Peggy Lee On Record (1941-1995)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Ridin'High, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    This thread will be dedicated to a chronological discussion of Peggy's music (her key singles, albums, performances on radio, film, television, and concert). Do feel free to discuss here anything pertaining to Peggy, her work and life, even if the topic is not directly related to whichever music piece I might have singled out at the moment. In other words, and to quote those two great philosophers of music, Mr. Bobby McFerrin & Mr. Cole Porter: Don't Worry, Be Happy; Anything Goes!

    On a more serious note, and to give credit where credit is due, this thread should be considered an offshoot of the following predecessors, which were more directly focused on Lee's record contracts with specific labels: Peggy Lee at Capitol Records », Peggy Lee at Decca Records (1952-1957) », and Peggy Lee's Records From Her Post-Capitol Years (1974-1995) ».

    My primary source of information will be The Peggy Lee Discography and Videography », supplemented by various other sources that I'll be happy to mention upon request, as we keep trucking along. (As for the nice album montage below, I took it from blogger Mr. Peacock: It's a Good Day—Miss Peggy Lee ».)

    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  2. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Of the 32 songs that Peggy Lee recorded as a canary with The Benny Goodman Orchestra, "Where or When" and "Why Don't You Do Right" earn top ranking. In this ongoing thread, we'll start out with "Where or When," leaving the other song for another post.

    "Where or When" was recorded at Liederkranz Hall in New York during the afternoon of December 24, 1941 with a sextet that included Goodman on clarinet and Mel Powell on both piano and celeste, along with Lee. (All three participants are pictured below.) By that time, this Broadway tune had already been around for five years, having even hit the top of the charts back in 1937. We can thus surmise that Goodman and company were not recording it as part of a pursuit for a chart hit.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Critics' Assessments

    "The finest version of "Where or When," and among the earliest -- the pared-down recording that Peggy Lee and the Benny Goodman Sextet made in a New York studio on Christmas Eve 1941, barely two weeks after America entered the Second World War -- speaks to the quavering uncertainty of that historical moment and remains, for me, the most poignant jazz record ever made."
    (Benjamin Schwarz, book reviewer for The Atlantic magazine, November 2012 issue)

    "In 1941 Benny Goodman ... led a small group to a New York studio to record some music. Like a delicate ceramic sitting on a dusty shelf, one particular song still stands out. 'Where or When' ... featured Benny Goodman on clarinet and a 21-year-old Peggy Lee on vocals. Lee's performance is a study in understatement ... Her austere delivery of the song's lyrics -- on the fleeting nature of love -- takes on a poignancy that the songwriters themselves could never have envisioned. Lee's performance is a perfect reflection of a moment in time. In her tender reading, the song's hopeful return seems to capture the fears and prayers of a country sending its children off to war. Lee's youthful recording never made the hit parade ... But today, when once again thousands of Americans are serving overseas, her whispered take of "Where or When," from December 24, 1941 resonates louder than any other: a timeless Christmas wish for those who are away that the where is safely home and the when will be soon, very soon."
    (Music journalist Ashey Khan, author of the book A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album. On NPR, 2003. Source: 'Where or When': A Song's Enduring Impact » )

    Music critics have deservedly singled out the Godman-Lee version of "Where or When" for praise, pointing to not only its artistic merit but also its historical significance. The inspired words of Ashely Khan and Benjamin Schwarz have already been quoted above. But we don't need to be big-wig critics to become wrapped up in the sentiment and atmosphere of this performance. Lots of YouTube listeners have captured (and have been captured by) its magic. Let me quote just one YouTuber: "Hell, this is almost unbearably intimate. It's as if her voice is coming from inside you, like thought."

    Peggy Lee's Assessment

    Asked which were her favorite numbers from her years working with Benny Goodman, Peggy herself singled out "Where or When," along with "The Way You Look Tonight." (The latter is also a pretty good recording. Its mood, vocal, and instrumentation qualify it as a sequel to "Where or When.")

    Peggy's own account of how the song was recorded in the studio makes for interesting reading: "We did some sextette numbers -- Where Or When, and The Way You Look Tonight -- at the Liederkranz Hall. Benny wanted to use one microphone for all musicians as well as the singer, which called for more gymnastics. [The microphone was hanging high, quite a few feet away from the floor.] Lou McGarity, playing trombone, would first crawl up in the air (on boxes), then we somehow managed to remain relatively silent and hold our breath in passing each other as I crawled up for my vocal and he crawled down. Those recordings may seem rather moody, and somehow they were, but it was also, after all, a little dangerous ... either of us could have crashed to the floor. But if Benny said do it, we did it."

    Further Assessments

    ShockControl, you are by no means alone in feeling that way. I too have told myself from time to time that, during her years with Goodman, Peggy Lee was not "fully formed" yet. (Similar opinions have indeed been expressed about many other singers, both male and female, who served as crooners or canaries, and who went on to later fame.) There is definitely truth to that assessment. Peggy and many such singers were young at the time, and would go on to refine their craft.

    But, if they do sound far off from what we have come to expect, there is another, more crucial reason: they simply weren't in full control. Nor were they regarded as the primary focus of most performances. In the world of big band music, canaries and crooners were at the service of the bandleaders and their handlers, for whom the primary interest was to create music to dance to -- that is, music that could excite concertgoers [or incite couples in love]. This was, moreover, music that made use of a full orchestra, thereby giving primacy to the cacophony of instruments. The singers were boxed into tightly constructed arrangements and required to sing in ways that could easily take away their individuality. Many bandleaders (as well as listeners of the time) thought of band vocalists as an insignificant concession (to the portion of the audience who wanted to hear lyrics), rather than an integral part of the music ensembles.

    And that's one of the reasons why this version of "Where or When" is an important performance within Peggy's canon: its among the very few canary numbers of hers that were done not with the full orchestra but with a small group. In such small group performances, Goodman and company were not so much trying to churn out tightly arranged and ready-to-dance hits as they were after the creation of relatively loose, quality performances of elevated musical quality.

    That relative of freedom (or allowance to "do your own thing," within reason) extended to the vocalist. It is fairly apparent to me that the Peggy we hear here is who the singer was at her core. This intimate approach is probably the style in which she had been doing many of her ballads before joining Goodman -- on those times when she was singing on her own initiative, rather than under the constriction of big band leaders.

    Questions And Comments

    Does anyone care to agree (or disagree) about the quality of this interpretation from Peggy and Benny's sextet? Any answers are welcome, and so are any comments inspired by the photos, quotes or opinions expressed above! (As I always say, "likes" are just as good, since they let us OPs know that our posts are being read, not ignored.)

