posted 06/18/05 07:25 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
In the spirit of the recent thread "Your least favorite Bing hit records," here's another topic which has always interested me. This is a tougher question which might require some reflection before answering.
There are several Bing songs which I love but which I feel have been compromised (or even ruined) by one element. Sometimes it's the background singers, sometimes it's the orchestration or arrangement, but I always end up thinking, "boy, that was a great record, but ruined by that one irritating thing." Back in the days of vinyl, I would always just pick up the needle and skip over the offensive part. It's harder ot do that with CD's so I end up not playing some of these songs.
So here goes-- here's my list of good Bing songs which were brought down many pegs by one single bad element:
1. Sweet Leilani: the obvious #1 choice. I refuse to listen to the first 55 seconds of that horrible guy singing the first verse. Awful! It's a great song and Bing sings it perfectly, but that Hawaiian fellow utterly wrecks it for me.
2. Deep in the Heart of Texas: I love Bing's vocal, love the arrangement, love the orchestra. But I don't like the overly l-o-n-g middle section with the orchestra which goes on forever. I want more Bing, less orchestra.
3. Silent Night (the gorgeous 1944 version) This is one of Bing's most sublime vocals, he's in rare form here. But the background chorus sounds like a Lawrence Welk reunion. No background singers, please.
4. White Christmas ('47 version) I'm loathe to criticize this song, but the Ken Darby singers add nothing to this classic recording.
5. Remember Me? One of my favorite Bing vocals, but the long orchestration in the middle grinds on way too long.
6. Yes, Indeed! I wish Connie Boswell wasn't on this track. Satcho instead.
7. Hey Jude -- admittedly a tired-sounding performance from Bing, but it's not that wretched. It's the "pom pom pom pom-pom-pom-pom's that sink it!
8. Don't Fence Me In-- when the Andrew Sisters drag out the line, "Oh give me l-a-n-d, lots of la-ha-ha-ha-and..." and the song moves into that bluesy beat. Horrors! I want to hear Bing sing that verse, not Laverne, Patty and Maxine.
One common thread on my list is that Bing is never at fault, it's ancillary elements rearing their unattractive heads. OK, fire away, I'll put on my bulletproof vest!
posted 06/18/05 08:27 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Bing's name was on the label so if the record was bad he was at fault.
It is like saying; for instance, that President Grant was not at fault even though his Presidency was "compromised" or "ruined" by scandal.
posted 06/18/05 10:17 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Here's a whole album I felt Bing ruined -- Bingo Viejo recorded in 1975. I love the Paul Smith orchestrations and wish Bing had just sat back quietly and enjoyed the band.
posted 06/19/05 01:55 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Steven, would you appreciate the orchestrations if it wasn't for Bing?
Don't you think he handles 'Maria Bonita', 'Frensei' and 'Cuando Calienta El Sol' fairly well? The orchestration on 'Amapola' is a bit bizarre!
posted 06/19/05 08:51 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Bing was 72 when he made this album.
For that reason alone he should be cut some slack but lately he has been shown no quarter here.
posted 06/19/05 09:33 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Yeah, Bingo Viejo is dismal, similar to the album with Hey Jude on it. Bing sounded as if he was sleep walking through both projects. He perked up with Seasons, however.
posted 06/19/05 10:59 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
"Hey Jude Hey Bing" was less a disappointment for me than "Bingo Viejo." "Hey Jude" was mediocre in nearly all its aspects, including the orchestration and audio quality. Bing presumably recorded this album to a canned orchestra.
On the other hand, the music is bright, brassy and Sinatraesque on "Bingo Viejo." I enjoy the Paul Smith Orchestra and the arrangements, yes, even on Amapola. Bing, however, was not up to the orchestra. The fact that he was 72 at the time is irrelevant. The next year he recorded "Feels Good Feels Right" and hit a home run. Of course, most of Bing's recordings with Frank (formerly Ken) Barnes at this same time were pleasing, if not exceptional.
My conclusion regarding "Bingo Viejo" is that whoever produced the album (I can't find a reference to the album's producer -- not even on the original album) was so in awe of Bing that he couldn't work effectively with him. This would include threatening to call in Sinatra if Bing didn't sing on key and getting Bing to do something again if necessary or altering the arrangement to be more compatible with Bing's limited range at the time. "Bingo Viejo" should have been another great Bing album, and Bing starts several of the songs (Maria Bonita, Frenesi) with great promise, only to start croaking by the end.
I don't want to pin the entire blame on the producer of this album, however. Bing should've know better himself. The fact he would allow so many vocal embarrassments to be released on one album perhaps reveals even at 72 he was more interested in quantity over quality, golfing over fine art. Fortunately, Ken Barnes came into Bing's musical life near the end to give Bing some important direction. Thank you Ken!
I hope this doesn't get me booted from the Club Crosby.
posted 06/19/05 11:50 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I'd rather hear a "dismal", "ruined", or "flawed" recording by Bing than a recording made by anyone else. With ONE exception.
posted 06/19/05 12:55 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Steven, I enjoyed your summation of both those albums, very interesting. It hadn't occured to me that Bing might have sang to a canned orchestra with the Hey Jude disc. Is this confirmed, or generally believed to be so? Fascinating!
Actually I don't think Bing's chronological age impeded him to a large extent. He still could (and did) sing beautifully in 1976, when he was 73 years old. Sinatra went through a bad patch in the early 70's during his quasi-retirement and then bounced back beautifully after he learned to breath more deeply, using his diaphragm. The notes he held in 1979 on "New York, New York" were impressive.
We've all discussed and pretty much agreed that Bing sounded better in the mid-70's than he did throughout much of the 60's. He just sounds bored, distracted and sleepy in many of those 60's recordings. Perhaps it was the uninspired material.
As for age, Paul McCartney turned 63 this weekend and is still in beautiful voice. I think the same can be said with Bing- he sounder fabulous even as a senior citizen.
posted 06/21/05 04:40 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
May I add my two cents to this discussion? Bing's 1945 recording of Schubert's Ave Maria is a slightly sore point as far as I'm concerned. Ave Maria is, in my opinion, the most beautiful piece of music ever written. I believe that while Schubert was composing it, God was whispering in to Schubert's ear. Bing's recording of this lovely piece of music is way below standard (I hesitate to call it awful). The arrangement isn't that good, the choir lacking and the key is too low. Pity that he never re-recorded it. According to Gary Gidden's book, the first time he tried to record it he was too drunk to perform and the session was cancelled. Perry Como's version is much better.
posted 06/21/05 06:13 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Tom, I agree with you. As I began reading your post, I was thinking, "Perry Como actually did a better job on this song," and I see you concluded with the same thought. Perry's mid-70's version of "Ave Maria" is also excellent. Bing was hampered with a poor arrangement and the choir was off key.
However, I think Bing's version of "Ave Maria" in "Going My Way" was excellent, especially the first verse. I also prefer the film version of "Going My Way" to the recorded version.