Whenever I comment on a Pat Boone album I inevitable start off by defending him.
Pat Boone isn’t very popular with hard core music fans.
Apparently he stole songs from black artists and denied them the charts. Him personally. But in reality was a to and fro from before the first time Nat King Cole crooned or Chuck Berry heard "Ida Red" and wrote "Maybelline" . Covering songs for different markets or rearranging them to have the largest potential market was the norm in the music business.
Arguably, Boone's covers were more blatant though. Elvis and others were recording songs and sounds they grew up with where in Pat Boone’s case his label would approach him and say sing this and we provide a softer sound with new arrangements. This led to the new, clean, and white versions of Afro-American R&B songs.
He is roundly criticized for that despite the fact that trad pop singers like Johnny Ray, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra had also doing the same to black songs for years.
And, regardless what people say his hit versions must have brought attention to the original versions.
And, then their are the royalties. Would a black composer complain about Pat Boone taking his song to the Top 10?
There is the impression that Boone's entire fifties output was covers of R&B songs and that those white washed covers (initially) stopped black artists getting high up in the charts
This is rubbish and lazy historically whether you like Boone or not.
In that era it was quite normal for three or four covers of a popular song to be released in the same year. The one with the broadest appeal would make the most money.
America wasn't ready for hard black R&B sounds to dominate the charts but they were warming up to it. Boone's records just picked up the people who hadn't warmed to it yet.
His version of Fat's Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" went to #1 (1955). Fat's version had already had its run getting up to #10. Some Afro-Americans must have liked it also as it went to #14 in the R&B charts.
His version of the El Dorados' "At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)" went took to #7 Pop, #12 R&B 1955). The El Dorados had a #1 R&B , #17Pop (1955) hit with it.
His version of Ivor Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" went to #1 Pop, #14 R&B and didn't impact on the original which went to #1 in the R&B charts in 1950.
His version of Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" went to #12 in 1956. Little Richards version had peaked at #2 in the R&B charts in early 1956 and wen t to #17 in the pop charts. A little extra in royalties doesn't hurt.
His version of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" went to #8 Pop #18 R&B in 1956. Little Richards version released in early 1956 went to #6 Pop, #1R&B.
In all cases except for the El Dorados the singers were the authors or co-authors of the songs … the royalties must have been nice.
Importantly, the songs above represent most of the R&B songs he covered in the fifties. During that era he released another 35 or so singles which were tin pan alley or pop and all very white …. and contain some of his biggest hits:
"I Almost Lost My Mind" (1955), "Don't Forbid Me" (1956), "Love Letters In The Sand" (1957), April Love" (1957) were all #1s but others charted well: "I'll be Home" (#4 1956), "Friendly Persuasion" (#5 1956), "Why Baby Why" (#5 1956), "Remember You're Mine " (#6 1957), "A Wonderful Time Up There" (#4 1958), "It's Too Soon to Know" (#4 1958), "Sugar Moon" (#5 1958), "If Dreams Came True" (#7, 1958),
He was only second to Elvis in sales (and also was the only 50s popster to have a film career) and he clearly didn't do that by just covering and stealing black tunes.
His English chart positions were also impressive (one #1 and nine Top 10s in the 50s)
Clearly people responded to his music
But never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
You don't have to like Boone but accusations of this sort are historically dishonest.
But that is not the only reason he is unhip. His music can be middling. It wasn't so much a white version of raucous black music but rather a softer version of Elvis (even though Elvis loved his ballads also).
He didn't typify rock either … He was married young (faithfully) (at 19) , didn't smoke or drink, was open about his religion and wasn't a hellraiser. As times moved on his views seemed more archaic. His religion approached fundamentalism, his politics were far right, his faith in his country was maudlin. These aren’t bad traits necessarily but it doesn’t endear you to the rock n roll crowd who like some cynicism.
The most unforgivable thing of course was to take the rock 'n' roll of your white and black contemporaries and sanitise it. At the time it paid dividends but history doesn’t look on it kindly. Both Bobby Darin and Bobby Vinton have suffered because of their love of trad pop and move towards smoother sounds …t hough admittedly Darin and Vinton were doing it later.
But Boone was incredibly effective on the charts and in film.
Does it make his music good?
Yes and No.
