Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Something Cool

There’s a moment in the title song of June Christy’s 1953 album Something Cool where the melody of the song breaks and her wistful and vulnerable tone of the previous verses becomes mournful and prosaic. She turns on her listener and with a sad and accusatory tones laments:

"I bet you couldn’t imagine that I one time had a house
with so many rooms I couldn’t count them all, I bet you couldn’t imagine that I had fifteen different beaus, who would beg and beg to take me to the ball, And I bet you couldn’t picture me the time I went to Paris in the fall, who’d have thought that the man I loved was quite so handsome, quite so tall. "

As she sings these lines the orchestra drops away and is replaced with the simple, yet evocative strumming of chords on the guitar. When she returns to the verse the orchestra becomes dreamy and hazy with muted horns and lush strings.

Something Cool, as a song and an album, is a sort of an anomaly. The song is a melancholy monologue set to music lacking both a chorus and refrain. The album is a collection eleven songs that revolve around the theme of loneliness, disillusion and heartbreak. It is amazing that an album with such a concept was ever recorded let alone became a modest hit when the top songs of the year included Pattie Page’s Doggie in the Window and The Hilltopper’s P.S. I Love You.

Something Cool sold an astounding 93,000 copies far exceeding all of Capitol Records expectations and allowed Christy and arranger Pete Rugolo, who helped her conceive the idea, the freedom to go ahead a make what would be in total nine classic albums showcasing Christy’s voice and cementing her place as the epitome of the cool school of vocal stylings.

Among nine albums the must haves are The Misty Miss Christy, which includes a mournful version of Ellington's Day Dream and the most melancholy version of Maybe You'll Be There I have ever heard and Gone For the Day with its collection of songs revolving around life and love in the country. I can't even choose a standout on Gone For the Day (1957) the entire album is just a breath of fresh air and just so perfect that I get chills just thinking about it. Luckily, this CD comes paired with Fair and Warmer (1957) and its a perfect match with its lighter mix of smooth love songs.

I think in the case of June Christy it is best to avoid greatest hits collections or ballad collections which feature songs from this period. There are some great collections of her early work with Stan Kenton and his orchestra but her albums from 1953-1965 should really be listened to in their entirety as pieces of self contained art.

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