Album of the Year Project

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Albuman, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    Award ceremonies are pointless. They’re so predictable that there are millions of results on Google for “how to win Oscar pools.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean the winners are all undeserving of praise. So I’m going to review every album that was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy Award, and I’m going to determine whether the winners deserved the award over its competitors. Just to be clear, I’m not going to rant about what albums weren’t nominated that should have been. You won’t see me complaining that, for example, the 60th Grammy Awards Ceremony should have given a nomination to After Laughter by Paramore, especially not when that year had plenty of other things to complain about. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin, shall we?
     
  2. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Go for it.

    Personally I am pleased when a favourite album gets nominated even if it doesn't win. Voting throws up strange results sometimes, especially if, as I suspect, it's each judge getting to vote for the one album they consider should win.
     
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  3. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    Before I continue, I was apparently not aware that I couldn't edit the first post of a thread for some reason. It's supposed to say "whether the winners deserved the award over their competitors," not "its competitors." My apologies. Anyway...

    1st Annual Grammy Awards - May 4, 1959
    • Henry Mancini, The Music From Peter Gunn
    • Frank Sinatra, Come Fly With Me
    • Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Sings Only For The Lonely
    • Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book
    • Van Cliburn, Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23
    Peter Gunn was a detective show that ran for three seasons. It was the first TV detective show that wasn’t adapting a property from other media. This was a completely original property. I bring that up because that’s apparently the most notable thing about it aside from the soundtrack. You can thank composer Henry Mancini for the score, which is exactly what the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences did when they awarded him the inaugural Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
    The Music From Peter Gunn is classified as a jazz album, but as Mancini himself put it in his autobiography, “the Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz.” And it absolutely does. Before the brass kicks in, the intro sounds like it would’ve fit snugly into a Pixies song. I haven’t seen the Peter Gunn show, so I couldn’t tell you if the pulp energy of the theme song fits the overall tone, but listening to the theme song, you expect some TV announcer to show up and exclaim “Action!” and “Thrills!” The second song, Sorta Blue, would sound perfect playing over a shot of a sidewalk at night, a lit street lamp next to a dark alleyway. It’s an effective song that bridges the gap between the excitement of the title theme and the relative mellifluous vibe of the rest of the album. Session at Pete’s Pad and Fallout! do pick up the pace a little, but nowhere close to that of the title theme. Overall, it’s a solid record. I’d say it’s worth checking out.
    But did The Music From Peter Gunn deserve to win over the other nominees? Let’s run down the list and find out. The first of the four runners-up is Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, performed wonderfully by pianist Van Cliburn. The second is Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book, which is exactly what it says in the title: Ella Fitzgerald (and conductor Paul Weston) performing songs written by Irving Berlin, one of the most celebrated songwriters in American history. You know Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Cheek To Cheek, and Puttin’ On The Ritz? Those were by him. As an aside, I would like to point out that this was the late 1950s. The Jim Crow laws were still in effect and the civil rights movement had been going on for a few years. Imagine that during this time, the first ever Album of the Year Grammy was given to a black woman (for an album of songs written by a Jewish immigrant, no less). That would’ve been worth putting in the history books. But I digress. Finally, there’s Frank Sinatra. “Wait,” you say, “weren’t there four other nominees?” There were. Ol’ Blue Eyes had TWO albums nominated that year. Don’t worry that he still didn’t win, the Academy will make it up to him. Anyway, the two albums we’re talking about are Come Fly With Me (a sort of musical trip around the world) and Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely (a collection of torch songs in the same vein as his 1955 album In The Wee Small Hours).
    To be honest, none of the albums really stand out as being so much better than the others in my opinion. I enjoyed The Music From Peter Gunn, but any one of the nominees would’ve been a decent pick for Album of the Year, which is impressive because it’s not often you can say that.
     
  4. I prefer ' Come Fly With Me '...but I won ' t lose any sleep over Mancini winning. 'Peter Gunn ' is a great instrumental.
     
