Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Me and My Shadow
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
Andrew Ballister | Providence, RI USA | 10/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The songs themselves and the performance styles are dated, so this collection will not appeal to everyone, but for those who take to the popular music of the first half of the 20th century, there is much to enjoy here. In his vocal renditions Smith conveys the understated elegance unique to that period, more Fred Astaire than Bing Crosby in his delivery of song: airy and effervescent rather than rich or soulful. Through sound he projects the image of artistocratic, debonair sophistication that one might associate with William Powell or David Niven, rather than presaging the more stolid figures who have dominated the silver screen and recording studio in the years since.
Smith's style cannot match Michael Bublé's lush, honey-cream tones, nor does it reflect the casual masculinity and broad range of Frank Sinatra, but it is remarkable singing nevertheless. On this recording Smith reveals a range of nearly two full octaves and an almost unbelievable degree of control regarding both emotional nuance and the caress of each note, no matter where on the vocal register it falls. His intonation and diction are flawless: the pitch of every note is dead-on, even when Smith sings delicately, which is most of the time. Each word is crisp and easy to understand, thanks both to his artful delivery and to the care that must have been taken during production sessions to ensure balance among the sound elements. Despite the low singing volume used, a remarkable resonance comes across through the microphone. During the spoken patter that constitutes some the middle sections of some songs, one can hear the broad range of expression Smith uses even in his speaking voice. He tells a story with each song, rather than just singing and hoping that you catch the lyrics.
Having not heard the original recordings when they came out, I can only guess at the effectiveness of remastering for a digital medium, but surface noise seems to be almost nonexistent; the sound quality is superb. Listening to the "whispering baritone" tackle this repertoire, one can forget how difficult it is to make a song sound so easy to sing so well. Smith simply seems to be having a good time, as if the notes spin out effortlessly, a feat that only great performers can manage to pull off.
About a third of the numbers here feature solo piano accompaniment; the others engage a backup band or orchestra. The arrangements are ideal and delivered with panache. Much of the piano playing is first-rate during the solo introductions and riffs, and splendid as background accompaniment too. Six of the selections feature Smith himself on the keyboard, deftly tossing off some remarkably complex renditions. The orchestral performers match the mood of each piece on the songs that include the fuller accompaniment.
Many of the tunes are very catchy; I had heard only a few of them before but find that at least half a dozen stayed with me after only one or two listening sessions. Some are funny, some wistfully sentimental, one or two a bit sad. Most are gently cheerful, perhaps in their day bringing a few minutes' worth of relief during some tough years (the Depression hit shortly after the initial release of most of these recordings).
Reflections of the times include currently objectionable references to "darkies" in "The Birth of the Blues" and dated but perhaps less offensive phrases such as "a feller and his girl", delivered with the sort of playful abashedness that might bring to mind "Our Gang" ("The Little Rascals") or Archie comics, a bemused self consciousness that may seem even more humorous now, set against the backdrop of the other period lyrics that no one today could get away with even pretending to sing with any degree of sincerity.
With 25 songs in all, some are bound to please more than others, but for anyone who likes this kind of music, the recording is worth far more than its budget price. I bought extra copies to give to friends and family. With "Me and My Shadow", "Cecilia", "Blue Skies", "Miss Annabelle Lee", "I Kiss Your Hand, Madame", "Crazy Rhythm", and other songs by Gershwin or Berlin, some of which have remained famous decades after their debuts, a good number of the selections are bound to win you over, if you have been interested enough to read this much! Highly recommended for fans of nostalgic tunes and bygone eras."
The best cd of the corniest 1920's crooner!!!
da-54chevyMAN | 12/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everyone knows that Bing Crosby was the only serious crooner of the 20's, and the others sound pretty fey in comparison, but they are all so campy and corny that thier great. Along with Gene Austin, Nick Lucas, Russ Colombo, Rudy Vallee, and Chick Bullock, Whispering Jack Smith was one of many campy 20's crooners. I think he stands out as the campiest, sort of speaking his way through the songs, however at least he sounds masculine unlike Austin, or Vallee. It's said he injured a lung in the war, hence his whispering style, however thanks to the mic, he became a star(at least he had an excuse for having a little voice). The art of crooning is showcased here on this great asv release, which includes all of Smith's trademark songs, including a great version of My Blue Heaven. This cd is certianly worth acquiring if you aRE INTO CROONERS, OR FOR THSOE who wanted to hear why singers like Crosby and Annette Hanshaw were so great. A good cd!!!"
A little goes a long way
Jmark2001 | Florida | 06/12/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Jack Smith's unique vocals work best with a small back-up band. He is at his best on "Miss Annabelle Lee," which may be the definitive version of that hit song. Smith's "whispered" baritone hits the suitable near awe/leer over Annabelle's charms. When he is accompanied solely by piano or when is he camping it up, his style wears quickly. He retired in the '30's when he saw the handwriting on the wall - fewer paying customers, for one. There is enough here to please twenties fans and collectors but also some dead wood."