Chart. Following the success of the orchestral version as well as the Oscar win, an English language version of the song was commissioned to be written especially to match the title of the film. The lyrics to the English version of the song were written by Billy Towne. A vocal of the song by The Chordettes reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1961”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Never_on_Sunday_(song)
- "Young at Heart" from the 1954 film “Young at Heart”. Frank Sinatra had a #2 with it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_at_Heart_(Frank_Sinatra_song)
- "Around the World" from the 1956 film “Around the World in 80 Days”. Bing Crosby sang a well-known version in 1957. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Around_the_World_(1956_song)
- "High Noon" (a. k. a. "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'") from the 1952 film “High Noon” as sung by Tex Ritter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ballad_of_High_Noon
- "April Love" from the 1957 film “April Love” as sung by Pat Boone (#1). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Love_(song)
- "Where Is Your Heart (Song from Moulin Rouge)" from the 1952 film “Moulin Rouge”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_from_Moulin_Rouge
- "Three Coins in the Fountain" from the 1954 film “Three Coins in the Fountain” sung by Frank Sinatra but a #1 for The Four Aces (1954). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Coins_in_the_Fountain_(song)
- "Tammy" from the 1957 film “Tammy and the Bachelor” as sung by Debbie Reynolds (#1 1957). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammy_(song)
- "Anna" (aka "El bayon", aka "El negro zumbón") from the 1951 film “Anna”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Negro_Zumb%C3%B3n
- "Moonglow" and "Picnic", a medley of the pop standard "Moonglow" and the theme from the 1955 movie “Picnic”. “In the 1950s a medley of the song and George Duning's "Theme from Picnic," orchestrated by Johnny Warrington became popular, especially in instrumental recordings by Morris Stoloff, conductor of the film version by the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. Duning wrote the film's theme to counterpoint "Moonglow." Stoloff's recording spent three weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard, "Hot 100," and became a gold record”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonglow_(song) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme_from_Picnic
- "Love Me Tender" from the 1956 film “Love Me Tender” and a #1 for Elvis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Me_Tender_(song)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" from the 1955 film “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” and a #1 for The Four Aces (1955) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is_a_Many-Splendored_Thing_(song)
Perfect for dinner parties and for relaxing … I'm keeping it.
Never on Sunday
Mp3 attached (sorry about the scratchiness)
Young at Heart
Around the World
Where Is Your Heart (Song from Moulin Rouge)
Three Coins in the Fountain
Moonglow and Picnic
Love Me Tender
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
- The concept worked so well Connie released other albums of film songs, "Connie Francis Sings Award Winning Motion Picture Hits" (1963) and "Movie Greats Of The 60s" (1966)