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  5. Oh ! Good thread idea. Looking forward to the responses.
    And welcome to you...
     
  6. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    It makes little sense to compare a classical recording with the other four, which is no doubt why they later introduced lots of categories.
     
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  7. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    There was no equivalent category for classical music at first. Blame the Academy.
     
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  8. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    2nd Annual Grammy Awards - November 29, 1959
    • Frank Sinatra, Come Dance With Me!
    • Henry Mancini, More Music From Peter Gunn
    • Van Cliburn, Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
    • Harry Belafonte, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall
    • Robert Russell Bennett, Victory At Sea, Vol. I
    The first thing you will notice about the second Grammy Awards ceremony is that it was held the same year as the first ceremony. I guess they couldn’t wait until 1960 to do it again, and indeed, no ceremony was held that year. In fact, it seems the Academy was so excited to do it again that three of the nominees from the first ceremony were brought back. However, instead of Ella Fitzgerald (who did release an album between the two ceremonies), they had Harry Belafonte. At first glance, it may seem like one of those sequels that got rushed out, especially since Henry Mancini’s album this time is a follow-up to the album that won him the award just six months earlier. But we’ll give a fair assessment regardless.
    Come Dance With Me! is Frank Sinatra’s most successful album, spending 140 weeks on the Billboard Pop Album chart. That’s over two and a half years. So how is the album? Eh, it’s your standard lively Frank Sinatra affair, save for the closing ballad The Last Dance.
    What about the other nominees?
    Van Cliburn gives as wonderful a performance as the last one, this time of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30. I always think it’s kind of unfortunate when someone is nominated multiple times but never wins. Ah well, c’est la vie. Anyway, Henry Mancini delivers another solid jazz album, but Harry Belafonte’s live album Belafonte at Carnegie Hall captures an incredible (and occasionally humorous) performance from the famed singer. I regret that I personally never listened to Belafonte’s work closely enough to realize what a great singer he is. Finally, there’s Victory At Sea, Vol. I, taken from the soundtrack for an Emmy Award-winning documentary series about naval warfare. Before this, composer Robert Russell Bennett had been an arranger on Broadway for decades. He made a small but crucial writing contribution to Oklahoma!, which may explain why legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers (who wrote the music for Oklahoma!) worked with him on the soundtrack (although Bennett composed a large majority of the music for the series).
    Again, all the nominees are fine. I might give the slight edge to Harry Belafonte, but as with the first ceremony, I don’t disapprove of the winner.
     
  9. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    I had never heard of this Cliburn character but it seems he had good taste.

    During the 1950s most of the music I liked was classical, and if I went back in time I still think that would be the case.
     
  10. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    Cliburn certainly had an interesting biography. At least I assume as much because there's an international piano competition named for him.
     
  11. So , did they give Frank the Grammy in '59 because they didn' t give it to him in '58 ?
    Maybe some 'pressure' was put on the voters.
     
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  12. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    I'm sure that wasn't actually the case, but I find it funny to think it might be.
     
