It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . I know, I know, this isn’t a Christmas CD, but there’s something about golden-voiced crooner Andy Williams that reminds me of the season of goodwill and all that. Maybe it’s the memories I have of him and his family sat around the fire wearing lovely winter woollies on all those seasonal television specials of yore. Or perhaps I’ve just been brainwashed by the current M&S TV commercial.
What we actually have here are Andy’s first two albums for Cadence Records. Williams was no newcomer when Archie Bleyer signed him to Cadence late in 1955, having begun his singing career as a lad in the early 1930s with his brothers Bob, Don and Dick in the Williams Brothers. He went solo in 1952 and worked closely for several years with the comedienne Kay Thompson, who groomed him for stardom. Andy became famous to millions of TV viewers via a residency on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show in the early 1950s. Smart move, then, for Cadence to release “Andy Williams Sings Steve Allen” as his debut long-player. It’s very much an album, and contains no familiar singles, but is quite lovely nonetheless, with Andy’s flawless vocals upfront on every song. Steve Allen was a clever man, and his lyrics throughout the LP are excellent, while in the Tin Pan Alley tradition (he was known for his distaste for rock’n’roll). He also helped the careers of Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme and Sammy Davis, Jr, all of whom appeared regularly on his show.
The “Andy Williams” album, meanwhile, although not billed as such, almost amounts to his first greatest hits collection, comprising as it does his first six chart records, plus their respective B-sides. While it would be a stretch to call Andy a rock’n’roll singer, Archie Bleyer was a wise man, and steered the blue-eyed star in that direction. His handclap-driven cover version of Butterfly (written by the team responsible for Elvis’s Teddy Bear) reached #1 (as did the Charlie Gracie original), and ain’t half bad, especially if you like records you can whistle to. Neither is I Like Your Kind Of Love, a duet with Peggy Powers, which clips along nicely, even if Andy does sound like he’s wearing white bucks and a nice cashmere sweater. Another pseudo-rocker, Lips Of Wine, is a dead ringer for Memories Are Made Of This. Fans of movie themes will flip for Andy’s recording of Baby Doll, the title song of the steamy Carroll Baker flick.
The booklet notes, written by Clive Weaver, are a very good read too. I didn’t know very much about Andy Williams before. I do now. And I had something very lovely to listen to while I was perusing it. All I need now is a nice new sweater.
BY MICK PATRICK