A lot of it is bland
It is not as innovative, dangerous, or memorable as Elvis but there is a lot of good material in there and Pat Boone can sing especially if he sticks to ballads and mid-tempo pop. He suited trad pop but a version rooted in the 50s obsession with rhythm. He was a pop singer who moved to trad whereas, say Guy Mitchell, was a trad pop singer who moved to pop and rhythm.
Within his best range (mainly in the 50s) Boone has created some bona fide classics.
As mainstream rock n roll mutated from it's hard ragged origins into something smoother and gentler in the early 60s Boone moved further and further into trad pop.
This album is a no brainer.
Boone was a movie star at the time and loved trad pop so why not have him sing themes and hit songs from other films.
After all they were songs people had in their collective and individual memory from the films.
Singers (as well as composers and orchestras) doing movie songs was a norm in mainstream popular music from the fifties through to the early seventies.
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) and 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).
Williams, perhaps, influenced the creation of this album and also had a lot of influence on Boone's trad pop style. Boone does four songs on this album that Williams had done on his "Moon River And Other Great Movie Themes" (1962) album (Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, The Exodus Song, Moon River, Three Coins In The Fountain). Williams repaid the favour (perhaps) and does three songs on his 1964 album that Boone does here (Mona Lisa, Laura, The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart))
I note for completeness that some of Boone's pop rock fellow outcasts also put out movie them albums: Bobby Darin did "Hello Dolly To Goodbye Charlie" (1964) and Bobby Vinton did "Drive-In Movie Time: Bobby Vinton Sings Great Motion Picture Themes" (1965)*.
On this album Boone sings the songs well but, as to be expected because he isn’t a trad pop vocalist of the skill of a Sinatra or Bennett, how good the songs are depends on arrangements and the material itself.
The arrangements for his albums around this time are all standard trad pop and they are glorious. Sinatra, Tony Bennett or Andy Williams could have done these songs in these arrangements. Here they are by Jimmie Haskell, Milt Rogers and Ernest Hughes. (Album produced by Randy Wood)
The material is flawless and well tested.
I love this stuff, or make excuses for it, because I love films. So in my lounge of the mind these songs remind me of the films they came from.
There are no surprises but if you let it wash over you it is quite relaxing and perhaps comforting.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Days Of Wine And Roses – (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) – beautifully warm
- Mona Lisa – (Livingston & Evans) – no one can match Nat King Cole but the song is a classic
- Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing – (Paul Francis Webster, Sammy Fain) – not quite as head in the clouds as the original theme or version by The Four Aces but quite good.
- Laura – (David Raksin, Johnny Mercer) – well done but not as haunting as some of the other versions.
- Song From Moulin Rouge – (Georges Auric, William Engvick) – I'm not a big fan of this song in any of the versions I've heard … but there could be an interpretation out there that works on me.
- Sweet Leilani – (Harry Owens) – could have been a little more Hawaiian
- Moon River – (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer) – a beautiful song beautifully done.
- Ruby – (Heinz Eric Roemheld, Mitchell Parish) –
- Three Coins In The Fountain – (Jule Styne And Sammy Cahn) – Not as great as Sinatra but Boone gives it a good interpretation.
- Be My Love – (Nicholas Brodszky, Sammy Cahn) – full of swirling strings but the operatic bombast of Lanza is needed.
- Fanny – (Harold Rome) – he doesnt really suit this song.
- The Exodus Song – (Ernest Gold, Pat Boone) – also known as "This Land is Mine". Powerful and dramatic. A side you don't hear from Boone outside some of his religious records, which his is in many ways. For any nation who have fought for lands taken from them this song would resonate. I don't know for sure if this is the 1961 single or whether it was re-recorded here. It is the only song on the album which was arranged by Ernest Hughes though the 1961 single was arranged by Milt Rogers.