  13. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    3rd Annual Grammy Awards - April 13, 1961
    • Bob Newhart, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
    • Frank Sinatra, Nice ‘n’ Easy
    • Harry Belafonte, Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall
    • Sviatoslav Richter, Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ major, Op. 83
    • Erich Leinsdorf, Puccini: Turandot
    • Nat King Cole, Wild Is Love
    As John Waters would say, welcome to the Sixties. 1960 didn’t have a ceremony because the Academy already commemorated the music of 1959 in November of 1959. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the saying goes, which is probably why Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte are back again. We’ll get to them in a bit, but first, let’s take a look at the winner. Also, bear in mind that this ceremony increased the number of nominees from five to six. So I apologize if this is a lengthy read.
    The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart is comedian Bob Newhart’s first album. You may be surprised to learn that a comedian won Album of the Year and Best New Artist, though not nearly as surprised as you will be to learn that this was a number one album on Billboard. Yeah, this album was a huge commercial success. It debuted at number one on Billboard and stayed there for fourteen weeks. In total, it was on the chart for two whole years. It’s currently the 20th best-selling album in Billboard chart history. So how is it? Eh, seems like it was a lot funnier at the time. Each routine uses the same format: he sets up a premise and then has a speech or conversation or phone call in which a large number of the funny moments are him reacting to the imaginary second party. For example, in The Cruise of the U.S.S. Codfish, there’s a nuclear submarine that traveled the globe for two years without pulling into port as a sort of endurance test for the sailors inside, and the captain is giving a speech to the disgruntled sailors just before the vessel rises to the surface. Merchandising the Wright Brothers was kind of funny, but most of the album comes across as what I’d call “senior citizen humor.” As in, the only people who would find this gut-bustingly hilarious are people who are currently senior citizens. For real, the audience sounds like they could fall over laughing at any moment during Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball.
    Let’s move onto the other nominees. Harry Belafonte’s first Carnegie Hall performance was pretty funny at points, so we’ll start with its sequel. Belafonte brought a few folk musicians to help him out this time. He has some backup singers creatively named The Belafonte Folk Singers, for starters. Then there’s The Chad Mitchell Trio, Odetta (who Belafonte cited as a key influence on his music career), and famed South African singer Miriam Makeba. Once again, it’s an incredible performance. Frank Sinatra returns from his win at the previous ceremony with more of what people like about the music of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter performs Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ major, Op. 83 quite well. Then there’s Puccini: Turandot, a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot conducted by Austrian-born conductor Erich Leinsdorf. It’s pretty good. Finally, there’s Wild Is Love by Nat King Cole. This is a concept album chronicling a narrator’s multiple attempts to pick up women before finally finding love. Honestly, with a voice like that, you’d think he’d have an easier time of it.
    For the first of what will assuredly be multiple times, I disagree with the choice of winner. Bob Newhart just didn’t do it for me. Harry Belafonte had a more deserving album. Heck, Nat King Cole would’ve been a better pick.
     
