Boy Meets Girl: Sammy Davis, Jr. & Carmen McRae On Decca
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Verve's Boy Meets Girl: Sammy Davis, Jr. & Carmen McRae on Decca documents the two late-'50s records featuring duets between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae. 1958's Boy Meets Girl has both singers on all the tracks, while 1959's Porgy and Bess is Sammy's show all the way as McRae is on only a couple of songs. Boy Meets Girl is the more pleasurable of the two albums as the duo tackles some of the best tunes big-time writers like Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jerome Kern had to offer, classics like "You're the Top," "Cheek to Cheek," "A Fine Romance," and "Two Sleepy People." Swinging easily throughout, they sound like two pals who are having the time of their lives (the amazing photos in the CD booklet seem to bear this out). Sammy goofs his way through the album, casting asides like a wisecracking kid, while Carmen sails along like the consummate pro she always was. They achieve a perfect balance between sophisticated charm (McRae) and eager-to-please hamminess (Davis), and the record is a joy from beginning to end. Of particular note are their take on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (where Sam cracks up Carmen a couple of times), the very romantic "There's a Small Hotel" (which shows the pair weren't all laughs but had some emotional depth too), and their lighthearted romp through "You're the Top." With no weak tracks, the album should rate right up there with any vocal duet album made. The Verve collection adds the cha cha novelty tune "I Go for You," a non-LP side, for good measure. Porgy and Bess presents more of a challenge to their fan bases as the record is piled to the sky with strings, harps, choruses, and pillowy orchestration. On "Summertime" Carmen is nearly drowned out by the orchestra and Sammy has to beat back the orchestra and vocal chorus on too many occasions. He's usually up for it, though; his voice has a magnificent power that might surprise people who know him as just a wisecracking hipster. Listen to him tackle "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" or dazzle his way through "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York"; it's the sound of a man holding nothing back. Carmen shines too on a dramatic "My Man's Gone Now" that shows what a great interpreter she was, and the pair's one duet on the record, "I Loves You Porgy," manages to be sweet despite the overbearing strings. The best tracks on the record are Sammy's romp through "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing" and his storming "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'," tracks that have some energy and jazz pulsing behind the stifling strings and choruses. Call the record an admirable effort or a qualified success. It never really succeeds as an enjoyable listening experience, because the arrangements are just too proper and academic. They serve to bury the emotion behind the words and weaken the power of the melodies. Credit Sammy and Carmen for holding up their end of the deal. You just have to wonder how much better the record could have been if the arrangements were looser, if there were some swing involved. Despite the problems one might have with Porgy and Bess, the pairing of these two albums is a long-awaited treat to fans of both singers.
Everyone heard Mr. Bojangles if they are over 30 years of age in the US. But have you listened to Sammy sing? One of a kind voice with exceptional passion. The only thing of this collection is that like the liner notes suggest, the arrangements, the recoding , the band aren't allowing him to achieve his full potential on the tracks. I wish he were alive today to record the way Tony Bennett gets to with young vibrant producers and musical settings.
I love it!! I'm 35 but this collection makes me appreciate true original jazz my parents expose me to. Keep it coming! Carmen is a great singer great voice.
Born: December 8, 1925 in Harlem, New York, NY
Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s