Spotlight on

Nancy Wilson

 

In a year marked by her 70th birthday and her third Grammy win, plus lots of honours large and small, Nancy Wilson continues to perform occasional concert dates and record new CDs. Meanwhile, her fans continue to clamour for everything they can get, old and new. After more than three dozen original LPs on Capitol Records, 15 have been reissued in their entirety on CD along with more than a dozen compilations and boxed sets. So what's new? This package includes selections from 33 albums; 71 songs including a dozen songs from eight different albums that have never before been released on CD. Three of those songs are from her famed live show at the Cocoanut Grove in 1964, the show that in many ways put her on the map, or at least on the cover of Time magazine.

Nancy was popular from the start. Her debut single, recorded in 1959, started with a little narration that has since become legendary. It’s the one where Nancy explains that men who choose to be indiscreet need a woman at home who is basically naive and stupid if they expect to hear “You’re so late getting home from the office. Did you miss your train?” That’s the beginning of the verse to Guess Who I Saw Today. Carmen McRae had done the song, and before that Eydie Gormé, but Nancy made this song hers. It was so successful that between April of 1960 and July of 1962 Capitol Records released five Nancy Wilson albums: Like In Love, Something Wonderful, The Swingin's Mutual: Nancy Wilson & George Shearing, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley and Hello Young Lovers. Here, on disc 1, you will find three songs from each of those first five albums, Guess Who I Saw Today, which to this day it remains her signature song, On Green Dolphin Street and Happy Talk, both classics with George Shearing and Cannonball Adderley, respectively, and standards such as Rodgers & Hart’s Little Girl Blue and Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady backed by George Shearing’s arrangements for string choir.

What is amazing about Ms. Wilson's career is not simply its longevity in the face of a fickle and ever-changing music marketplace, but the fact that she has always remained true to her own style. Style being the keyword, as she herself has always referred to herself as a song stylist, never aligning herself with any particular genre and never, ever, referring to herself as a jazz singer, or R&B singer, or even a supper club singer. Staunch jazz fans may salute her as the last of the greats: Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae... Others who see her as having followed the footsteps of Lena Horne similarly wonder who will step up to carry the torch. But a look at her fan mail shows Ms. Wilson's following crosses all boundaries of race and age, geography and socio-economic status.

Concept albums, albums with a theme, were in vogue in the 1960s; songs from Broadway shows and Hollywood movies were popular, and the recording industry was prospering right along with the artists. Tony Bennett had done a popular album called My Broadway for Columbia Records in 1962. In March 1963 Capitol released Nancy’s Broadway-My Way and followed with Yesterday's Love Songs, Today's Blues at the end of the year. These two recordings added even more fuel to the fire, and Nancy’s career was really heating up! Disc 1 shows her versatility, continuing with hits from Broadway and Hollywood (As Long As He Needs Me, Days Of Wine And Roses and Moon River, to name just three), capped off by four sizzling and sultry big-band standards arranged and conducted by Gerald Wilson.

In 1964 Nancy won her first Grammy award for How Glad I Am, an album that included such popular songs as the three on disc 2: The Boy From Ipanema, Don’t Rain On My Parade (from Funny Girl) and the title track. The fact that How Glad I Am made it to #11 on the pop charts while the Grammy was in the category of Best R&B Album didn’t phase Nancy in the least. She refused to be boxed in or categorized. “I am a song stylist. I have always been. It gives me the freedom to sing anything I want. I have always been jazz-oriented, but I'm more into the lyric; I'm not about the melody. I'm in tune with the story. I'm a song stylist who happens to sing some jazz, some blues, some R&B. I sing songs, and those songs can be anything.”

Whether backed by a small combo (I Left My Heart in San Francisco, Call Me Irresponsible and What Kind of Fool Am I? all from Today, Tomorrow, Forever), or a big band (Ten Good Years, The Music That Makes Me Dance, and Don’t Talk, Just Sing from The Nancy Wilson Show Live at the Coconut Grove), Nancy took the popular songs of the day and made them hers; songs like You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, The Shadow of Your Smile with a Latin tinge, Willow Weep For Me, and Born Free, to name just a few more from Disc 2.

All the Hollywood stars turned out for her performance at the Coconut Grove in 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minelli among those sitting front and centre. It was a turning point in in Nancy’s career, garnering critical acclaim from coast to coast. Time Magazine wrote, “She is, all at once, both cool and sweet, both singer and story teller.” Nancy once told an interviewer, "I loved torch songs. If I'd been able to, I'd have been laying on top of the piano! I loved all the drama of it." She was speaking of her high school days when she was already a working singer, and so illustrates that her devotion to a song's story dates back to the beginning and is truly her centre as a singer.

Disc 2 ends and Disc 3 begins with four songs from her Lush Life album, recorded with a full orchestra. When pressed to pick a favourite album, Nancy always mentions this one, explaining, “It sums up who I am and the kind of music I like.” Recorded in the Spring of 1967, it features arrangements by Billy May (I Stayed Too Long at the Fair and Sunny) and Sid Feller (You’ve Changed). It’s about being “Free Again, back to being me again.”

Before the decade was over, Capitol released eight more Nancy Wilson albums. Welcome to My Love, arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson was Nancy’s 20th LP in eight years and it featured great standards including Rogers & Hart’s It Never Entered My Mind, Sammy Cahn’s Welcome to my Love, and For Once in My Life recorded by everyone from The Temptations and The Four Tops to Carmen McRae and Stevie Wonder. As an interpreter of song, Nancy adapted easily to changing times and tastes. Adapt may not even be the right word. Nancy didn’t change, but in addition to the standards there were new songs, and new songwriters. These albums also featured songs like “In a Long White Room” (an original with lyrics by Marty Charnin who co-wrote with Luther Henderson all the special material for the Cocoanut Grove show), Gentle On My Mind (which won two country music Grammy’s and was popularized by Glen Campbell), Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield’s hit single), and Face It Girl, It’s Over.