    Next up: "Why Don't You Do Right?"
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  3. Jackson

    Jackson Forum Resident

    MA, USA
    Two things, the first is that i think it was a stroke of genius on your part to start the thread off with such a great photo, and second i could watch that video and listen to ''Where Or When'' non stop, they are both that GOOD, thanks for all the great info Ridin'High.
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  4. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    Critics' Assessments

    Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future
    And time future contained in time past

    - T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton," Four Quartets (1944)
    "I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen," wrote critic Jon Landau in Boston's Real Paper of May 22, 1974, and if [T.S.] Eliot, also a critic, or anyone else who might have seen [the movie] Stage Door Canteen in 1943, didn't say, "I saw pop music's future and its name is Peggy Lee," they might as well have. The astounding thing about [Lee's] performance when seen today is its ironic, self-aware attitude, not at all in the earnest let's-all-pull-together spirit of the mid-1940s, but fully in keeping with the frustrated '50s, the rebellious '60s, the disillusioned '70s.

    The music [for Stage Door Canteen] came from the cream of the big bands then dominating music -- orchestras led by Count Basie, Guy Lombardo, Kay Kyser, Benny Goodman. Goodman certainly was a familiar face. The King of Swing was entering the eighth year of his reign.

    And yet, when he took his turn on the bandstand, something wholly new suddenly entered the world -- his "girl singer," Peggy Lee. A stunning blonde, Lee had the characteristic perpetual smile of the big band vocalist, but there was, perhaps, something mischievous in the eyes, and when she began to sing, somehow we weren't in 1943 anymore.

    All the text above, including the T.S. Eliot quote:
    William Ruhlmann, "Peggy Lee: What A Lovely Way To Burn," Goldmine (May 26, 1995)

    (Just thought that, for this section, I would also quote one of us, forum members. After all, each one of us here is a critic! Incidentally, Lennonfan1's post goes all the way back to 2002 -- not quite 1922, but, still, ages ago.)

    Song's Pre-History

    Peggy Lee's earliest version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" was recorded for Benny Goodman, with his full orchestra behind her, on July 27, 1942, probably at Liederkranz Hall in New York. Within Goodman's big band discography, the song is exceptional for two reasons. First, it is a blues number, instead of your typical dance tune or ballad. Second, the number was suggested by Peggy Lee, and recorded as a concession to her.

    Lee's inspiration was a Bluebird 78 that she loved, and which she had taken with her on the road. The fact that she was traveling with this heavy and breakable shellac disc speaks volumes about how much she enjoyed the recording, which had been a hit on the previous year. The vocalist on the 78 was Chicago-based blues singer Lil Green, of whom Lee had become an admirer. (All throughout her life, Peggy made a point of crediting Lil Green for the hit record, adding words such as these ones, in 1984: "I was and am a fan of Lil Green, a great old blues singer ...") Green's version was in turn a re-working of a mid-1930s blues original called "Weed Smoker's Dream," whose ambiguous lyrics may have been about not only marijuana but also pimps and prostitutes.

    Main Versions With Benny Goodman


    According to Lee herself, "I used to play that record over and over in my dressing room, which was next door to Benny's." So relentlessly did she play it that even the bandleader, a famously absent-minded man, eventually noticed. Or, as she told it: “I played it all the time for my personal amusement ... His dressing room was right next to mine and I drove him mad with it.”

    Added Lee: "Finally he said, You obviously like that song. I said, Oh, I love it. He said, Would you like me to have an arrangement made of it?" The offer took the singer fully by surprise; never would have it occurred to her that Goodman would be willing to record a number of this type. Naturally, she jumped at the opportunity, enthusiastically saying yes on the spot. On July 27 of 1942, the vocal number was tagged to a Goodman session that otherwise consisted of instrumentals.

    Unfortunately for Lee, nobody was invested or interested in making the song a success. One of the reasons for Goodman's willingness to wax it might have been the pressure that he and his people were enduring from Columbia executives, who were urging them to record as many new numbers as possible, and as quickly as possible. The urgency was on account of an upcoming musician union's record ban. The ban did go into effect, just as scheduled, on August 1, 1942 (i.e., a little over a month after the Goodman date to which "Why Don't You Do Right" had been tagged).

    As the rest of 1942 went by, Lee saw how Columbia released Goodman single after single, skipping over or ignoring "Why Don't You Do Right?" Finally, the label issued it in December, though merely as the B side of a Goodman instrumental. Naturally, the release compelled Goodman and the band to start performing both sides in their live dates. That was when they discovered how enthusiastically audiences were responding to this particular song.

    With the number picking up steam both in concert and on the music charts (and as the single's A side fell by the wayside), it was a no brainer: "Why Don't You Do Right?" became one of the numbers picked to be performed in the movie which the Benny Goodman Orchestra was scheduled to film on that same month, Stage Door Canteen. And with the war raging on, the number also made its way to V-Disc, in the form of an alternate take.

    During the first half of 1943, Lee and Goodman's version of "Why Don't You Do Right?" climbed to #4 in Billboard and showed considerable longevity, staying for about five months in the charts. The movie, released in mid-1943, further extended the song's popularity, and in the process raised the singer's status within the entertainment industry -- so much so that Lee kept receiving music and film offers throughout the second half of the year ... all of which she refused. (She was pregnant and had gone into retirement.)

    Peggy Lee's Later Versions Of The Song

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    After returning to the limelight as a solo act, Lee made a new recording of the song for Capitol (1947, issued as part of the album Rendezvous with Peggy Lee; Peggy Lee - Why Don't You Do Right HQ Album:Rendezvous with Peggy Lee 1948 ») and performed a third version for release in the form of a televised music video (1950; Peggy Lee "Why Don't You Do Right" »). Those two versions further extended the life of the song.

    Of course, Lee sang the tune countless other times in her concerts, on radio and television (e.g., Peggy Lee - Why don't you do right? »). She even reprised it on Moments Like This, her very last album (Why Don't You Do Right »), at which time she was in her 70s.


    The number's shelf life has actually extended into this century. There is, of course, the Jessica Rabbit version (not sung by Lee) from the film Who Framed Roger the Rabbit? And there are Lee's versions, which do still have currency. In 2010, her 1950 version was featured on the soundtrack of the very popular video game Fallout: New Vegas. On that same year, her 1947 version was sampled by Gramophodnedzie for his international hit "Why Don't You" (Gramophonedzie - Why Don' t You (Official Video HD) »).

    Questions, Comments, Replies

    Any and all are welcome. Since this song has had such a long history and is so closely linked to Lee's career, there are probably more details that could be worth adding.

