Al Martino, The Voice of My Choice

Al MartinoRecently whilst writing, my eyes were drawn towards my record collection. Now, I have a few hundred records, mainly ballad singers and opera, rock and roll, country and a lot of jazz. Not a huge collection, but enough to please me. One of my favourites is an album entitled ‘The Exciting Voice of Al Martino’.

This album has been around me since I was a kid. Battered and bruised, it still plays and I still get immense joy out of it. I would like to tell you what I think about the singer, the albums, and why I enjoy his work.

For me, a singer has to move me. I don’t have money for records that don’t appeal directly to me. I choose what I buy carefully, but I have every single record by Al Martino. Every single disc I could find– single, album, whatever the medium, I had to have it.

Let me tell you about this singer. He sings with soul, class and from the heart. Al Martino, for me, is class symbolised; his voice grooves through songs, giving every ounce of emotion to even the most overly recorded songs. I personally believe that some singers are music, everything they do is musically driven, perfect in every way. Sinatra is one of these perfect musical talents, Elvis Presley is another, Dick Haymes, Ella Fitzgerald, and none more so that Al Martino.

Take for instance his swing album, ‘Swing Along With Al Martino’, a beautifully recorded album with what could be the definitive readings of ‘Summertime’ and ‘‘Making Whoopee’. Now, these songs are always desired for singers, even today. It’s an achievement to sing them, but Mr Martino gets them to their highest. I have never been so moved by these songs as I was when I heard his cuts.

Move into country and we find him well at home. ‘I Love You Because’ is a great country song. It was sung nicely by several big country stars. Al Martino comes along and makes it his own– the phrasing, sincere reading and perfect feel make it my favourite version. The parent album is so good, I have worn out several copies. ‘Take These Chains From My Heart’ has never sounded better as far as I am concerned. Beautiful arrangements by Belford Hendricks, the wonderfully talented guy who gave Nat King Cole that country sound, allowed him to hit the charts in his later years.

The Exciting Voice

Then take Mr Martino and his comeback album, ‘The Exciting Voice of Al Martino’. I cannot rave enough about this album– Mr Martino had been off the scene for a few years. He returned to the States, knew he could return to the top with the right material. He recorded this album, it hit, and it hit the big time. It was this album that sparked his second and hugely successful return to the top of the charts. The record itself and the songs are tasteful, beautifully arranged and showcase his huge voice to its best. ‘Make Me Believe’ is one of those great pop songs, high in range and mighty. The song itself is a pretty ditty. The way Al Martino sings it makes it a classic. He hits those notes like an angel riding a cloud of power. However, my favourite cut on the album is that operatic favourite ‘Nessum Dorma’. I really loved Mario Lanza singing this song, but Mr Martino takes it home for me. Slowly, he climbs the song, feeling every lyric and then finally he let’s loose. No opera singer ever did the song better, as far as I am concerned.

Albums continued to come, all powerful, all beautiful. That voice, every single time, always the same and always exciting. I would suggest any music lover try them out, the seventies brought some great pop albums from this tour de force singer– albums like ‘To The Door of the Sun’ and ‘Love Theme from the Godfather’. I believe every single one is a gem, a real, moving gem.

I was eighteen when I heard that he had died. At the time, I was in college. As I was sitting eating breakfast, upon hearing the news, I was in shock. I had never met him or even seen him in concert. The one opportunity I had to see him life was dashed by other problems. All I remember from that morning was rushing to find one of his albums because the music always lives on.

To me, Al Martino is one of the greats.

 

Al Martino To The Door of the Sun

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First King of Rock and Roll?

1929 was a whole new world to the one we live in today. Ellington, Beiderbecke, Trumbauer, Lang, the Dorseys and Condon were ripping up the music world and a young singer trying to make his way in the world was among them. His name was Bing Crosby.

This guy had sung with all the above mentioned artists, or knew them. He came from a time when “singers” did not exist, just bands with vocals. Records would just say the name of the band, with vocal refrain.

Bing changed all of that. He was the first guy to take a solo singer and turn himself into a super star. Now you may be thinking, what has that got to do with rock and roll? Well, it’s everything, because without Crosby there would be no Sinatra, no Johnnie Ray, no Elvis, no Beatles and no rock bands.

