by Kristin Battestella
Yes, honeymooner Jackie Gleason made us laugh on television even as he dabbled in sophisticated instrumental melodies. Although I still love my vinyl for accenting a candlelit evening, this trio of CDs is a fine place to begin the vogue listening – whether it's the sound of a simmering night for two, subtle office tunes for everyone, or an upscale, adults only soiree.
The Best of Jackie Gleason and His Orchestra – From “I'm in the Mood for Love,” “I'll Be Seeing You,” and “Call Me Irresponsible” to “I Can't Get Started,” “More,” and “Come Rain or Come Shine” all the swanky, mellow, sweeping brass notes of this 1993 Gleason sampler recall a pleasant humming of the lyrics or have you thinking about a waltz upon the terrace in movie musical stylings of old. Now, I know that's not just me, as this session billed as the “Original Capital Recordings” is very easy to sway along with even if some of the perennial hits herein may be new to contemporary, younger, or latecomer jazz audiences. Granted, some of these renditions are more familiar than others are, “Deep Purple” seems poorly remastered, and at times the music is all too similar and can run together. Thankfully, that relaxed, effortless, put on the record (yes, I have the vinyl, too!) and forget about it breezy fits the 32 minutes for cocktails carefree tone of this collection. Though this set does repeat four tunes from Music for Lovers Only, the track run times are slightly trimmed here. There are different, similarly named releases as well originally going back to the sixties, but fortunately, this compilation is a perfectly affordable download to start your two-stepping trip down memory lane.
Music for Lovers Only – Although there are different vinyl listings and CD reissues for this 1952 record setting Gleason debut, this complete 16 track session remains the perfect candlelight dinner accompaniment – it's the very definition of mood music. This record is one of the few staples to which my husband doesn't mind listening, and with good reason thanks to the likes of “My Funny Valentine,” “But Not for Me,” “Some Day,” “A Moonlight Saving Time,” and “Love (Your Spell is Everywhere).” “Love is Here to Stay,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and “Alone Together” are also on the aforementioned Best of Jackie Gleason, but this full length sit down maximizes the mellow ritzy whilst also having shorter two or three minute length tunes for a foxtrot or slow and suave tango about the room. Though I'm not really sure about the titles of “Little Girl” and “I Cover the Waterfront” the jazz is just that smooth and songs such as “Body and Soul,” “If I Had You,” “My Love for Carmen,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman” also make for some sophisticated whoopee on your mind. You can go ahead and call this elevator music, but that must be one simmering, steamy lift!
Music, Martinis, and Memories – Originally a hit album released in 1954, this 1987 16 track CD packs nearly an hour of eponymous invocations thanks to “Unforgettable,” “How High the Moon,” and “Shangri-La.” From the melodic brass notes on “Once in Awhile,” “It Could Happen to You,” and “The Nearness of You” to the sentimental strings of “I Got It Bad and It Ain't Good,” “Yesterdays,” and “My Ideal;” this session is both bittersweet in the melancholy and provocative with cheek to cheek. And that's not to mention more enchanting tunes such as the tender “I Love You,” “I Remember You,” and “I'll Be Seeing You.” Though dynamite, it's odd that only “I Can't Get Started” repeats on Best. However, with so much top of the charts material, I guess they had to draw the line somewhere. Actually, I find it somewhat depressing that such a perfectly excellent catalog seems dismissed, or worse, forgotten today. Again, if you don't recognize the melodies of these songs (where have you been?) the hour can sound like all one composition. Fortunately, that's how thematic albums are supposed to be, and whether today's listeners think the similarities were due to Gleason's lack of musical technique and know how or a deliberate orchestration, one can't deny that the formula works. If you dance to one, you'll dance to them all and come back for more.
I know, I know. It's frustrating for a die hard collector to chase different vinyl editions and keep up with not always comparable digital releases. I must say, with their quips on spending more money for discs with only one or two songs you want, the time consuming search for the individual downloads you need, and being stuck listening to the snap crackle pop record or chewed up cassette, recently, more than ever I am finding those TimeLife Music infomercials spot on, prophetic marketing!