    Also wanted to say thanks, Jackson, for the very nice comment above. I'm thrilled that you also saw something special in the opening photo; I thought that maybe it would be just me. And we are in total agreement about how inspired and wonderful the version of "Where or When" is. Definitely my favorite cut from her years with Goodman!

    Up next: albums from Lee's period with Benny Goodman
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  5. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    New York City
    Great stuff. I'll have to check to see if I have that on 78. I might be thinking of Shady Lady Bird.
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  6. .crystalised.

    .crystalised. Forum Resident

    Edmonton, Alberta
    Thanks to @Ridin'High for this fantastic thread. Looking forward to the discussion it brings! :righton:
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  7. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Five Albums Of Note

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    1. Benny Goodman And His Orchestra And Sextet; Vocals By Peggy Lee
    The first album to ever fully consist of Lee-Goodman material was a 78-rpm set. The jacket is seen above. This album contains four discs which hold a total of eight performances, all of them previously issued as singles.

    It was released in 1948, five years after Peggy Lee had left the Benny Goodman orchestra and, in the process, the Columbia label. Within the next few years, the album would also be released in other configurations of the day -- namely, EP and 10-inch LP. (Those later configurations have different artwork. Should anyone be curious, I can certainly post images.)

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    2. Peggy Lee Sings With Benny Goodman
    This release holds various notable distinctions. It was the first Lee-Goodman LP to be released in the United States (1957). It was also, if not the first, certainly among the very first Peggy Lee CDs to appear in the American market (1988).

    Still further, it might qualify as the most disseminated Lee album ever. If you visited well-stocked, used record stores back in their heyday, you were sure to come across copies in the bins just about every time.

    Then there were the other configurations on which it was also issued (8-track) and repeatedly reissued (at least three times on cassette, twice on compact disc, though the CDs seem to have been limited, small-quantity pressings). Oh, and let's not forget the LP reissues abroad, on labels such as Cameo and Hallmark (with the above-seen title change).

    Yet another distinction: it is easily one of the worst Peggy Lee albums ever issued by a legitimate record label. Part of a budget line put together by Columbia, this is one of those electronically re-processed monstrosities of the day. To add insult to injury, a couple of the tracks are incomplete, missing full choruses!


    3. Elmer's Tune
    American collectors had to look abroad (to Japan) and wait decades (until 1972) to have a satisfactory vinyl release of the numbers that Peggy Lee sang as a canary with Benny Goodman. This double LP set includes all but one of them. A 1970s collector's dream, it further honors tradition by re-using the front jacket artwork of the original 78-rpm set from the 1940s.

    To Be Continued
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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  8. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    New York City
    Inexpensive and readily available on eBay . . . and now I see why! I considered purchasing it, but didn't (and now glad). Thanks for the info and assessment.
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  9. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    Five Albums Of Note


    4. A Portrait Of Peggy Lee 1941-42
    The front cover alone would make this album noteworthy. Granted, it might not get any points for historical accuracy or "high-minded" matters of that sort ... Still, the drawing sure is nice to look at. What we have here is a Japanese 16-track LP whose earliest pressing came out in 1979, and subsequently on compact disc. The CD was first issued in 1986, with the same 16 tracks. Nearly two decades later, in 2002, the CD was reissued in an expanded, 24-track edition. All three items (the LP, the two CD editions) have the same front cover.


    5. The Complete Recordings, 1941-1947; Peggy Lee & Benny Goodman
    To date, this 1999 two-CD set remains the definitive release of the material under discussion. It includes all the numbers that the Lee-Goodman pair made for Columbia and, (allegedly) all the masters that they did together for Capitol, too. The overall packaging is appealing and the sound quality quite satisfactory. The sources used for the mastering were original acetates or, when those were not available or suitable, the earliest transfers. (Sony had also released a pretty good Lee-Goodman CD in 1993, but that single CD contains only half of the pair's output.) In short, this set is most certainly deserving of praise.

    It does have, however, a fair number of flaws.
    The most serious of them: the first chorus of "That Did It, Marie" is missing. Flaws such as that one suggest that more research and time were needed, before release time.

    Other flaws should not really be blamed on any of the folks who put the set together. Case in point: the set claims to contain all the masters that Lee and Goodman recorded for Capitol, and gives us a total of three. Actually, they made four. This is an understandable omission, though: back in 1999, there was no widespread knowledge of the fourth track's existence.

    Most of the other flaws fall under the realm of misinformation, and should only matter to ultra fans of Goodman and/or Lee. (I'm referring to
    the inadvertent inclusion of alternate instead of master takes -- and viceversa -- as well as the occasional wrong recording date, the misidentification of at least one musician, and the false "previously unissued" claim for several tracks.)


    The posts quoted above are all from an old, now closed thread that I have been checking out. The well-deserved praise is for the CD set just discussed. I only want to add that, in 2008, a label in the UK (one that some posters have praised here) grabbed the entire set and re-released it as if it were that label's own ... Exact same tracks, including alternates, but different artwork, different title, and a slight change in the track sequencing. Now, as someone who does not own a copy of this re-release, I can't speak further from personal knowledge. But I do understand the label to be Public Domain, and hence I am left to assume that they just snatched the whole contents without permission. (Outrageous, if so!)
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  10. misterjones

    misterjones Forum Resident

    New York City
    I believe there aren't many (if any) sound recordings in the US that are in the public domain. It may be different in the UK and other countries.
  11. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter




    Well, we have talked at length about albums, but barely about the songs. Let's do a quick overview. Peggy Lee's voice is heard on a total of 32 Columbia masters, all of them credited to Benny Goodman and his orchestra, and all of them dating from either 1941 or 1942. Most of the masters in question were originally released at that time, some of them on a Columbia subsidiary (Okeh), others on the parent label itself. Naturally, the original releases were 78-rpm discs, and their respective release dates fall within the early 1940s.

    A handful of these masters actually had to wait until later time periods and newer record configurations. For instance, poor "Not a Care in the World" must have been too carefree for the 78-rpm era: it wasn't issued until 1953, on EP. There wasn't much love either for "There Won't Be a Shortage of Love": that one made its first appearance in the above-mentioned 1972 vinyl, Elmer's Tune. And "Let's Say a Prayer" fell on deaf ears for several generations, until a Swedish label finally gave it the respect it deserved (in the 1980s).


    Concerts And Broadcasts

    Besides Lee's studio masters with Goodman (plus alternates and incomplete takes), a good amount of the pair's live/radio stuff has been preserved. Much of it is on vinyl, little on CD. Examples below.

    The first of the two albums seen below is available on LP only. It contains live Goodman performances; four of them feature Lee on vocals. This is the only album on which you can hear her do ultra obscurities like "The Shrine of St. Cecilia."

