In my recent article about Jean Sablon, I mentioned the name of Dick Todd, one of the many singers of the 1930s and 1940s who were influenced by the sound of Bing Crosby, so I thought it would be a good idea to begin this new installment of the Vintage Records Review Desk by spotlighting one of the precious few CDs currently available by this crooner once hailed as the "Canadian Crosby." The moniker was not without justification, since Todd often reminds us of Bing's husky voice from the 1930s, but it certainly has had a damaging effect on his legacy, as Todd has gone down in the history of pop music—when his name is brought up at all, that is—merely as one of several Crosby imitators. In his early years as a solo act, Frank Sinatra recorded a parody of "Sunday, Monday, or Always" for a V-Disc which went, "I'll soon become a wreck / They're breathing down my neck / Dick Haymes, Dick Todd, and Como." If anything, this is ample proof of Todd's popularity at the time (he had actually begun his recording career slightly earlier than Young Blue Eyes) yet unfortunately, his popularity began to dwindle in the late 1940s, and by the 1950s, he was a relic of the past, forgotten and unable to make any sort of comeback. However, even a superficial listen to the two-CD set Orchids for Remembrance (Jasmine, 2003), containing 52 sides cut for Bluebird during Todd's heyday, between 1938 and 1942, reveals how unfair his fate was.
"I'll Be Seeing You," "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," "How About You?" and "Say It Isn't So," to name but four. After several years of inactivity and personal problems, Todd was almost penniless when he passed away in 1973. Mr. David Lobosco remembers Todd in a rather detailed article published in his blog, A Trip Down Memory Lane, which you can read here.
"Sweet Lorraine," "Just You, Just Me," "Caravan" (with the benefit of composer Tizol's trombone), and "I Know That You Know." The ballads ("Blame It On My Youth," "You're Looking at Me") are moody, and there are also some nice surprises in a lovely, violin-laden reading of "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" and the lesser-known "Don't Let It Go to Your Head." This is essential listening for any jazz aficionado, and the 1999 CD reissue adds six more tracks to the twelve on the original LP. The most interesting of these are a pensive ballad treatment of "You Can Depend on Me," usually associated with blues shouter and big band singer Jimmy Rushing, and a swinging take on Johnny Mercer's "Candy."
"Like Young" and "Just in Time," the introspective treatment of Erroll Garner's "Misty" that features a celesta, the appealing Italian tune "(I Don't Care) Only Love Me," and the lyrically updated readings of "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "How About You" on My Buddy. Cut five years later, On Stage! seems to leave more room for Greco's piano playing ("Get Me to the Church on Time," for instance, includes a very engaging solo from him, while "It's Such a Happy Day" is an instrumental version of a rather lackluster tune written by Jackie Gleason) and also has its highlights, among them "The Best Man," "Dreamy," a magnificent extended reading of "I Can't Get Started," and the bluesy "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." This Collectables CD reissue also includes Greco's minor hit "Mr. Lonely," and even though the sound is good, the notes by Mark Marymont, while briefly outlining Greco's career, do not offer any information about the two albums contained herein, which is strange to say the least.
"I Had the Craziest Dream." Unfortunately, Deauville was involved in a car accident, following which his life depended on an iron lung for more than a year. This, together with his problems with polio and the fact that he was wheelchair-bound from then on, was a blow from which his career, sadly, never recovered. But Smoke Dreams remains a truly forgotten gem of 1950s classy pop singing that it is high time to rediscover. Fortunately, this is now possible thanks to The Vocal Touch of Ronnie Deauville (Sounds of Yesteryear, 2012), a very welcome British CD reissue that includes Deauville's wonderful 1956 LP, augmented by tracks from his 1948 radio broadcasts with Beneke and 1950 studio recordings with Anthony. The liner notes by Michael Highton are a little short but offer an overview of Deauville's tragically brief career, and if anyone is interested in reading some more about his life, there is a neatly written article on him here.
title track (coincidentally, one of the songs on Ronnie Deauville's Smoke Dreams), "When Your Lover Has Gone," "It's the Talk of the Town," "Angel Eyes," "Glad to Be Unhappy," "The End of a Love Affair," and the somewhat under-recorded "Dinner for One, Please James." There is also a sort of tribute to Crosby with the inclusion of "Easy to Remember" and "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance," and overall this is an excellent, well-rounded album that, albeit often overlooked, is one of the high points of Jeffries's career. And yes, that beautiful lady in a nightgown on the cover is, indeed, a young Barbara Eden, about eight years away from becoming the star of the NBC sitcom I Dream of Jeannie! Who knew???
|The original cover of Ronnie Deauville's 1956 album Smoke Dreams|