From the films:
- Days of Wine and Roses – from the great 1962 Blake Edwards film of the same name about alcoholism in marriage. The song has been done by every trad pop singer but Billy Eckstine (1961), Andy Williams (#26 Pop, #9 Adult Contemporary 1963), Frank Sinatra (1964) and Tony Bennett (1966) do it best. Co-Writer Mancini had an instrumental hit with it in 1963 (#33 Pop, #10 Easy Listening). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Days_of_Wine_and_Roses_(song)
- Mona Lisa – Sung by Nat King Cole for the Alan Ladd film "Captain Carey, U.S.A." (1950) and went to #1 (1950). it has been often covered. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa_(Nat_King_Cole_song)
- Love Is a Many Splendored Thing – from the 1955 William Holden Jennifer Jones romantic film of the same name. The Four Aces covered it and had a #1 with it in 1955. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is_a_Many-Splendored_Thing_(song)
- Laura – the lyrics to this song were written after the film, "Laura" (1945) made the melody popular, though in the same year. It has become a standard. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_(1945_song)
- Song from Moulin Rouge – also known as "Where Is Your Heart" is a popular song that first appeared in the 1952 film "Moulin Rouge". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_from_Moulin_Rouge
- Sweet Leilani – A song sung first in the 1937 film, "Waikiki Wedding" by its star, Bing Crosby. It became one of the biggest hits of 193 and is a standard on both Hawaiian themed albums and movie albums. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Leilani
- Moon River – It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its performance by Audrey Hepburn in the Blake Edwards film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961). It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1962 though he never released it as a single. It has been covered many times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_River
- Ruby – a song from the 1952 film "Ruby Gentry" (starring Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston), also performed by Ray Charles in 1960. The song has become a standard.
- Three Coins in The Fountain – from the 1954 romance film of the same name. It refers to the act of throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome while making a wish. Each of the film's three stars performs this act. Frank Sinatra recorded the song first but The Four Aces had the #1 hit on the US (1954). Sinatra did well also (US #4, UK #1) and the song is associated with him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Coins_in_the_Fountain_(song)
- Be My Love – Mario Lanza sang the song with Kathryn Grayson in the film "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950) which they starred in. Bobby Vinton did it also on his "Bobby Vinton Sings the Big Ones" album from 1962. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_My_Love
- Fanny – from the Broadway play Fanny which was made into a film of the same name in 1961. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_(musical)
- The Exodus Song – The song is from the 1960 film about the creation of the Jewish state, "Exodus". The theme was popular: Ferrante & Teicher made #2 (1960) but Boone himself added lyrics to it in 1961. His version went to #64 (1961). Andy Williams then recorded it for his 1962 album "Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes" and it has become associated with him. It has been recorded by many others. http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2013/february/pat-boone-gives-exodus-song-to-holocaust-memorial/?mobile=false
I like movie theme albums and this is a good selection well sung by Boone. It would be great for dinner parties … I'm keeping it.
1960 The Exodus Song (This Land Is Mine)" #64
1963 The Days Of Wine and Roses #117
Failed to chart
The whole album
Days of Wine and Roses
The Exodus Song
* Composers and orchestras also did the movie theme thing … Henry Mancini: "Our Man in Hollywood" (1963) and "Theme From "Z" And Other Film Music" (1970), Peter Nero: "The Screen Scene" (1966), Marty Gold And His Orchestra: "Stereo Action Goes Hollywood" (1961), Nelson Riddle: "Interprets Great Music Great Films Great Sounds" (1964), Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra: "Most Popular Movie Hits As Styled By Cugat" (1962), Victor Silvester and His Silver Strings: "Great Film Melodies" (1962), Percy Faith: "Hollywood's Great Themes" (1962), "Held Over! Today's Great Movie Themes" (1970), Higo Montenegro: "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 1 (1927 – 1937)" (1961), "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 2 (1938 – 1944)" (1961), "Great Songs From Motion Pictures Vol. 3 (1945-1960)" (1961).
As did musicians … Ferrante & Teicher: "Music From The Motion Picture West Side Story And Other Motion Picture And Broadway Hits" (1961), Roger Williams: "Academy Award Winners" (1964), Liberace: "Piano Song Book Of Movie Themes" (1959) and "Plays Golden Themes From Hollywood" (1964), Buddy Morrow: "Night Train Goes To Hollywood" (1962), Chet Atkins: "Chet Atkins in Hollywood" (1959), Al Caiola: "The Return Of The Seven And Other Themes" (1967)
RIP: Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges; April 2, 1942 Lawton, Oklahoma, United States – November 13, 2016 Mount Juliet, Tennessee, United States)