    The second album below is available on both LP and CD. The contents come from radio shows hosted by Lee, including one in which Goodman was her guest. (Conversely, there are LPs and CDs out there featuring radio shows hosted by Goodman, including one or two in which Lee is his guest.) Naturally, Goodman and Lee get together for one track.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Video And Film

    Finally, there are also two film appearances from Lee's canary period, as well as several Lee-Goodman TV appearances from later years. A portion of that visual material can be found on YouTube.

    As we move away from the Benny Goodman period and into the next period of Peggy's career, the most suitable YouTube clip to present here is this one, featuring a hip song called "All the Cats Join in." Though not a Lee-Goodman performance, it is connected to each of them.

    In the clip, you are hearing Peggy Lee's 1946 Capitol version of the song, which the clever YouTube poster has set up to scenes from Disney's The Aristocats. At the time that Peggy recorded it, the song was actually new, and moviegoers were hearing it in another Disney movie, Make Mine Music (1946). Benny Goodman was the artist chosen to play the number on the movie's soundtrack, with the lyrics handled by a group. As we will see shortly, Peggy herself had an additional connection to that 1946 movie.

    Curious at all about
    the movie soundtrack's version of "All the Cats Join In"?
    It is (as they used to say back in the day) swell, and worth checking out, if you care to: All The Cats Join In 1946 - Benny Goodman »

    Well, you just made me feel like I have contributed to a good cause: no greater satisfaction! (The cause being helping keep your walled fat, of course. Thanks also for the comment about sound recordings in the Public Domain. That's my understanding as well, but I don't know a whole lot about the topic.)
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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  12. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    Biographical Capsule

    In mid-1943, a recently married and increasingly pregnant Peggy Lee told the press that she was not only leaving Benny Goodman's orchestra but also retiring from the music business. Her retirement lasted for about six months. Being newlyweds with a new home and baby (born in November of 1943), the former canary and her hubby (guitarist Dave Barbour) were in need of money.

    Hence, in January of 1944, Peggy started to say "yes" to the occasional radio, film or recording project. Let's list four of the music projects that Peggy is known to have undertaken between 1944 and the first half of 1946, by which time she had, at last, signed with Capitol Records and abandoned retirement plans.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    1. Peggy And The Puppets
    Peggy Lee plays the role of a lyre in two of filmmaker George Pal's puppetoon shorts. Both shorts are from his Jasper series. The rarest of the two bears the title Jasper and the Beanstalk. Many fellow fans of Peggy do not yet know about her participation in it ... or that it can be viewed on YouTube! It was actually uploaded about half a year ago. Granted that the print has poor picture quality and so-so sound, what matters most is the rare opportunity to listen to Peggy's vocal, which is appealingly bluesy and mellow. You will hear her at the 3:10 mark (and again at 6:15):

    2. Peggy And The Crosbys
    In 1944 and 1945, Peggy made at least a handful of guest appearances on radio shows. (She would make quite a few more during the first half of 1946.) The earliest of which I am aware was made for The Bob Crosby Show, it happened on June 25, 1944. The Crosby in question was one of Bing's brothers and, back then, a bandleader of some note.

    It looks like this guest appearance generated an additional job opportunity just five days later: two canary vocals for a date credited to Bob and his orchestra. Vocally, both numbers are sung in the same mold as much of her previous work for Goodman; one is actually a duet with Bob. Issued in 1945 on Ara Records (a small, then new, quickly folding Hollywood label), the numbers used to be extremely rare. That's not the case any longer. Both were included in the set pictured below, which came out in 2002, and of which copies can still be found around:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    To Be Continued
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
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  13. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter


    3. Silhouettes, Hats, And Peggalee

    In production for a long time, the 1946 Disney movie Make Mine Music was conceived as a counterpart to the 1940 classic Fantasia. The latter highlighted classical music, the former popular music. Among the pop artists heard on the movie's soundtrack are Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, and The Andrews Sisters.

    In late 1945, when the prospective theatrical release of the movie was in sight, the decision was made to promote the film by recording some of its songs on promotional 78-rpm discs, to be sent to radio disc jockeys across the nation. The artists chosen for these promotional records were not, for the most part, the same ones who had been hired for the movie's soundtrack.

    Peggy Lee is one of the promo artists. She was asked to record two of the sides, one sung by The Andrews Sisters on the soundtrack, the other by Dinah Shore. Here are the Peggy sides:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Both numbers are beautifully, soulfully sung by Peggy, and both are still rarities. The first has shown up on some Peggy Lee CDs from Public Domain labels that are now long out of print. The second cannot be found on any Lee CD or LP.


    4. Peggy Lee Within The World Of New American Jazz

    The fourth and last of these entries is actually the first, chronologically speaking. It's also the most important one, because it set various wheels in motion. For starters, it placed Peggy within Capitol Records, the label for which she would go on to do most of her recorded work.

    Here is how it happened. After repeated refusals on her part, Capitol's A&R man Dave Dexter, Jr. finally talked Peggy Lee into doing two guest vocals for one of his jazz-oriented projects. The session took place on January 7, 1944 at MacGregor Studios. (Dexter came up with the idea of giving the name "Capitol Jazzmen" to the various musicians that he had hired for this date and a similar earlier one, on which Peggy's husband had played.)


    The two vocals sung by Lee at the 1944 date were the blues "Ain't Goin' No Place" and the standard "That Old Feeling." The blues number is actually the same one heard in the Jack and the Beanstalk clip posted above. However, they are very different versions. In Jack and the Beanstalk, the tune is sung in the mellow, quintessentially Lee style that had been previously heard in her rendition of "Where or When." For this date, and in keeping with the jazz backing and faster pace, she tackles the blues in a livelier manner.

    Dexter gathered the performances from both jazz dates and released them on an album that was the third ever issued by the then-young Capitol Records. Called New American Jazz, the album was very well received, and Peggy's sides enjoyed plenty of airplay on radio programs. It was probably the very positive reception of these two vocals (recorded after much insistence, motivated largely by financial need, and meant as an one-time outing) that set Lee on the path away from retirement, and into a lifelong music career.


    Next up: Peggy's albums on one of the two main record labels for which she recorded.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
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  14. Tribute

    Tribute Forum Resident

    Wonderful thread. Thank you!
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  15. Jackson

    Jackson Forum Resident

    MA, USA
    Thanks for that clip of ''Ain't Goin' No Place'', what a song and performance, gotta be one of Peggy's best.
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  16. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Much appreciated, Tribute.

    Glad you enjoy it, as do I ... some great jazz playing there, too!

