Adult Contemporary Music in the 50’s and 60’s was originally known as Popular Vocals. A genre of music made famous in the early 50’s when Big Band singers began to make the transition into solo performers. The industry saw this and here is where the real birth of the arranger, producer, and the concept album format targeted towards the booming middle class adults that began to migrate to the suburbs. Jazz and Popular Vocalist such as; Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and countless others reigned supreme in mainstream radio and retail until the birth of the teenage market: referred to as “The Singles Market.” The singles market help fueled the birth of Rock & Roll in the mid fifties and the British Invasion that was responsible for the death of the Golden Era of Popular Music in the early sixties.
Outside of a few well known names like Sinatra, Bennett, Cole and Fitzgerald there is a vast amount of history that is not being shared with the new generation. I used to be one of those kids who thought this type of music was boring and for old people. However I matured musically I began to hear and recognize the importance of having respect for the Golden Era and all of the contributions from arrangers, songwriters, producers, and singers of all races.
Before I share my recommends with you, please note that musicians during the Golden Era have very vast discography. Most consumers for the past 40 or so are accustomed to their favorite musician releasing new material every 1 – 10 years; especially you are into Sade. However, during the peak of the Golden Era musicians released music on a quarter system, in simple terms Sinatra and gang were releasing 4 albums a year.
So my goal now is to shift through my crates and find 10 interesting albums that I would recommend for curious admires of the Golden Era Of Music.
10. Things Are Swingin’ – Peggy Lee
Things Are Swingin’ was released in 1959 on Capital Records was arranged and conducted by Jack Marshall best known for the Theme To The Munsters a popular TV Show from the sixties.
Things Are Swingin’ is a great choice to introduce yourself to the swinging style of Peggy Lee. The album is full of top notch swingers such as; Things Are Swingin’, Ridin’ High, Alright Okay You Win and Lullaby In Rhythm to name a few. Overall Things Are Swingin’ captures the excitement of Lee and Marshall at the peak of their careers. 🎶🎶🎶🎶
9. Lena…Lovely And Alive – Lena Horne
Lena…Lovely And Alive was released in 1962 on RCA Victor and arranged by Marty Paich. In 1963 Lena…Lovely And Alive was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance unfortunately losing to Ella Fitzgerald who won for Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson
Lena…Lovely And Alive is the perfect introduction to the legacy of Lena Horn who by this time is a veteran in the music business. Horne delivers a mix of Las Vegas style swingers with beautiful ballads. If you are into arrangers like me you are guaranteed top notch arrangements from the legendary Marty Paich who has also arranged classic albums for Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme’. 🎶🎶🎶🎶
8. This Time I’m Swingin’! – Dean Martin
This Time I’m Swingin’! by Dean Martin was released in 1960 on Capital Records and was arranged and conducted by the premier arranger of the era Nelson Riddle.
Dean Martin is an artist that has recorded in many musical genres most notably his albums in Italian, French and Country Western. This Time I’m Swingin’! is a standout recording in Dean Martin’s discography because of its excellent selection of songs such as; I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me, Just In Time, On The Street Where You Live and Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone are all great swingers ala Sinatra. 🎶🎶🎶🎶
7. Pearl Bailey Sings For Adults Only – Pearl Bailey
Pearl Bailey Sings For Adults Only was released in 1959 on Roulette Records.
If you never experienced the artistry of Pearl Bailey then Pearl Bailey Sings For Adults Only is the prime album to get acquainted to the legendary performer. The tunes themselves are a bit “blue” in terms of subject matter – tales of girls with hot pants, loose love, and the kind of backroom hijinks that weren’t always talked about so freely in the torch singer era. But given the time, and the setting, the tunes are still pretty soft on the subjects – and get the themes across through clever turns of phrase, slight innuendo, and just the right intonation at the right time – a style that makes Pearl Bailey perfect for the work! Titles include I Want A Man, She Had To Go & Lose It At The Astor, The Physician, Josephine, Zip, Flings, You Can Be Replaced and Legalize My Name.
