Wednesday, September 13, 2017
June Christy - Something Cool (1954; 1991 Edition)
Things could get pretty weird back in the days when record companies first started reissuing CDs of older music. We got the first four Beatles albums in mono only. We got Fleetwood Mac's double-disc Tusk crammed onto one CD with an edited version of "Sara" and some alternate mixes. And we got this first reissue of "cool jazz" singer June Christy's first-ever release, Something Cool, in a form that was unrecognizable from the original EP.
Unlike those first three examples, this one had its positive elements, the main one being that it included a whopping seventeen bonus tracks in addition to that seven-song EP. But it had its drawbacks as well.
For starters, they used the wrong cover art. The original 1954 EP and the expanded 1956 LP version (which had four additional songs) had a black-and-white image of Christy laughing with her eyes closed, which is shaded in blue (see right). Four years later, in 1960, Christy and arranger Pete Rugolo recut the album in stereo, and this edition used the color image of Christy smiling and looking at the camera (above) that adorns the CD cover. So, the CD's image is from the stereo album but the songs are actually a different and earlier set of mono recordings.
More importantly, to create this CD they took the songs from the original seven-track EP and splayed them totally out of sequence among all the bonus tracks. It was great to get these extra tracks since all of 'em made their CD debut on this release, but why the juggling of the song order?
The original EP sequence was:
1. Something Cool
2. It Could Happen To You
3. Lonely House
4. Midnight Sun
5. I'll Take Romance
6. A Stranger Call The Blues
7. I Should Care
Compare this with the CD's track list below. This reissue places the above songs at #5, #10, #8, #7, #13, #12, and #9. What is the point in that? Why not just put the EP songs first, followed by the additional tracks? When the EP was expanded into an LP in '56 they followed the song order pretty closely, so it would have made sense to do the same on the CD.
Needless to say, this original Something Cool CD went out of print when CD reissues began to reflect the contents of original LPs more accurately. It was soon superseded by a more organized edition that had had the full 1956 mono LP followed by the full 1960 stereo remake. But what listeners gained in continuity they lost in bonus songs, since the second edition of this CD had none.
Christy died the year before the 1991 reissue, and you wonder if she had been alive and well if she'd have wanted some say in the matter. Something Cool, after all, was her best known work and it definitely holds up after all these decades. Rugolo's orchestration is gorgeous in an understated way, and Christy's vocals never fail to hypnotize.
When she made her debut with this EP, Christy seemed bound for glory. But she was brushed aside when rock'n'roll hit the music scene around the same time. She was also said to have developed a problem with alcohol early on, and this further put her career on the slow track. Christy also wasn't the most "vocal" of vocal singers. What I mean by that is that she didn't really wail or shout, so she wasn't about to compete with the Elvises of the world -- or the Rosemary Clooneys, for that matter.
But what Christy did, she did really, really well. Specifically, she sang in a mellow, reflective, and often wistful style with lots of subtlety and nuance. Her voice could be so cleverly subtle, in fact, that you can listen to her version of "Whee Baby" (co-written and originally done by Peggy Lee) and hear sadness in it one day but get bemused sarcasm from it on another day.
It's things like that which make this early CD edition of Something Cool so, er, cool. Some of the bonus cuts are as good as anything on the EP. First among these is the fantastic yet little-known Mel Tormé song called "The First Thing You Know You're in Love," which Christy released as a single in 1954. Two other first-rate cuts are "You're Makin' Me Crazy" and "Why Do You Have To Go Home," which made up both sides of a 1953 single. This CD also has a pair of songs that went unreleased in their day: The gorgeously melodic "Out Of Somewhere" and the jazzy "Love Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
And then there are the four tracks that were added to the seven-song EP to create the eleven-song LP. They are: "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," "I'm Thrilled," "This Time the Dream's on Me," and "The Night We Called It A Day." None of these strike me as particularly inspired (especially the last, which Sinatra made his own on Where Are You?), but it's still worth hearing Christy sing them.
If all of these extra tracks seem confusing, check the MP3 tags, where I included release dates and info on where each song was originally from. Most of the bonus tracks are non-LP 45 sides, but it turns out a bunch are from Christy's 1958 album This Is June Christy! And speaking of confusion, some places on the Web list the original EP as being from 1955. It's not. It's from '54 and I dug up a Billboard album chart from Oct. 2, 1954 (above) to prove it.
So, in all, the original Something Cool CD had an interesting blend of songs, even if the way they were placed now seems strange. Like the Rosemary Clooney album I recently posted, I bought this one on tape at the time and re-bought it on CD when I found it used, which means I liked it enough to buy it twice. So maybe those unpredictable Wild West days of CD reissues weren't all so bad. We might have had to put up with early Fab Four in mono and such, but we got all these bonus tracks instead of having to track down the super-rare old 45s. Whee baby.
1. Not I
2. Whee Baby
3. Why Do You Have To Go Home
4. You're Makin' Me Crazy
5. Something Cool
7. Midnight Sun
8. Lonely House
9. I Should Care
10. It Could Happen To You
11. The First Thing You Know You're in Love
12. A Stranger Called The Blues
13. I'll Take Romance
14. Look Out Up There
15. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
16. Out Of Somewhere
17. Love Doesn't Live Here Anymore
18. I'm Thrilled
19. This Time The Dream's On Me
20. The Night We Called It A Day
22. Pete Kelly's Blues
23. Until The Real Thing Comes Along
24 I Never Wanna Look into Those Eyes Again