    By the way, "Ain't Goin' No Place" might sound like one of those centuries-old blues that have been passed down from generation to generation, but it isn't. The number appears to have been written shortly before it made its very first appearance, on the 1944 album. Therein, the songwriter is identified as Dick Larkin. That was actually one of several pseudonyms used by Dave Cavanaugh, who many years later would become Peggy's regular record producer. At this earlier time, though, he was chiefly a session musician (tenor saxophone). In a couple of years, he would start to regularly conduct and arrange for two Capitol artists, one of them being Kay Starr.

    Well, the label is going to be Decca, for which Peggy recorded from 1952 to 1956. The plan is to cover Decca first, and then try to discuss both of her Capitol periods together (i.e., the time period right before Decca and the time period right after Decca).

    Let's begin with the Decca albums. After them, a few notable Decca singles.

    Before getting into Black Coffee (her second original album), let's make a quick clarification about her first, Rendezvous with Peggy Lee, on Capitol. I caught another thread on which that album was called a compilation of previously released singles. Not so. The songs on the 1948 album were recorded specifically for release on it. (Capitol's press even declared that Peggy had spent two year preparing for it!) The album came first. A couple of months passed before one of its songs showed up on a single, and only as that single's B side. Her next single also included one album song, on this occasion as the A side -- but, once again, paired with a non-album, new number. (Granted: as the album was expanded in order to fill later configurations, songs that had already appeared on singles were used to pad it. Still, the point is that the album was neither conceived as -- nor ever perceived to be -- a compilation.)
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  17. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    The Original Album

    August of 1953 saw the commercial release of Peggy Lee's first long play on Decca, Black Coffee With Peggy Lee. The album actually came in two formats: 10" LP (seen above) and gatefold EP (seen below).


    By this point in time, she had been a Decca recording artist for well over a year, but the label had hitherto issued only singles by Lee. (There was nothing unusual about that state of affairs, since singles were still the primary medium during those years.) The absence of Lee long plays on Decca was "rectified" during this second year of her contract, when the label released not only Black Coffee (10" LP & EP) but also an unrelated, movie-inspired EP that we will be discussing later in this thread.

    Versions Abroad

    The 10" LP version of Black Coffee with Peggy Lee enjoyed an international release schedule. Here is, for instance, the front cover of the British pressing, on Brunswick:


    And here are pressings from France and Brazil. The Brazilian pressing changed the album's title.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Genesis Of The Album

    The jammed room saw a Peggy Lee, an electric singer with a driving beat on some songs and a sensual appeal on torcheroos. She's backed by a four-piece instrumental group which gave her an exciting backing such as few singers caught have had ... The last [number] built and built; the band went haywire, the gal gave it a mad jam session interpretation and the audience went wild. It was one of those shows which happen rarely. Only a top-flight act could follow her that night. The band backing her, all West Coast lads, showed some of the hottest musicianship around. Pete Candoli on trumpet, doubling on bongo, Eddie Shaughnessy on drums, Joe Monderagon [sic], bass, and Jimmy Rowles ... helped her sell with a vim and a vigor that drew roars and applause time and again."
    Peggy Lee Scores Overnight Smash in New York Club Return"
    Bill Smith, Billboard, April 4, 1953
    Black Coffee With Peggy Lee was recorded at Decca Studios in New York over three days, beginning on Thursday, April 30, continuing on Friday the 31st, and ending on Monday, May 1. Lee is accompanied throughout by a quartet consisting of Pete Candoli, Joe Mondragon, Jimmy Rowles, and Ed Shaughnessy.

    The album was recorded while the singer was enjoying a smash success at a New York nightclub. The many accolades from press and clubgoers probably compelled Lee to go into the recording studio with this crop of musicians. She might have not needed any further motivation, but we should also consider the strong possibility that Milt Gabler might have placed a request for an album drawing on Lee's nightclub act. Gabler was one of the two A&R men who, after watching her at an earlier nightclub smash, had lured her away from Capitol, into Decca. He became the producer of Black Coffee with Peggy Lee.

    The fact that all of the club musicians were hired (including Candoli, who had an exclusive record contract with another label, and was thus technically forbidden to play in the sessions) certainly points toward an intention to build on the success of the nightclub act with the production of a representative album. Similarly establishing a connection between nightclub club and recording studio is the fact that at least half of the songs picked for inclusion in the album were part of Lee's current concert repertoire
    ("A Woman Alone with the Blues," "I've Got You Under my Skin," "Easy Living," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy").

    To further illustrate the heightened enthusiasm that Lee's nightclub act was conveying, here is an excerpt from another press review, this one published a few days after the album sessions had been completed:

    “Being very cautious about overstatement, we will only say conservatively that Peggy gave the greatest performance we have seen delivered by any singer in a Manhattan club in the last five years – and that includes everybody, male or female ... If you only know Peggy Lee from records, or radio and TV and theaters, catch her some time in an intimate nightclub like this. If you don’t get a genuine thrill – Jack, you must be dead.”
    Leonard Feather, Downbeat, May 6, 1953

    The 1953 Sessions: Witness Accounts

    When asked about this album, Peggy Lee herself repeatedly gave praise to the musicians. She naturally singled out pianist Jimmy Rowles, whose head arrangements for the album were probably based on what she and the quartet had been doing at the nightclubs. In her own words: "I think I can give a lot of credit to Jimmy Rowles for not only, kind of a style that he brought out of me, but also that I always thought that, if you played the piano for me, if I were in my deathbed, I'd get up and sing!" She also praised the session's trumpet player, Pete Candoli, and recalled that she had asked him to position himself against the wall at the very end of the studio, "because I was trying to make him sound like a French horn." (This particular comment of hers could well be a recollection of the recording of the song "When the World Was Young," which opens with Candoli quoting the French national anthem.)

    For their part, both Rowles and Candoli talked about their experiences with Lee as well, but they concentrated not so much on the album sessions as on the nightclub work. Out of their various respective comments, one that is indirectly related to the album came from Rowles. (It has already been quoted in one of the other Peggy threads, but it won't hurt repeating it here.) After a show in Las Vegas, and according to one of her biographers, Rowles advised Lee that "we don't want a contest between the piano and you. You're the star. And they don't want to hear me fiddle around all the time you're singing." As for the comments shared by Candoli with biographers, there is one directly involving the album: "We knew it was a happening record because, first of all, Joe Mondragon was the bass player, and Jimmy was on piano. Milt Gabler, the head of A&R at Decca, was a nice guy; "You guys do what you want. It's your show'." (If Candoli was accurately quoting Gabler, the producer's use of the word "show" may further point to the nightclub act as the motivation and inspiration for the album.)

