Monday, July 01, 2002

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Our critics pick their Clooney favorites




Janelle Gelfand's picks

        No matter what Rosemary Clooney sings, it sounds autobiographical. She has lived her life through these songs, whether it's the spirited “Ya Got Class” from her second picture, Here Come the Girls with Bob Hope, or wistful sambas inspired by a trip she took to Brazil in 1968.

        Here are a few of my favorite things for the perfect Rosemary Clooney album.

        1. “White Christmas” — Although she's forever linked to the 1954 movie, she didn't record a Christmas album until 1996. Here, it's sung with a genuine yearning and a gentle, big band swing.

        2. “Brazil” — The tune that opens and closes her Brazil album begins intimately against John Pizzarelli's guitar, before going upbeat. I love the importance she gives to the words, “we kissed.”

        3. “Corcovado” — The joys of this Antonio Carlos Jobim tune are found in her matchless enunciation — and the gorgeous combo led by John Oddo, with a pretty flute solo by Steve Kujala.

        4. “Boy From Ipanema” — Ms. Clooney shares this swaying Jobim classic with Diana Krall; though they have different styles, it's fun to hear these two generations together. Ms. Krall inserts one of Tony Pastor's signature songs, “I'm Confessing That I Love You,” into her piano interlude. “Only a few of us know that,” says Ms. Clooney.

        5. “Peach Tree Street” (with Frank Sinatra) — Frank and 21-year-old Rosemary — it's an irresistible combination. There's palpable electricity as they flirt and stroll “with my baby on my arm.”

        6. “Sophisticated Lady” — Rosemary (in Los Angeles) dubbed her sensuous vocals over the track recorded by Duke Ellington and his orchestra (in New York). While she was going through a hard pregnancy, Billy Strayhorn would bring her breakfast in bed and then coach her on the music.

        7. “How Will I Remember You” — Her voice soars poignantly against the lush sounds of Nelson Riddle's orchestra. You can almost see these two lovers (singer and bandleader were having an affair) making eyes at each other.

        8. “Do You Miss New York?” — Sophisticated and world wise, she doesn't miss the irony in this Dave Frishberg song.

        9. “Route 66” — With dead-on intonation, Ms. Clooney makes tracks in this hip classic.

        10. “As Time Goes By” — Recorded early into her jazz career (1977) the gem immortalized in Casablanca is given an upbeat swing, marked by impeccable intonation and stunning instrumentals.

        11. “Ya got Class” — You can hear Bob Hope laughing while Ms. Clooney sings in this duet from the movie Where the Girls Are. It's just a great Hollywood tune.

        12. “Sentimental Journey” — Recorded live at the Rosemary Clooney Music Festival in Maysville with Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack, it's got a big sound, and she takes it slow and sentimental.

        13. “Sisters” — Two perfectly matched voices sing with tongue-in-cheek humor. Years later, Ms. Clooney said she couldn't remember which voice is hers, and which belongs to her sister Betty.

        14. “Come On-a My House” — Even though she never liked this tune, her voice smiles through the William Saroyan text, against a thumping beat and improbable harpsichord accompaniment.

        15. “The Secret of Life” — A reflective Rosemary looks back in this James Taylor tune on 70, her 70th birthday album.

Larry Nager's picks

        It's been almost 60 years since Rosemary Clooney first sang into a microphone at the WLW studios in downtown Cincinnati. She's made a boat-load of records since, and all of them remain in print on dozens of releases.

        For the truly fanatical, Germany's encyclopedic Bear Family Records has three boxed sets of her music — in all, 22 CDs of round-the-clock Rosie.

        Here, looking over her incredible body of work, is my single disc's worth of her best.

        1. “Half as Much” — her 1952 No. 1 cover of Hank Williams' earlier hit remains a silvery blend of country and pop ballad singing.

        2. “Mambo Italiano” — The best of her novelty hits, sung with real gusto and a sense of fun.

        3. “Blue Rose” — The title song of her 1956 LP with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, it features this master of the lyric wordlessly conveying the feeling of the music. A magical performance.

        4. “You Took Advantage of Me” — Recorded with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, great singing, great arranging, great band.

        5. “Someone to Watch Over Me” — Delicately yearning, this superb vocal performance comes from a Clooney-Riddle collaboration recorded late in their love affair. But even without subtext, it shimmers.

        6. “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” — Ms. Clooney and Hank Williams made a great team. Here, she sings one of his most beautiful ballads for RCA in the early '60s, gorgeous music that, unfortunately, was out of fashion at the time.

        7. “I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good” — One of her best torch performances (written by Duke Ellington), recorded for her Grammy-nominated tribute to her former lover and longtime collaborator, Dedicated to Nelson.

        8. “You're in Kentucky” — The Maysville girl gets down-home, literally and figuratively, from Dedicated to Nelson.

        9. “When October Goes” — A beautifully mature performance, ripe with regret, from her Johnny Mercer collection on Concord Jazz.

        10. “How Deep is the Ocean” — From her Still on the Road CD, simply another great version of a great song.

        11. “Taking a Chance on Love” — Hope springs eternal, as Ms., Clooney swings with the silvery cornet of Warren Vache, from her Showtunes CD.

        12. “These Foolish Things Remind Me of You” — A song of longing and loneliness from a different wartime, from her For the Duration tribute to the music of World War II.

        13. “I've Got a Crush On You” — At once girlish and womanly, coyly sexy, from her Everything's Coming Up Rosie comeback album.

        14. “I'm Beginning to See the Light” — Effortless swing, backed by the Woody Herman Orchestra.

        15. “White Christmas” — Recorded for 1995's Demi-Centennial, this is the classic, mature Rosemary Clooney, one of the finest examples of her artistry on record: true to the melody, faithful to the lyric, but the added poignancy of her own deeply felt emotions transforms this into something far more than a Yuletide evergreen.

       



Rosemary Clooney Remembered
Click through photo gallery
Maysville mourns its Rosie
Rosie's friends remember courageous, talented woman
- Our critics pick their Clooney favorites
Clooney's biggest hits available on CD
Clooney's movie roles
Through the years with Rosemary Clooney
Condolences and memorials
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