Newly-launched label Mint Audio recently made a splash with Operation Santa Claus: Live from Hong Kong 1962, a previously unreleased concert from vocal great Matt Monro. The label’s two other premiere releases salute two other titans of song – Rosemary Clooney and Jim Reeves.
Rare and Unreleased features 30 radio performances from Maysville, Kentucky’s favorite daughter, Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002). Most are from the period of 1955-1961, with the earliest tracks dating to a few years earlier. The first five tracks, from 1951-1952 sessions, feature the young “girl singer” backed by the Earl Sheldon Orchestra. Producer Larry Jordan of Voice Masters has taken this quintet of songs – including the Finian’s Rainbow swinger “If This Isn’t Love,” the ballad “All the Pretty Horses,” and the recitation “What is a Baby?” (commissioned by Gerber Baby Foods) and supplemented the original musical tracks with new percussion, strings and more to create new stereo recordings from the mono originals.
The next sixteen songs are all taken from 1955-1961, during which time Clooney moved from Columbia Records (her home since 1947 with Tony Pastor’s Orchestra and since 1949 as a solo artist) to Coral, MGM and RCA Victor. Beginning in March 1955, Clooney hosted her own show for CBS Radio, produced by her friend Bing Crosby’s production company. Crosby and Clooney stockpiled enough masters that many were used when the duo co-hosted 1957’s Ford Road Show program and for 1960’s five-times weekly Crosby/Clooney Show. Her repertoire was varied, and highlights presented here include her rendition of the Johnny Mathis favorite “It’s Not for Me to Say,” a lightly Latin “That Old Black Magic,” a bright “New Sun in the Sky” and stately, elegant “All the Time.” Clooney retains the spirited, loose jazz feel on “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” from a composer with whom she certainly felt an affinity, Irving Berlin.
Clooney’s voice is front and center throughout, and at its most pristine; the once-overpowering organ of Buddy Cole that many felt marred the performances has been sonically minimized with the new stereo overdubs. A singer’s singer, Clooney was confident and relaxed in her radio performances bringing equal parts sensitivity and cool. She was a pure “pop” singer in the days before that was a pejorative. Her direct, honest approach to a song was closely akin to that of her friend and frequent collaborator Crosby, and as a result, she managed to keep her class even when recording some of the most egregious novelties of the era. Those novelties – which frequently found Clooney singing children’s songs, “ethnic” pastiches or even faux country-and-western – are absent here. Her more adult hits “Tenderly” and “You’ll Never Know,” however, are here, in beautiful interpretations from a vocalist in her prime. Clooney reinvented herself in later years as a contemporary jazz singer, fully revealing her gifts for lyric interpretation and emotional honesty without sacrificing her innate sense of rhythm and swing. But those who had been listening all along knew that Clooney’s strengths as a vocalist went far beyond “Come on-a My House” or “Mambo Italiano,” as enjoyable as those records are. The collection is rounded out with eight classy, largely uptempo performances recorded for the U.S. National Guard with the orchestras of Ray Conniff and Russ Morgan. These include a brassy “April in Paris,” swinging “My Runaway Heart,” and spirited “After You’ve Gone.”
As this is a collector-oriented release, it’s disappointing that the original broadcast dates aren’t included, not to mention more specific information about the restoration and overdubbing process. Happily, Jordan’s new orchestral settings are tasteful, well-executed and thankfully free of modern touches. Happily for purists, the original versions of these recordings are available on Mosaic’s recent box set The CBS Radio Recordings 1955-1961. Needless to say, Mint Audio chief Richard Moore has delivered impressive fidelity on this set. For those who don’t know the original radio performances – or for those who do, but would like to hear them in a new light – Rare and Unreleased makes for an enjoyable hour-plus with one of the greatest voices of the American songbook.
The life of Jim Reeves (1923-1964) was tragically curtailed when the vocalist and Grand Ole Opry star perished in a plane crash at the age of 40. But in the short time he had, “Gentleman Jim” became one of the purest, most distinctive voices in country-and-western, deploying his smooth and resonant croon to great effect on such songs as “He’ll Have to Go,” “Four Walls” and “Welcome to My World” and helping to popularize the lush Nashville Sound as well.