So, what were the early discs like? Not staid, I can tell you that. Crosby sounded like anything but the little old man he is remembered as. He scats, feels the song and makes them swing. ‘Mississippi Mud’ moved, it moved like nothing had moved before. Just as Elvis would make ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ the hottest sound in town, Crosby made his first discs sound like he was an alien from Mars. ‘Muddy Water’, ‘My Kinda Love’, ‘It Must Be True’, ‘Learn To Croon’ all had that same edgy quality. The man was born to sing Jazz.

What happened next was the same fate all new fads end up with– he became part of the establishment, a movie star. The man who had invented superstars became a little old guy who sat on TV every Christmas and sang jolly refrains. The memories of his rip roaring, heavy drinking, womanising rock and roll past, erased. The man who had battled with his weight suddenly became skinny, the man who was the first to sing Hoagy Carmichael’s tunes became Mr White Christmas…

Check out the early discs and tell me if you can’t hear the vocal hiccups of Elvis in those records.

*Mississippi Mud
*Ol’ Man River
*I Surrender Dear
*Stardust

I can tell you, I love all the work Bing accomplished, the movies and the albums. I like the Sinatra styled albums he did in the 50’s, like Bing Sings whilst Bregman Swings’ with Buddy Bregman, and the jazzed up hitter entitled “New Tricks” with Buddy Cole, but sometimes I wish he had just stayed with his roots, the rockin’ jazz of the 20’s and 30’s.

Just check him out, he swings, sings and rocks with the best of them.

Dick Haymes, Equal to Sinatra?

Rain or Come ShineThe time had come for Dick Haymes to make a bigger splash. Throughout the 1940’s he had matched Frank Sinatra in every single way. Hit records like ‘It Might as well be Spring’ and ‘Love Letters’ dominated those early charts. The movies had made him a household name and concert dates were bulging with fans.

Then, slowly it had slipped away. Haymes had married Rita Hayworth, he had conquered the music industry and the film industry, but by 1954 his career was in tatters.

Capitol gave him an olive branch- just as they had to Frank Sinatra, Haymes was signed up to make albums.

The first album did not have a hit single, it did not have a gimmick or any sales quirk. “Come Rain or Come Shine” was just a perfectly classy album by one of the worlds greatest voices.

What made it stand out? Emotive singing! I think a huge part of it was that he recorded the album shortly after his split with Rita Hayworth. The small, powerful arrangements and a hell of a lot of life experience added so much to the disc. From the first song to the last, the album was a classic. Now, I might be biased- but I liked that album so much I wore out a copy. I liked it as much as I liked ‘On Broadway’ by Robert Goulet and ‘Swing Easy’ by Frank Sinatra.

That 10″ Capitol album had a hold over me, and that hold stuck until I found the second album ‘Moondreams”.

The second album, another 10″ disc, was even better. The album hit hard in a powerfully subtle way, with its beautiful arrangements and lovelorn singing. It’s one of those late night albums that really groove you into the small hours.

So why isn’t Dick Haymes known better? Well, Capitol wanted a hit single. Dick couldn’t deliver, the songs he knew best were not rock and roll. The arrangements would not rock. The records he made were masterpiece albums, but without singles it was thought that an artist could not sustain popularity. How he must have looked with envy at Johnnie Ray and Frank Sinatra as their records raced up the bestsellers. Imagine if Dick Haymes had recorded ‘Cry’ or ‘Witchcraft’, he might well be remembered better today.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Great singing isn’t a key to success, it just helps. Dick kept working the nightclubs and making the odd album. Finally he died in the 1980’s. If he had done nothing except those two albums above he would be still be a genius in my eyes- but with a back catalogue as strong as his was- he’s a legend. RIP Dick.

A Sinner Am I- Johnnie Ray.

Johnnie Ray had it bad, he had just found himself replaced by a new craze called Rock and Roll. The half American Indian, half deaf teen idol must have been in shock.

Things had looked so rosy for him just a few years earlier. With Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine he had rocked the charts with huge hits like ‘Cry’, ‘Just Walking in the Rain’ and ‘You Don’t Owe me a Thing’- then Elvis had arrived and suddenly the ‘cry guy’ wasn’t hitting the charts with such ease.

The first full 12″ album he recorded was called ‘The Big Beat’. A classic, heavily influenced by R’n’B. ‘I’m Gonna Move’ was the opposite of the hit records of the time. The album released in 1956 was ahead of its time! It’s available now on CD- check it out!

