For the inaugural release of his new Cherry Red imprint Croydon Municipal, Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley has curated a collection of Songs for a Central Park Picnic. Songwriter/producer Stanley’s label is an extension of his Croydon Municipal blog, in which he holds forth on subjects as diverse as Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s Guilty, the evolution of Britpop, and the fortunes of HMV. Like Stanley’s blog, his new CD compilation reflects his eclectic musical passions.
Saint Etienne Presents Songs for a Central Park Picnic, arriving July 29 in the U.K. and August 6 in the U.S., is a hip and breezy soundtrack to a gathering in a fantasy New York that may or may not have ever existed. In Stanley’s New York, the future Candy Man Sammy Davis, Jr. cavorts with street-corner harmonists like Dion DiMucci, as Burt Bacharach, Teddy Randazzo and Barry Mann plunk away at upright pianos in the Brill Building and environs. The young upstart Phil Spector takes in the sounds of the city as he prepares to head back west, where Henry Mancini is holding court in his silver screen lounge. Bossa nova is wafting through the air, up from Brazil right into the city, and there’s a sense that anything’s possible. In this alluring setting, exotic Peruvian vocalist Yma Sumac runs into the young Artie Garr (a.k.a. Art Garfunkel) and Vince Guaraldi captures the scene with his jazz piano.
With Stanley’s own liner notes serving as your guide, this 25-track collection takes in both familiar and rare tunes from the New York scene and beyond. (A New York state of mind, if you will?) From Bacharach’s pen comes The Rangoons’ otherworldly “Moon Guitar” and Gloria Lynne’s soulful response to Gene McDaniels, “You Don’t Have to Be a Tower of Strength.” Hal David is co-credited for the instrumental "Moon Guitar," while Bob Hilliard co-wrote "Tower." (1961’s “Moon Guitar” holds the distinction of being the first-ever production jointly credited to Bacharach and David.) One of the key singers in Bacharach’s early years, Jerry Butler, offers his hit take on Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's “Moon River,” while Mancini is heard leading his sexy, Latin-flecked “Something for Cat” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Another future Hollywood film score icon, Lalo Schifrin, channels the bossa nova on his atmospheric “Boato (Bistro)” with both sinuous flute and pounding piano.
There’s plenty of uptown soul here, too, particularly appropriate considering the park’s location in Manhattan. The Drifters reinvented British clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” as a Top 20 AC hit; Bilk’s original was the first No. 1 single by a British artist in the era of the Billboard Hot 100. Southern soul man Arthur Alexander and New Jersey’s own Sammy Turner both navigated through swelling strings on their renditions of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Where Have You Been” and Aaron Schroeder and Chuck Kaye’s “Raincoat in the River,” respectively. “Raincoat” was produced by Phil Spector, clearly under the sway of his mentors Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Another New Jersey native, Connie Francis, rocks and rolls with the sassy “It’s Gonna Take Me Some Time.” Francis and Gloria Lynne aren’t the only girl singers in Stanley’s Central Park; The Paris Sisters are unrequited in their affection on their 1962 ballad “Yes, I Love You.” Another Spector production (and one he also wrote), “Yes, I Love You” is very much in the template of the Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me.” A third early production from the future Wall of Sound architect comes via Billy Storm’s dramatic 1961 Atlantic single “A Kiss from Your Lips.” Spector would later create such triumphs as “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Then He Kissed Me” with Ellie Greenwich, who’s heard here as Ellie Gaye for the single “Cha-Cha Charming.”
After the jump: we have more details, including the complete track listing with discography and order link!
Few artists are as quintessentially New York as Art Garfunkel and Dion DiMucci. Artie Garr’s “Private World” anticipates his future style, as it’s spare, stately and ethereal. Dion’s “Lost for Sure” is imbued with the grit and soul of the mean streets as the singer rues his lost love, but also has an offbeat, exotic flavor in its arrangement. There’s romance in the air on “Be Sure My Love,” an R&B gem from Teddy Randazzo (“Gonna Take a Miracle,” “Hurt So Bad’). Up-tempo doo wop jaunts come from Little Joe and the Thriller’s “Peanuts,” also recorded by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the Four Tunes’ “Marie.” Dave “Baby” Cortez (of “The Happy Organ” fame) brings the carnival to life with his “Rinky Dink.” Throw in Ellie Greenwich’s teen cha-cha, a Billy May-arranged mambo from Yma Sumac, and Sammy Davis Jr.’s too-cool-for-school evocation of Rat Pack swagger, “Bee-Bom,” and you have an idea of the picnic being thrown by Stanley and Croydon Municipal. It should be noted that all of the songs here appear on this compilation as a result of current U.K. public domain laws and date from 1963 and earlier.
In addition to Stanley’s brief essay, you’ll find label scans of many of the singles utilized for the collection (with Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” pictured instead of “Where Have You Been” – oops!). This sophisticated mix of Songs for a Central Park Picnic can be ordered now at the links below!
- Softly as in a Morning Sunrise – Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy LP 3257, 1958)
- Bee-Bom – Sammy Davis, Jr. (Reprise U.K. single R 20175, 1963)
- Untie Me – The Tams (Arlen single 7-11, 1962)
- Be Sure My Love – Teddy Randazzo (Colpix single CP 662, 1962)
- Moon Guitar – The Rangoons (Laurie single 3096, 1961)
- Stranger on the Shore – The Drifters (Atlantic single 45-2143, 1962)
- Peanuts – Little Joe and the Thrillers (OKeh single 4-7088, 1957)
- Gopher Mambo – Yma Sumac (Capitol single EAP 1-564, 1955)
- Marie – The Four Tunes (Jubilee single 45-5128, 1953)
- Raincoat in the River – Sammy Turner (Big Top single 45-3089, 1961)
- Rinky Dink – Dave “Baby” Cortez (Julia single 452, 1962)
- You Don’t Have to Be a Tower of Strength – Gloria Lynne (Everest single 19428, 1961)
- Lost for Sure – Dion (Laurie single 3134, 1962)
- Boato (Bistro) – Lalo Schifrin (Audio Fidelity LP AFSD 5981, 1962)
- A Kiss from Your Lips – Billy Storm (Atlantic single 45-2112, 1961)
- Yes, I Love You – The Paris Sisters (Gregmark single 13, 1962)
- Moon River – Jerry Butler (Vee Jay single VJ 405, 1961)
- Where Have You Been – Arthur Alexander (Dot single 45-16357, 1962)
- Quiet Girl – Don Rondo (Roulette single R-4202, 1958)
- Bad Boy – The Jive Bombers (Savoy single 45-1508, 1956)
- Something for Cat – Henry Mancini (RCA Victor LP LSP-2362, 1961)
- Cha Cha Charming – Ellie Gaye (RCA Victor single 45-7231, 1958)
- It’s Gonna Take Me Some Time – Connie Francis (MGM U.K. single 1165, 1962)
- Private World – Artie Garr (Octavia single 8002, 1961)
- Our Winter Love – Bill Pursell (Columbia single 4-42619, 1962)