Music

Bing Crosby: Bing Sings the Sinatra Songbook

The titles are best known by Sinatra. The production is crystal clear. Crosby is in fine voice. But he’s no Frank.


Bing Crosby

Bing Sings the Sinatra Songbook

Label: Collector's Choice
US Release Date: 2011-01-25
UK Release Date: 2011-01-25
Amazon
iTunes

Bing Crosby has a rich, dulcet tone. When he sings, as on the holiday classic “White Christmas”, one can easily get lost in his deep velvet bass-baritone. Frank Sinatra, on the other hand, has a different type of voice. He sings with a more nuanced passion. The conventional wisdom is that Crosby sang before the days of electric amplification and could be heard in the back row. Sinatra, who called himself a “saloon singer”, knew how to use the microphone to convey even the subtlest of his vocal abilities.

The two singers came from different eras, and Bing was a star long before Frank hit the scene. Yet Sinatra’s career eclipsed Crosby’s, and even by the ‘50s made Crosby’s music seem old fashioned. This new Collector's Choice disc gathers 18 songs recorded by Crosby mostly for various television programs during the ‘50s. The titles are best known by Sinatra. The production is crystal clear. Crosby is in fine voice. But he’s no Frank.

The problem is that Crosby sounds like a boring old adult. On love songs like Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You”, Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman’s “Witchcraft”, and the Oscar-winning Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen’s “All the Way”, Crosby sounds like someone crooning a love song to a daughter more than he does seranading a lover. Sinatra sang these tunes with edgy sexual energy. Songs like “All the Way” and such implied physical touch and being out of control.

Crosby’s strong style overwhelms the wispiness of E. Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke’s "April in Paris” and Johnny Mercer and Henry Mayer’s “Summer Wind”. His tones are too full when they should be breezy and light. On the other hand, Crosby makes cheese out of Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr’s “South of the Border” and William Rose and Mabel Wayne’s “It Happened in Monterey” by treating the music as novelty numbers. You knew Sinatra was play acting when he sang these songs, but he invested the personae with a sense of romance. Crosby’s tunes settle for just being fun.

Sinatra and Crosby do sing a medley of Edgar Leslie and Horatio Nichols’s “Among My Souvenirs”, Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill’s “September Song”, and Herman Hupfield’s “As Time Goes By”. The medley was recorded in March 1954 for The Bing Crosby Show for General Electric. These songs have the narrator reflect on the past (e.g., “You must remember this”) and Crosby sounding older serves him well. However, Sinatra still somehow manages to steal the show through his youthful charisma.

These titles were not originally intended to be packaged together, but Sinatra’s name should be a selling point for Crosby. That’s a shame, because Crosby’s great talent cannot be overstated. He is truly one of the most gifted singers of the modern era. And these are great songs. Sinatra always had a good ear for material, and these are among his notable titles. But if you want to hear songs like Carolyn Leigh and Johnny Richards's “Young at Heart" or Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen’s “Love and Marriage” sung right, go out and buy Sinatra. These sides are for Bing fans in search of fresh material. The completist would appreciate the fine fidelity of these recordings, but there are much better Crosby discs out there.

5

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Multi-tasking on your smart phone consumes too many resources, including memory, and can cause the system to "choke". Imagine what it does to your brain.

In the simplest of terms, Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen's The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World is a book about technology and the distractions that often accompany it. This may not sound like anything earth shattering. A lot of people have written about this subject. Still, this book feels a little different. It's a unique combination of research, data, and observation. Equally important, it doesn't just talk about the problem—it suggests solutions.

Keep reading... Show less
8

The husband and wife duo DEGA center their latest slick synthpop soundscape around the concept of love in all of its stages.

Kalen and Aslyn Nash are an indie pop super-couple if there ever were such a thing. Before becoming as a musical duo themselves, the husband and wife duo put their best feet forward with other projects that saw them acclaim. Kalen previously provided his chops as a singer-songwriter to the Georgia Americana band, Ponderosa. Meanwhile, Aslyn was signed as a solo artist to Capitol while also providing background vocals for Ke$ha. Now, they're blending all of those individual experiences together in their latest project, DEGA.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image