Love These Songs
LOVE THESE SONGS --Jonathan Francis 1) YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG (1946) Mack Gordon - Josef Myrow --One of those songs that really lives up to it's title. I always feel a bounce in my step when and after I sing it. Mack Gordon was one of those lyricists of the l940s who found steady employment in Hollywood writing songs for the stars on the studios' payroll. Many of the movies of that era may have been terrible, but a lot of good songs were written for them. Gordon teamed with Harry Warren at 20th Century Fox during the war years. Later he wrote this song with the lesser known Josef Myrow and it has since become an American Song Book classic. 2) THE GIRLS OF SUMMER (The Girls of Summer 1956) Stephen Sondheim With it's lilting bluesy swing melody and accompaniment, this song perfectly evokes the romantic atmosphere of a summer at the beach. The story is an old one and it ends with "I've got nothin' but blues." 3) (Love Is) THE TENDER TRAP (1955) Sammy Cahn - James Van Huesen Made famous in the movie "The Tender Trap" (1956) with Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds, it was sung three separate times and left a memorable impression. Cahn and Van Heusen were Sinatra's mainstay song writers who gave him a solid lyric of the heart. Cahn wrote words that people would really say and not so much about moonbeams and dreams. 4) MY SHIP (1941) Ira Gershwin - Kurt Weill Beautiful imagery and a haunting melody are the hallmarks of a great song. Composed for the musical "Lady in the Dark" (1941) the protagonist is trying to recall, in a psychodrama of 3 sequential dreams, this very song from her childhood. Fragments of the melody drift in and out of the score until, at last, in the finale, it is remembered and sung. 5 ) SKYLARK (1941) Johnny Mercer - Hoagy Carmichael --Vintage Johnny Mercer with a particularly strong evocation of the natural surroundings of his childhood in and around Savannah, Georgia. The melody by Hoagy Carmichael with it's complex bridge making two key changes in eight bars is wonderfully fresh and surprising. A Los Angeles area news reporter recounted how he had an appointment to interview Mercer at his home. He arrived by car and was parking in the street when he saw Mercer in the yard feeding some birds. "Well" he thought, "it's comforting to know that Johnny Mercer really does like birds!" 6) THERE WON'T BE TRUMPETS (cut from Anyone Can Whistle, 1964) Stephen Sondheim -A wonderful arrangement of pure Sondheim genius has trumpets sounding from every corner belying the song's title. The gradual build up in tempo and intensity is punctuated by a waltz-like segment just before the final denial of the necessity for trumpets. How could they have "cut" this one? 7) LUSH LIFE (1949) Billy Strayhorn -One of the most atmospheric songs ever written. Whether singing or listening you will breathe Strayhorn's air and find yourself transported to his world. 8) MOUNTAIN GREENERY (1926) Rodgers and Hart This is one of four songs by R & H that I chose for this recording. The rhythm is totally infectious and the repeated jumps up and down a seventh (musical interval) is wonderfully evocative. I can just feel myself driving up one side of the mountain and down the other to get to my "mountain greenery home." 9) YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS (1941) Don Raye - Gene DePaul - A song that seems to defy any further comment. It expresses sorrow as only music and words combined, can. 10) I WISH IT SO (1959) Marc Blitzstein There is a saying about artists that "All painting is self portraiture." And for composers, music is often their form of self portraiture. When I sing this song, it seems as though Blitzstein is coming alive and revealing himself to me in a very intimate way. 11) MY FUNNY VALENTINE (1937) Rodgers and Hart This is a favorite of mine. I love the poignant irreverent humor, the internal rhymes and repetitions, the pleading "Stay little valentine, stay!" and the elegant descending base line that supports the entire song. Some say that the reason Lorenz Hart was able to write such poignantly beautiful lyrics is that his own love relationships were so strained and difficult. 12) DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE (1942) Duke Ellington - Bob Russel -A song from the World War II era, that promoted the idea that women left at home were remaining faithful to their men overseas. The opening verse to this song reads: When I'm not playing solitaire I take a book down from the shelf, And what with programs on the air I keep pretty much to myself. 13) I'LL TELL THE MAN IN THE STREET ( I Married an Angel 1938) Rodgers and Hart - A rarely performed number with a great arching melody. Originally it was done as a jaunty fox-trot but like many R & H songs it works equally well as a ballad. I particularly like it with the verse setting up a nice contrast to the expansive chorus. 14) I COULD WRITE A BOOK (Pal Joey 1940) Rodgers and Hart I usually tear up when I get to the part--- "And the simple secret of the plot---is just to tell them that I love you---a lot." I still don't know why. THREE SCOTTISH BALLADS The following three songs have been on my list of favorites for many years. It was Ewan MacColl, the Scottish balladeer, who first let me hear the pure emotional intensity of an unadorned human voice. He sang in a steady, rhythmic, musical line without accompaniment. His reedy tremolo coloration was the perfect compliment to these ancient narrative tales. 15)THE BATTLE OF HARLAW The battle of Harlaw took place on July 24, 1411, when an army of Highlanders led by Donald of the Isles was beaten by the Earl of Mar's Lowland forces. Child published 2 versions. This version is from Jeannie Robertson of Dundee and Ewan MacColl. 16)SIR PATRICK SPENS I particularly like this one with it's bagpipe-like ornaments. I can almost hear the low drones underneath during it's seventeen verses. Motherwell has suggested that this fine ballad my be based upon the events following the marriage of Margaret, daughter of Alexander III of Scotland to Eric, King of Norway in 1281. Many of the nobles who conducted the young queen to Norway were drowned on the return voyage. Child publishes 18 versions of this ballad. Ewan MacColl's father taught it to him. 17) LORD RANDALL Known throughout Europe and America in substantially the same form, Randall is a perfect example of the question and answer ballad. The name of the hero varies a good deal from version to version. Henry I of England (fourth son of William the Conqueror) died Dec 1, 1135 after a "surfeit of Lampreys" (eels - of which he was excessively fond) in Normandy. Child publishes 15 texts. Ewan MacColl's mother taught it to him. Musical direction, piano arrangements and accompaniment by Jason Martineau Produced by Jason Martineau Recorded and mixed December, 2009 at Fantasy Recording Studio, Berkeley, Calif. Engineered by Alberto Hernandez.