    About three years before his death in 2013, drummer Ed Shaughnessy also shared with one of Peggy's biographers some details from Peggy's dates. The biographer attributes to the drummer the disclosure that Peggy would bring cognac, mixed with honey, to her dates from around this period. (By the way, Shaugnessy's generalization, to the effect that she drank sips of cognac during some of these dates, is not the same as saying that she was drunk at them. I feel the need to point this out in reaction to a comment that I read elsewhere.) Shaughnessy is also quoted as having said: "I really loved her as a person. She was very kind and very dear. But I used to think there was an innate sadness to her."

    Assessments (Press Critics & Music Charts)

    That "the song is the thing" is very evident from a perusal of, and listen to, the 10-inch LP packages being turned out these days as additions to the various record company catalogs. From public do material, thru oldies not too often heard and into very familiar ballads, the sales potential of many an album is undeniably enhanced by the choice of material. Decca's new Peggy Lee album Black Coffee, is a fine example of carefully selected standard material, both well-known and not-so-familliar. The lady does a superb job, in her musicianly way, and is backed by a slick, bop-style combination.
    Billboard, September 5, 1953

    The above is one of the appreciative press reviews received by the album under discussion. Among the others is the one from Downbeat, which gave Black Coffee a five-star rank and voiced a suspicion that 'the real' Peggy Lee was the one heard throughout the album ("warm, personal ... sexy ... or, when the occasion demands it, fiery, swinging ...").

    Most sources, including biographies state that Black Coffee did not make the album music charts. Their statements might be incorrect. Page 47 of the December 19, 1953 issue of Billboard includes a list called Pop Album Recent Release Sellers, dedicated to ten-inch LPs. Black Coffee, the only Decca album to make the list, is ranked at #8. (All other entries are from Capitol and Columbia. Nat King Cole's Two In Love is at #1.) To qualify for inclusion in this list, the LP could not be more than five months older, at which time the album was migrated to the magazine Pop Album Catalogue Sellers. (There, too, Nat is at #1 on the same week, with Unforgettable, and once again only one Decca artist is in the mix -- Al Jolson.)

    Another incorrect claim to be found in biographies and elsewhere is that Peggy had not been making the Downbeat charts in the years that preceded this album's release. On the contrary, Peggy had been part of the chart's female singer top 10 on every single preceding year, going back to the mid-1940s. From 1950 and 1952, she oscillated between the #8 and #6 positions. What happened in 1953 was that she climbed back to the top 5 (where she had been in the 1940s), reaching on this particular year the #2 position (with 910 votes, against 913 for the #1 holder) -- all of an outcome of the critical and fan success of Black Coffee with Peggy Lee.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2017
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  18. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    The Expanded Album

    August of 1953 had seen the release of Black Coffee With Peggy Lee as a 10" LP, and August of 1956 would see its commercial re-release as a 12" LP. New artwork (viewable above) was created for the re-release.

    Furthermore, the song program was expanded. Four newly recorded numbers were added to the eight that had graced the original release. Just as the original tracks had been recorded mostly in April of 1953, the new tracks were recorded on the same month, three years later. The Tuesday, April 3, 1956 session took place at Decca Studios, though this time the city was Los Angeles rather than New York, and the musical unit a quintet instead of a quartet. Just as had been the case earlier, this new unit consisted of the group of musicians with which Peggy was regularly doing her nightclub acts in 1956.

    In 2004, an official CD edition of the 12" LP was finally issued domestically. It was part of Verve's Master Edition series. Check it out below. The back cover lets you know the names of the musicians and the track listing, including which songs were added to the 12" LP.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The producers of this Verve Master Edition made one controversial decision. At the 1956 session, Peggy Lee and company actually recorded not just four but six songs, all of them presumably meant to be considered for inclusion on the 12" LP. Two of them were obviously left out from not only the LP but also the CD. In my opinion, the CD would have benefitted from including them as bonus tracks; other volumes in this Verve Master Edition series do include all previously excluded masters. (That having been said, both numbers are available in many other Peggy Lee CDs and LPs. They are "Do I Love You?" and "Guess I'll Go Back Home Next Summer.")

    Versions Abroad

    This 12" LP has been reissued countless times (on both vinyl and digital) all over the globe. Japan is probably its most frequent 'reissuer.' The immense majority of such reissues use the original artwork, with only slight variations. Below are two of the few exceptions, both from Australian lands.


    By the way, the album's reissue history in the United Kingdom is a bit curious to me. As mentioned on a previous post, the 10" LP edition was officially reissued there, on Brunswick. But, as far as I have been able to ascertain, Brunswick never reissued the 12" LP. Instead, the 1956 album had to wait until 1961 for its first issue, on the Decca-Brunswick budget branch Ace of Hearts. (If I am wrong about the non-existence of a British Brunswick 12" LP, please chime in with a correction!...)

    Album Recommendations

    If you are looking for a CD, the above-discussed Verve edition is a good choice. In the "Peggy Decca" thread created by .Crystalised, Scopitone gave us a satisfactory review:

    Generally speaking, Japanese CDs on MCA, Victor, Universal, etc. sound a bit too "bright" for what is a "dark" album, but they are fine otherwise. There have been also a couple of fine Public Domain twofer CDs, out of which Black Coffee & Dream Street; The Complete Sessions deserves note: it includes the two aforementioned "bonus" songs (left out of the Verve CD). Among the CDs that I would not recommend are the one on Hallmark Records and also the British MCA twofer.

    On LP, I would say that the rest pick is the original American Decca LP. No? I assume that the British reissues on Ace of Hearts, Coral, and Jasmine are good-sounding alternatives.

    Key Songs

    As we know, this is an album that has been highly acclaimed as a whole. Still, most good albums have key tracks, and/or songs that have gone on to receive greater attention than the rest. Black Coffee With Peggy Lee counts with three, to be discussed in the next paragraphs.

    In mid-June of 1953 (about a month and a half before the 10" LP edition came out), Decca released a single from the album. The single consisted of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" on side A and "I've Got You Under my Skin" on side B. "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" got very enthusiastic attention from reviewers; one of them memorably remarked that Daddy had never had it so good. "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" thus paved the road for the accolades that were subsequently bestowed on the full album.

    In more recent years, the titular song, "Black Coffee," has gained widespread praise and attention among casual listeners. YouTube is probably partially responsible for the (re)discovery of the number's virtues. Also helpful was the fact that, decades after the original release of the album, the Peggy Lee interpretation enjoyed additional circulation. To wit: it was belatedly released on 45-rpm single at least three times (though always as a B side): first in the United States (1964), later in the United Kingdom (1982), and at some unknown point in Japan as well.