  14. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    4th Annual Grammy Awards - May 29, 1962
    • Judy Garland, Judy at Carnegie Hall
    • Henry Mancini, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    • Nat King Cole, The Nat King Cole Story
    • Ray Charles, Genius + Soul = Jazz
    • Si Zentner & the Johnny Mann Singers, Great Band with Great Voices
    • Various Artists, West Side Story
    At this ceremony, the Academy created a new category: Album of the Year - Classical. So if you liked Van Cliburn, Sviatoslav Richter, and Erich Leinsdorf, I’m sorry to say they won’t be in this category from here on out. But there’s no time to grieve, so let’s get right into it.
    Judy Garland needs no introduction. What I would like to point out is that it seems a little unfair to Harry Belafonte, who had two Carnegie Hall performances nominated for Album of the Year, neither of which won. It wasn’t her fault, but I did feel it was worth pointing out. Looking at it from a different perspective, though, Carnegie Hall had some great concerts back in the day. I’m tempted to ask you to spare a thought for the guy who had to sit through a two hour live album, but then I realized none of the people who attended the actual show complained. Judy Garland was going through something of a career revival at the time, having spent the 1950s suffering from drug abuse and weight gain. Rejuvenated from a long rest and weight loss, she toured North America and Europe between 1960 and 1961. The tour was a huge success, so naturally her record label wanted to capitalize on that reception with a live album. The album was so successful that it gave Judy Garland the distinction of being the first woman to win Album of the Year. Keep in mind she was only the second woman to be nominated for the award. I’m not saying Ella Fitzgerald absolutely had to win, but, you know, it would’ve been cool. In fairness, Judy Garland being the first woman to win is nothing to sneeze at. This tour and album were both huge successes, after all. So how is it? It’s alright. It goes from upbeat and jaunty to mellow and sentimental at a good pace. I liked it more than the previous Album of the Year recipient, but not enough to call it anything above “decent.” For some reason, after every song between the You Made Me Love You medley and Chicago, they play an instrumental version of Over The Rainbow and it seems like they’re treating it like the outro for the entire concert. Like, they’ll play it as Judy waves the audience goodbye and walks off stage. But then she keeps coming back on to do another song and it gets either amusing or annoying depending on your sense of humor. In short, I’d probably recommend this album to anyone who wants something to listen to while they’re getting chores done around the house.
    Alright, onto the runners-up. Henry Mancini returns with another soundtrack, this time for the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While this may have won him an Oscar for Best Original Score and the song Moon River won him Record and Song of the Year, Mancini evidently had less luck at Album of the Year. Oh, also, if you’ve ever seen the movie, you’ll know that Mickey Rooney’s performance as a Japanese caricature has aged like jokes about Leonardo DiCaprio not having an Oscar. There’s a song named for Rooney’s character, Mr. Yunioshi, with stereotypically Asian-sounding instruments and all. It’s not terrible, but it is out of place. The rest of the album is quite good. Next, there’s The Nat King Cole Story, a 36 song collection of Cole’s earlier hits re-recorded in stereo. That’s right. I sat through two hours of Judy Garland and one hundred minutes of Nat King Cole. I apparently have way more free time than I thought. But I digress. The Nat King Cole Story is pretty good, though whether you think it’s better than Wild Is Love is a matter of personal taste. However, Wild Is Love is the closing track on this album, so your choice may boil down to which version of the song you prefer. Then there’s the West Side Story film soundtrack, also an enormous commercial success. Outside of the two songs everyone knows, it’s fine. If you’re not a Broadway fan, however, I wouldn’t say this will be the soundtrack that converts you into one, in spite of its legendary status. Next is Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz. Again, it’s fine. Not that it’s bland, but the songs kind of blend together in my opinion. And finally, there’s Great Band with Great Voices by Si Zentner & the Johnny Mann Singers. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them or the album, I didn’t either before this project. That’s part of why I’m doing this anyway. Simon “Si” Zentner was a trombonist and Johnny Mann was an arranger and conductor, among other things. One of those other things is a composer, but he didn’t do much composing for this album. Instead, you’ll find such familiar standards as It’s A Lonesome Old Town (which Frank Sinatra sang on Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely), St. Louis Blues (which Nat King Cole sang on The Nat King Cole Story), and Baubles, Bangles, and Beads (which Frank Sinatra sang on Come Dance with Me!). Get this, though. There’s another standard on the album called Deep Purple. Yes, the legendary rock band named themselves after it, as the original version by pianist Pete De Rose was the favorite song of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother. Anyway, Great Band with Great Voices is also fine.
    Truth be told, I didn’t have a strong opinion either way for any of the albums this year. I’m really looking forward to the Seventies when the albums start getting interesting.
     
  15. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Comedy dates very noticeably. So much depends on social context. Comedians here who were raising belly laughs a decade ago are having trouble getting gigs.

    As for this particular album, U.S. comedy is often funny only to Americans, because it tends to be so full of national "in" jokes and cultural references. It's quite different in this respect from British humour, which despite its clear origins seems to deal with universal themes to which even people that have never been to the UK can relate. What this ramble is leading up to is this: based on your description I think I would find that album totally unfunny, but that's not saying a lot because I find that with a lot of U.S. comedy.
     
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  16. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    1962 is the first year for which I have a firm opinion. West Side Story hands down. It still sounds fresh. I still listen in awe to songs like "America" and ""Tonight". Not via that particular recording, of course.
     
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  17. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    That's not entirely true. In the ceremony after this one, there's a comedy album that I thought held up really well.
     