But it was far from over for Nancy. Ten years in and she was just warming up. She maintained a full touring schedule throughout the 1970s and Capitol recorded fourteen more Nancy Wilson albums. The last eight songs rounding out this compilation include the title track from Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (an album that also featured songs of the day such as ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’) and two Duke Ellington classics, Prelude to a Kiss and In a Sentimental Mood, from But Beautiful, backed by a stellar quartet with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Grady Tate and guitarist Gene Bertoncini. Greatest Performance Of My Life was on a 1971 album titled Kaleidoscope, and from the 1974 album All In Love Is Fair is You’re As Right As Rain, a ballad originally recorded by The Stylistics that proved to be Nancy’s highest-charted song ever on the R&B charts. Three more songs complete the set, and these three have never before been released on CD. They are: Don’t Misunderstand (from I Know I Love Him), Joe (from Now I’m a Woman), and the title track from This Mother’s Daughter with arrangements by Dave Grusin.

Nancy is frequently asked how she selects her songs, whether she has favourites, and what she believes to be her greatest accomplishment as a singer. Sometimes, in answer to the first two questions, she talks about “the big dramatic ballads about relationships, male/female things, things that kind of hit you where you hurt.” But mostly, she talks about telling stories and says that her greatest accomplishment is “that I sang stories. That people remember the stories. That I sang songs that touched peoples’ hearts, songs that had people naming babies after me, songs that were real. I sang songs that would move you. We had this relationship, my audience and I, where we trusted one another.” And they still do.

Throughout the years Nancy’s recorded legacy continues to prove that good songs are timeless. Every time Nancy takes a microphone in hand she gives the greatest performance of her life as she sings the stories in her own inimitable way.

Devra Hall



Nancy’s newest recording is a beautifully presented 3 CD set, which features

her Capitol recordings. Covering the years 1960 – 1976, it includes all those

familiar tracks that are a must for any collection.


I have always looked for those special songs, the ones that touch you because they tell a

story. Like fine wines, great songs stand the test of time and I am delighted that this new

compilation on CD brings back so many wonderful songs that, until now, were heard only

on old LPs. I loved them then, and I love them still. I hope you will too’.

Love, Nancy

 





CD1

    1. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)

    2. I Want To Be Loved  

    3. On The Street Where You Live

    4. Guess Who I Saw Today

    5. What A Little Moonlight Can Do   

    6. Call It Stormy Monday

    7. The Nearness Of You (With George Shearing)  

    8. On Green Dolphin Street (With George Shearing)

    9. The Things We Did Last Summer (With George Shearing)  

    10. The Masquerade Is Over (With Cannonball Adderley)

    11. Happy Talk (With Cannonball Adderley)  

    12. The Old Country (With Cannonball Adderley)  

    13. Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today)

    14. Little Girl Blue

    15. Sophisticated Lady  

    16. As Long As He Needs Me  

    17. You Can Have Him

    18. The Days Of Wine & Roses

    19. Moon River

    20. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To  

    21. Never Let Me Go

    22. The Song Is You  

    23. Satin Doll  

    24. Someone To Watch Over Me  

CD2

    1. The Boy From Ipanama

    2. (You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am

    3. Don’t Rain On My Parade

    4. West Coast Blues

    5. Time After Time

    6. There Will Never Be Another You

    7. I Left My Heart In San Francisco

    8. Call Me Irresponsible

    9. What Kind Of Fool Am I?  

    10. Don't Talk, Just Sing

    11. Ten Good Years

    12. The Music That Makes Me Dance

    13. You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin’

    14. If I Ruled The World

    15. Hey There

    16. Makin’ Whoopee

    17. The Shadow Of Your Smile  

    18. Close Your Eyes

    19. Try A Little Tenderness

    20. Like Someone In Love

    21. Willow Weep For Me  

    22. Just For A Thrill

    23. Born Free

    24. Free Again

CD3

    1. Too Long At The Fair

    2. Sunny  

    3. You've Changed   

    4. It Never Entered My Mind  

    5. For Once In My Life  

    6. Welcome To My Love

    7. Face It Girl, It’s Over

    8. Gentle On My Mind

    9. The Man That Got Away (Live at Sands, Las Vegas)   

    10. I Can’t Get Started (Live at Sands, Las Vegas)

    11. It Only Takes A Moment

    12. Out Of This World

    13. In A Long White Room

    14. Son Of A Preacher Man

    15. You're All I Need To Get By  

    16. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

    17. Joe

    18. In A Sentimental Mood  

    19. Prelude To A Kiss

    20. The Greatest Performance Of My Life (Live In Japan)

    21. Don't Misunderstand

    22. You’re As Right As Rain

    23. This Mother's Daughter

Total running time: 3hrs, 22mins  







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS SPOTLIGHT GUESTS

Johnny Dankworth

Anthony Newley

Andy Williams

Vikki Carr

Missing Matt 2

Michael Ball

Petula Clark

Michele Monro

Lena Horne

Missing Media

George Martin

Dusty Springfield

Richard Moore

Tommy Bruce

Alma Cogan

Kathy Kirby

Tony Bennet

Johnny Mathis

Joe Longthorne

Frank Sinatra

Sammy Davis Jr.

Dean Martin

Nelson Riddle

Tony Christie

Nat King Cole

Steve Woof

Matt Monro Jnr.

Roy Leslie

Ken Dodd

Julie London

Sid Feller