    Peggy Lee does a great interpretation of "Black Coffee;" I for one am glad that the song is becoming increasingly associated with her. Back in the 1950s, her interpretation had less of a chance, due to competition and circumstance. "Black Coffee" had already been a hit three or four years earlier, when it was a brand new lyric and Sarah Vaughan had taken it to the charts. As if that weren't enough,
    in the late 1950s and early 1960s the song would go on to enjoy quite a few recordings from quite a few famous artists: Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, etc.

    Finally, we come to the album song that has become most closely and strongly associated with Peggy Lee. Part of the reason for the association is that, unlike the rest of the LP's numbers, this song was fairly new at the time of the LP's release. (Actually, a rash of versions had preceded Peggy's by at least a year, but none of them had managed to make much of a dent.) Peggy's version is memorable because she injected the lyrics with the bittersweet feel and the nostalgic "remembrance of things past" that they merited, and because the song itself suited the album's overall atmosphere.

    I am referring to "When the World Was Young," originally a French tune for which Johnny Mercer wrote new lyrics. One of Peggy's biographers states that Mercer wrote the female variant of the lyrics specifically for her, but I do not know how true this is. (May well be. I just don't know his source.) Be that as it may, "When the World Was Young" is a song that firmly belongs to Peggy Lee's canon. She naturally kept performing it from time to time over the years.

    Her version from a 1963 guest appearance in Judy Garland's TV show is widely considered to be a masterpiece of acting in singing. Here it is, followed by some choice YouTube comments, with which I will finally cap off by seemingly endless comments about Black Coffee with Peggy Lee.

    Do you realize this aired just 9 days after the JFK assassination? What a moment for a wistful look back at an innocent time, for everyone for the most part...their youth...and didn't everyone want to do that...turn back the clock...

    Brilliant! A wonderful musical and theatrical performance. And amazing how she hardly blinks throughout the song. The effect is almost hypnotic.

    This is some performance, it's almost operatic, she seems to 'act' the song', not just sing it ... she's "sort of "holding back" but that's part of her art, absolutely amazing

    I saw it when it was first aired, and though I knew she'd be great, after all she was Peggy Lee, munching on my potato chips, I wasn't prepared for this level of brilliance. My chewing stopped, and my heart almost along with it.

    Judy always said THIS SHOW, with Her Favorite Singer and very good friend Peggy Lee, was her all time favorite show! I can see why!

    Totally mesmerizing. The quotes from Ravel's "La Valse" at the beginning and end of the arrangement are also indicative of a wit and intelligence.

    One shot. Absolutely sublime, in every aspect - not least of all Peg's UNBELIEVABLE vocal performance.

    It's as if we're watching an aging narcissistic debutante descend into madness right before our eyes ...

    Of every exceptional song I've ever heard (or watched) her sing, this to me is the most exceptional. It is almost frightening how deeply she delves. She is completely raw and exposed!

    You know, it took me a little while to get into Peggy Lee - I was hooked on Ella (still am), Dinah, and Sarah - but when I really LISTENED, she knocked me over and out. First of all, she is so subtle, sort of "holding back", then she swings! But what she can do with a ballad, My God! Her rendition of this song should be in a singing master class - I don't know, when I hear this, where the song ends and her life begins-it's kind of frightening, the level of her vulnerability and sorrow. A Master.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
  19. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    The Original Versions

    Decca released the album Songs in an Intimate Style on August 9, 1954. This album actually came in two formats: 10" LP (seen above) and gatefold EP (seen below).


    Songs in an Intimate Style (1954) shares various traits with Black Coffee (1953), some of them less obvious than others. Decca originally issued both Peggy Lee albums on the same two formats and on the same month of the year (the latter detail perhaps pointing to a set schedule).

    Furthermore, the promotional note in this album's back cover attempts to establish a link between the two releases: "Peggy's preceding album, Black Coffee, was acclaimed by her fans and was immediately followed by demands for a new group of Peggy Lee songs. This collection is the answer to that demand."

    But, beyond those basic similarities, the two albums have fairly different pedigrees and release histories. Unlike the earlier album, Songs in an Intimate Style remains a relatively obscure, little-known Peggy Lee item. One reason for its obscurity is that it was never expanded to a 12" LP.

    Another reason is that, with one minor exception, this album has never been issued on CD either. The exception is a 1999 compact disc version mastered by Universal in Japan. It is not much of an exception, though: the CD in question was a special, barely available "limited edition." If you ever come across a copy, you will see that its back cover stipulates that it is "
    not for sale." Made available only as a bonus gift, those with access to copies were primarily customers who had bought the full 20-CD Universal Female Vocal Collection.

    A second but equally noteworthy difference between the two albums is that, unlike Black Coffee, Lee's Songs in an Intimate Style is not an original album per se, but an anthology masquerading as an original album. In other words, its songs were not recorded together and expressly for release on one LP, but gathered together from several of Peggy's 1952 and 1953 dates.

    To quote from the online Peggy Lee discography: "The eight songs in this album originate in sessions that were not only held months apart (November 28, 1952; February 13, 1953; September 14 and 16, 1953) but also led by three different conductors (Victor Young, Sy Oliver, Gordon Jenkins). And yet, Songs In An Intimate Style still manages to come off as a cohesive collection of beautifully sung numbers, thanks in no small measure to its uniformly romantic mood. Of the eight tracks, seven are love ballads which Peggy Lee renders with a deep sense of intimacy. The eighth number ("Apples, Peaches And Cherries") is actually a ballad, too, though in a different mold: a charming folk-style tale of romance."

    Key Songs

    As with Black Coffee, three songs from Intimate Style deserve to be singled out. Let's start with "Where Can I Go Without You?" The version heard in the album is Peggy's original version of that song, whose lyrics she wrote, and which has gone on to become a semi-standard. The best known of the many versions out there is not by Peggy, however, but by her Capitol pal Nat King Cole. I'm sure that she didn't mind it one bit!

    The other noteworthy numbers are "Apples, Peaches and Cherries" and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." These two songs sound very different yet share traits that go beyond their triple-term titles. Both are essentially tales in song, and both tell of a romance that leads (or will hopefully lead) to marriage. I believe those to be the reasons why "Apples, Peaches and Cherries" was picked for inclusion in this album, in spite of its very different vibe from all the other ballads. But it is still a ballad, as already mentioned -- a folk ballad. And, if carries its own sense of intimacy -- we might as well call it "folkloric intimacy."

    Speaking for myself alone, I find the number very charming. I absolutely love the "fruitful" play on words, and the banter between Peggy and the "cart children," toward the end of the song. If any of you guys reading care to agree OR disagree, do feel free to chime in; I won't bite!