  18. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    Cool. I'm personally not the biggest fan of showtunes, but I do acknowledge that everyone will have their own personal taste.
     
  19. ' West Side Story ' is a classic musical but I can understand the Judy Garland nod. She was Judy Garland--' nuff said.
     
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  20. ghoulsurgery

    ghoulsurgery House Ghost

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    New Jersey
  21. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
  22. The Grammy people sorted out this bizarre mix of comedy / pop music/ classical music in due course.
     
  23. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    5th Annual Grammy Awards - May 15, 1963
    • Vaughn Meader, The First Family
    • Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
    • Tony Bennett, I Left My Heart in San Francisco
    • Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd, Jazz Samba
    • Allan Sherman, My Son, the Folk Singer
    If you’re not familiar with U.S. politics, I envy you. But if you don’t know, the “First Family” is what people call the President’s family (similarly, the President’s wife is called the “First Lady”). Since John F. Kennedy was president at the time, The First Family is about him and his family. Like The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, The First Family was a huge commercial success. It was once the highest-selling album of all time, believe it or not. Unlike Bob Newhart, though, Vaughn Meader’s career did not last very long. Since Meader’s fame was based entirely on his JFK impersonation, you could say that Kennedy and Meader’s career were both killed on November 22, 1963. When you finish reading this review, go read Vaughn Meader’s Wikipedia page if you want to know just how bad it got. Now then, how’s the actual album? Well, it’s funnier than The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart for sure, but not by much. I liked the last track, Bedtime Story, in which JFK tells his daughter Caroline a bedtime story about a beloved president prince who fought off enemies like "the evil prince with the black beard from the island in the south" and "the terrible fat bear from the cold north." When Kennedy leaves, Caroline remarks that “these sessions do him so much good.” But like The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, I wouldn’t exactly give the album two thumbs up overall. Onto the other nominees.
    Ah, finally, something familiar: Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. It’s good; give it a listen. Then there’s Jazz Samba by saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd. It’s a very “chill” sound that’s perfect for having on when you’re getting work done. Next there’s My Son, the Folk Singer, an album of folk song parodies by comedy writer Allan Sherman. This was also a big commercial success. I guess comedy albums in the early 1960s were bigger money-makers than I ever could’ve suspected, but upon reflection, I shouldn’t be too surprised knowing Allan Sherman was involved. You know the song Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh? He wrote that (or rather, co-wrote it, but you get the point). And did you know he was Jewish? You’ll definitely know that if you play this album; it’s filled with Jewish humor. I can neither confirm nor deny that the Jewish humor had any bearing on what I’m about to say, but this is definitely the funniest of all the comedy albums I’ve heard in this project so far. If you like Mel Brooks, you’ll probably like this album. Finally, there’s Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco. The title track won him Record of the Year, and it's well-deserved. The dude’s a music legend for good reason.
    Once again, I disagree with the winner. The First Family is not terrible by any means, but the only way I could see myself recommending it is if you’re a big JFK nerd. Otherwise, the Academy doesn't have especially great taste in comedy if The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart and The First Family are any indication. The other nominees would’ve been better picks. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music isn’t a 10 out of 10, but it is a classic. Jazz Samba and I Left My Heart in San Francisco are both really good too. And heck, if the Academy wanted to award Album of the Year to a comedy album, My Son, the Folk Singer would’ve been a better choice for Album of the Year.
    Ah well, c’est la vie.
     
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  24. Albuman

    Albuman Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maryland
    Just so you guys know, I've been on this project since the beginning of August, so I have a few reviews already written.
     
  25. bob_32_116

    bob_32_116 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Based on the little I know of those albums, I'd probably plump for the Tony Bennett one. Though I certainly can't deny the talents of ray Charles and Stan & Charlie I am not into jazz nor country. And that's the problem with these lists - a problem they would eventually address - which album you prefer depends so much on what kind of listener you are. It's not so much comparing apples to oranges, more like comparing apples to zebras.
     
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