Voice Masters and Mint Audio’s Jim Reeves and Friends: Live from Nashville preserves the Golden Age of the Grand Ole Opry live from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium with a diverse “Who’s Who” of performers including Reeves, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, The Jordanaires, Chet Atkins, and Janis Martin (the “female Elvis”). The 34-song release recreates four broadcasts in pristine sound, in which Reeves shares the spotlight with these stars and others. Following the four shows, there is also a selection of other previously unreleased performances from the star – some from the Opry’s television show. In total, Reeves sings on 23 tracks, only one of which has been previously released. In addition, this release includes dialogue and announcements from the original broadcasts.
Gentleman Jim calls a square dance with “Arkansas Traveler” and joins The Jordanaires on a stirring “I Love You More.” He’s tender on the numerous gospel songs here including “Peace in the Valley” and playful singing a duet with June Carter on “Worried Man Blues.” The guests’ highlights here are numerous, too, from The Everly Brothers premiering their “brand-new record” on Cadence, “Claudette,” to Atkins’ mellow instrumental “Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone” and jaunty “Pennsylvania Polka.” In her Opry debut, Janis Martin offers a brash “Love Me to Pieces,” and pianist Del Wood serves up a ragtime treat with “Twelfth Street Rag.” There’s plenty of furious fiddling from Shorty Lavender and the Stony Mountain Cloggers (“Soldier’s Joy”) and Tommy Jackson (another square dance tune, “Snowflake Breakdown”) and a delightful pair of songs from Patsy Cline (“There He Goes” and “Crazy Dreams”).
Producer Jordan, author of the nearly 700-page tome Jim Reeves: His Untold Story, has previously overdubbed numerous Reeves recordings including those found on the 8-CD box set The Great Jim Reeves. But there’s terrific pleasure in these original recordings which all sound vibrant as restored by Voice Masters’ David Lawrence and Mint Audio’s Richard Moore (who also remastered). Once again, one wishes that original recording/broadcast information had been included in the booklets. (Both the booklets for the Clooney and Reeves releases do contain brief liner notes.) Note that these recordings are released in accordance with current E.U. public domain laws.
With this pair of releases as well as Matt Monro’s Operation: Santa Claus, Mint Audio gets off to an auspicious start. Watch this space for news of the label’s future endeavors!
- Our Love Affair
- I’m Only Ambitious for You
- If This Isn’t Love
- All the Pretty Horses
- What Is a Baby?
- There Goes My Heart
- You’ll Never Know
- It’s Not for Me to Say
- There Will Never Be Another You
- How About You
- I Love You
- I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
- That Old Black Magic
- New Sun in the Sky
- I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
- Every Time I See You I’m in Love Again
- All the Time
- I Should Have Told You Long Ago
- Love Letters
- Danny By
- April in Paris
- Always Together
- My Runaway Heart
- After You’ve Gone
- Wide Wonderful World
- You Are My Lucky Star
- Love and Affection
- A Foggy Day
- Overnight – Jim Reeves
- Claudette – The Everly Brothers
- I’ll Fly Away – Jim Reeves
- Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone – Chet Atkins
- Eight More Miles to Louisville – Stringbean
- I Love You More – Jim Reeves
- Arkansas Traveler – Jim Reeves and Shorty Lavender
- Waitin’ for a Train – Jim Reeves
- Love Me to Pieces – Janis Martin
- Peace in the Valley – Jim Reeves
- Pennsylvania Polka – Chet Atkins
- Twelfth Street Rag – Del Wood
- Four Walls – Jim Reeves
- In a Mansion Stands My Love/Billy Bayou/Yonder Comes a Sucker – Jim Reeves
- When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again – Blue Boys
- I Missed Me – Jim Reeves
- Honeycomb – The Jordanaires
- Soldier’s Joy – Shorty Lavender and the Stoney Mountain Cloggers
- Billy Bayou – Jim Reeves
- Snowflake Breakdown – Tommy Jackson
- There He Goes – Patsy Cline
- I’m Gettin’ Better – Jim Reeves
- Crazy Dreams – Patsy Cline
- I Know One – Jim Reeves
- Highway to Nowhere – Jim Reeves
- Worried Man Blues – Jim Reeves and June Carter
- Suppertime – Jim Reeves
- An Evening Prayer – Jim Reeves
- Partners – Jim Reeves
- Losing Your Love – Jim Reeves
- How Can I Write on Paper – Jim Reeves
- Roly Poly – Jim Reeves
- I’m Gonna Change Everything – Jim Reeves and Bobby Dyson
- Danny Boy – Jim Reeves