    Now, as for this album's foremost song, that would definitely have to be the opener, "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." It probably was the inspiration for Decca's idea of putting together an album of intimate-sounding ballads.

    At the label, the relevance of Peggy's version stemmed from the fact that she had turned it into a hit a year earlier. The song comes from the Broadway musical Kismet, which premiered to popular success on December 3, 1953. The Peggy Lee version entered the charts on the same week that the musical opened, and was the only one to make Billboard's top 30. In addition to the 78-rpm and 45-rpm singles, Decca had previously issued the song as part of the label's own Kismet EP:


    Peggy Lee's 1953 Decca hit version of "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" is quite enticing to me, but her 1959 version of the same song is a stunner. Performed on TV, that later version re-conceives the number in a far more "intrinsically Lee" vein. The clip (Baubles, Bangles, & Beads ») can be found in various other Peggy Lee threads here.

    Versions Abroad

    One of the various reasons why I chose the above-seen clip of "Apples, Peaches and Cherries" is that it gives us the bonus of a picture of the British 10" LP version of the album, on Brunswick. That front cover looks a little weird, doesn't it? My guess is that we are seeing an effect created by the album's lamination.

    Finally, look below for Songs in an Intimate Style 10" LP editions pressed in Australian and Brazilian lands.


    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  20. rxcory

    rxcory Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    Peggy's rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" is like buttah. Just magical. Frank's version is of course classic and he delivers a contagious, energetic performance, but Peggy's is my favorite. Sensual, like being kissed on the ear.
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  21. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Frank's and Peggy's versions are my top favorites, too. In total agreement with you, and the way you described them.

    Have you also listened to Dick Haymes' version, Rxcory? (Dick Haymes - The Way You Look Tonight ») That's another version high on my list.

    It must be acknowledged, though, that the song belongs first and foremost to Fred Astaire, because he introduced it on film and also took it to #1 on the charts. That having been said ... I prefer those other three versions. For those curious, here is Fred's film version, starting around 1:05: The Way You Look Tonight ».

    Getting back to Peggy, most of the comments that I made earlier about "Where or When" apply to a greater or lesser degree to "The Way You Look Tonight" as well. Both vocally and instrumentally, the latter is basically a sequel (a very worthy sequel) to the former.
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  22. Ridin'High

    Ridin'High Forum Resident Thread Starter



    The Original Versions

    Decca released the album Songs from Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp in March of 1955. At that time, the album came out in two formats: 10" LP (seen in the first picture above) and gatefold EP (seen below). Two years later, Decca further issued an expanded, 12" LP version of the album (second picture above). I am placing the photos of the 10" and 12" LPs next to one another for the benefit of those of you who might enjoy "spot-the-differences" puzzle games. At first glance, the two jackets might look identical, but three or four variations become fairly apparent on second glance.


    The Album's Background

    The two men who wooed Peggy Lee away from Capitol and into Decca Records were Sonny Burke and Milt Gabler. They successfully made their pitch after watching her at a smash nightclub appearance. We have already seen one great result of the partnership between Peggy and Milt (Black Coffee).

    We will now cover one great result of the partnership between Peggy and Sonny. It so happened that, around the time when Peggy was signed to Decca, Sonny was asked to compose tunes for a Walt Disney film in the making. Peggy was then asked by Sonny -- who was already working with her inside the recording studio -- to join him as the lyricist for the Disney film's tunes.

    On to the world of "Disneyland" went the twosome. Peggy made such an impression in such lands that she ended up not only writing lyrics but also doing voices for four of the movie's characters, and having one of such characters named after her. The film in question was, of course, the now-classic Lady and the Tramp, in which Peggy impersonates two naughty cats, one comely bitch, and a motherly lass. The comely wench was the one to be named Peg, after Disney himself consulted with Peggy about it. Peg's caninely enticing walk in the animated film was modeled after Peggy's, who sashayed across the illustrators' studio for their ogling benefit.

    This being a time at which Disney did not yet have its own record label, the Decca's album under discussion essentially functioned as the film's commercial soundtrack.

    The Album's Songs

    All the songs scheduled for the original EP and 10" LP were recorded over sessions held on December 6 and 20, 1954, with a personnel that included not only Burke and Lee but also a famous harmony quartet (The Mellomen), the Walt Disney Chorus, conductor Oliver Wallace and at least one so-called cast member (George Givot). Of the nine songs included in the album, six are sung by Peggy Lee:

    The Siamese Cat Song
    He's a Tramp
    La La Lu
    What Is a Baby?
    Bella Notte
    Peace on Earth / Silent Night

    All six are also heard in the actual movie soundtrack, but only the first three are sung by Peggy in said soundtrack.

    As already mentioned, the album came out in March of 1955. The movie was released nationwide in June of the same year. When Decca decided to expand the album into the 12" vinyl format, Burke and Lee took advantage of the opportunity to include four songs that they had co-written for the movie back in 1952, but which had been dropped due to changes in the film's storyline:

    Old Trusty
    That Fellow's a Friend of Man
    Jim Dear
    Singing ('Cause He Wants to Sing)

    The Burke-Lee pair recorded these songs on December 20, 1956 (and might have gone back into the studio in January of 1957, to either re-record or made some modifications to two of them).

    Other Domestic And Foreign Versions Of The Album

    Below are two British pressings of Songs From Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp. The one on Brunswick is the official British version of the 10" LP. The Ace of Hearts item contains the 12" LP, as issued on Decca's budget branch.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  23. .crystalised.

    .crystalised. Forum Resident

    Edmonton, Alberta
    It might seem strange, but the key songs for me are the four LA tracks added to the expanded 12" edition. Although recorded in a different studio with a different ensemble, I feel they integrate seamlessly into the original album. The titles chosen for expansion are very suitable to the mood of the album, and Peggy's in fine form. Stella Castellucci's harp adds layers of imagery (as does Candoli's work on the original tracks) and so we are provided with more variety (albeit complimentary variety) on the expanded album.
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  24. .crystalised.

    .crystalised. Forum Resident

    Edmonton, Alberta
    Which label was Pete Candoli under contract with at the time Black Coffee was recorded, and how did Decca get away with allowing him to sit in on these sessions? Was his name left off the original album notes?
  25. .crystalised.

    .crystalised. Forum Resident

    Edmonton, Alberta
    Interesting to learn the expanded album was planned to include 14 tracks. I haven't consciously listened to "Do I Love You" and "Guess I'll Go Back Home Next Summer" knowing they were supposed to be a part of Black Coffee. I plan on giving this album a fresh listen in the near future and programming those two songs in my playlist to see if they belong there.
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