The next few albums were great listening– ‘Til Morning’, ‘A Sinner Am I’ and ‘Live at the Desert Inn’. All three of these stumbled along, none set the charts alight. Columbia grew disenchanted and suddenly the golden boy wasn’t so golden.

In 1959, he scored his last hit, a self penned record called ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’. The record was a huge hit in the UK, but just a minnow in the USA and with that last disc his chart career was over. A few albums followed, along with alcoholism and cabaret clubs. There was nothing more or less to it. Johnnie Ray slipped away. The man who had been chased onto the roof of the London Palladium and held captive until he did a rooftop show was now a golden oldie.

In the 70’s, he came to England and caused a frenzy. I often wonder why he didn’t live here. His career could have taken off again, singers never go out of work in the UK. He just kept on going, he survived the scandal of being gay in 1959 and beat his drug addictions. Finally, he died in 1990 and I wonder if he ever knew how great he was?

If you have a chance guys, check out his discs. They’re masterpieces, real masterpieces!

Want a good publisher? Try Darrell Bennett!

Darrell BennettOn my travels I meet some very interesting people. I interview writers and publishers and every other interesting person I come across. However, I have a question for all of you out there:

Do you have an inspirational manuscript?

Have you been turned down? I know how that feels. I also know a guy who can help you— he’s a small publisher right now… Tomorrow? He is going to be a giant in the industry.

Darrell Bennett writes inspirational work himself. He has had two hit books. Check them out!

1) Daring to be Different: 25 Tips for a Life of Success

2) The Power to Think, The Will to Act

You can also pick them up on his website. I would suggest sticking around and taking a look at his videos, too!

The Official Website of Darrell Bennett

Now, what else can I say? This guy is a Harvard Lawyer with a thriving life and a thriving business. I think he can say much more about his life and career to you through his own website and lectures. I guess I just respect him because he has made a success of his life. There’s a lot of people in America who deserve success. I think more and more people are failing because of the blocks put in front of them. If we all just stop and think about our lives then we can go around them. We can all get what we want if we just try our best to get there.

I wrote this article many months ago before I had a computer. Now with my life turning around, I can afford to change this page and make it what I wanted it to be. I hope to show you all that if you take some good steps forward the whole world can change for you. Publishing with Darrell Bennett would be a good step for all of you guys out there. If you keep getting turned down– keep looking for all the avenues you can find. You will make it! Just like I made it!

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.” Darrell Bennett

Follow him on twitter @DarrellBennett

Or just send a query to darrellbennettteam (@) gmail.com

Why I consider Stephen King to be a great writer…

A lot of people, my wife included, write off Stephen King as a writer.

Why?

Is it because he is immensely popular? Wealthy? Prolific? Is there a stigma involved for writers who specialize in horror?

I think all of the above apply. I read all of his works growing up. The local library would supply me with my fill and I would indulge endlessly. At night, I would read his work until the early hours. Never once could I pull myself away from his work. I was addicted…

At my school, we had quiet reading time at the beginning of the lesson. I would pull my latest acquisition from the library out of my school bag. I can see the teacher now as she asked me to hold the book up. I did. She stared down at me with a sneer, her lips curled at the edges.

“We do not read those at this school,” she would chide. “Read something of substance.”

Now, to me a story was and is something that can involve the reader. If you can’t take your eyes off the work, then it’s a hit. Stephen King managed to grab me every time. Whether the story was about Vampires, the end of the world or a creepy shop owner, I was there, I was addicted. I read other writers’ work, but always returned to the master of suspense masterpieces.

What makes his books so good in my opinion are simple ingredients. Characters, places and storylines.

The characters are strong, rounded and always believable. I found myself liking them, hating them and sympathising with them. The places, the towns are so realistic. Those people really do exist, believe me! I came from a small town and there’s always a gossip, a drunk and a town cop. The social aspect of his books are fantastic, he gets to all those little secrets every town wishes to hide. The story lines drove me to the end, especially the short stories. I especially went for the short stories. To me, the ability to write a novella with such skill is a dying art. Think about it, a short story that takes a character from one frame of mind to another in perhaps 50 pages has to be really crafted to make it work. I can’t get enough of them.

So, if anyone wants to get into something they haven’t tried before, I’d suggest trying his work. The stories will have you gripped as I was gripped into the night. You won’t forget them in a hurry.

I don’t know Mr King in real life, I have no idea what he is like as a person. But, his work is top of the tree for me.

Let me know who you consider to be a great writer and why? Feel free to comment!