6. That Bad Eartha – Eartha Kitt
That Bad Eartha by Eartha Kitt was released in 1953 on RCA Victor with arrangements by Henri Rene And His Orchestra.
That Bad Eartha is a personal favorite of mine especially on Sunday mornings while enjoying my first cup of coffee. The most known tracks are the first two, I Want To Be Evil with its charming lyrics, sung in French, C’est Si Bon. Eartha Kitt not only sings in French on this 1956 LP, she sings in Spanish, Turkish, English and Swahili, yeah, the East African language. I don’t know who picked out the array of world flavoured songs but it makes this a unique album. Eartha’s recognizable voice is the highlight.
5. Starring Sammy Davis Jr. – Sammy Davis Jr.
Starring Sammy Davis Jr by Sammy Davis Jr was released in 1954 on Decca Records and is considered one Davis’ best.
On Starring his voice is in rare form, and the album is incredibly high energy and covers a vast array of musical styles and his talents, he performs swing music, show tunes, ballads, love songs, and even gets to do his impressions in “Because Of You” which are, as always, hysterical. His voice is in amazing condition, belting high notes with such clarity and ease, and he sounds fantastic on all the tracks! This album helps set him in the ranks of being one of the greatest all time singers who ever lived.
If you’re looking to get into Sammy, this is the album to start with, it is almost guaranteed to get you hooked!
4. Julie Is Her Name -Julie London
Julie Is Her Name was released in 1955 on Liberty Records and was Julie London’s debut album.
Julie Is Her Name is a wonderful introduction to the artistry of London. This classic cool jazz album contains soft eroticism and single entendre, with sparse accompaniment for a late night groove that has been hard for generations to resist…with Barney Kessel’s muted guitar and Ray Leatherwood’s subtle bass the only sound apart from Julie’s own bedroom whisper…just try to resist.
Julie Is Here Name also contains Julie London’s biggest hit Cry Me A River. 🎶🎶🎶🎶
3. Hello Love – Ella Fitzgerald
Hello Love was released in 1960 on Verve and was arranged and conducted by Frank DeVol who would later become known for being the Brady Bunch theme creator.
If you enjoy the art of ballad singing then Hello Love is that very special album of excellent songs with gorgeous orchestral arrangements by Frank DeVol and Ella singing at her very best. Ella Fitzgerald gives a fresh interpretation to these standards including Tenderly I’m Through with Love and I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face so that you just enjoy listening to them and don’t bother comparing to other versions.
Hello Love is a great alternative introduction to her famous Songbook Series. 🎶🎶🎶🎶
2. Love Is The Thing – Nat King Cole
Love Is The Thing by Nat King Cole was released in 1957 on Capital and arranged by Gordon Jenkins.
Nat’s voice, as always, is like sipping hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. I am in totally in love with Stardust…Nat sings it with such a dream-like quality. The sweeping strings of Gordon Jenkins’ arrangement is so relaxing, all you’ll want to do is sit back, close your eyes, and absorb every note. Nat’s voice, as always, is like sipping hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. I am in totally in love with Stardust…Nat sings it with such a dream-like quality.
1. Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! – Frank Sinatra
Songs For Swingin’! Lovers was released in 1956 and arranged by the legendary Nelson Riddle.
Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! helped Sinatra discover a new musical fountain of youth that fully justifies the exclamation point in the album title. There’s a buoyant new spring in his step, accented by Nelson Riddle’s lighter-than-air arrangements, that makes the Columbia records of Sinatra’s younger days sound stiff and stodgy in comparison. Even chestnuts like “Old Devil Moon,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” and “Anything Goes” are rejuvenated by his vibrant touch. Sinatra’s carefree confidence achieves its supreme expression in “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” a performance that builds steadily to an ecstatic climax. Cole Porter may have hated his lyrical embellishments, but by the time the singer jauntily breaks the “fourth wall” on “Anything Goes”; you can’t deny he’s taken the title to heart Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! 🎶🎶🎶🎶