Eydie Gorme – Echoes of the Velvet Voice

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Some years before I was born, my mother used to work for a record company. She was employed as an accountant, but also did her fair share of backup-singing. As a direct result of her job, my parents had quite a large record collection – and I was introduced to many kinds of music from an early age. One record in particular was of great interest to me; the main reason for that was that the lady on the cover looked a lot like my mother. She wasn’t her, of course – she was the great Eydie Gorme! It used the same photo as her album “Eydie Swings The Blues“, only this EP was titled “Eydie Sings The Hits”. It contained four songs: “Love Me Forever”, “You Need Hands”, “Let Me Be Loved” and “Dormi, Dormi, Dormi”. That little 7 inch record was my introduction to La Gorme, and I have remained a faithful fan and great admirer ever since. That means my musical relationship with Eydie has lasted some 45 years. It also means, that when she passed away in August 2013, it felt a little like an old friend dying….

Eydie 2000

Eydie Gorme (1928 – 2013). No other singer could vocally do what she did. Truly one of the greatest….

It has been stated dozens of times that even though she did most of her recording during the Rock’n’roll era, Eydie Gorme was one of the great traditional pop singers. I agree but in addition to recording wonderful versions of a lot of traditional pop songs, Eydie also recorded some very modern & up-to-date songs, she dabbled in country and songs from Broadway shows and movies – and she was a great interpreter of latin music and rhythms also. She’s left behind a great musical legacy, on some truly wonderful albums. I will deal with her solo records in this post; her records in tandem with hubby Steve Lawrence requires a post all its own (and the same goes for Steve’s records without Eydie!).

The vocalist Gorme is in a class all by herself  –  she has a lot of all the trademarks of the classic, traditional pop vocalist: Timing, she never breathes audibly when she sings, a clear and precise enunciation, she can follow any tempo the band chooses and she makes everything she sings seem natural and unforced. The voice itself is very strong, and also very adaptable and flexible. Eydie can sing in a soft and warm tone, and her ballads always take on a kind of intimacy – like she’s singing to you only. But she can also add power, and let her voice rise and easily drive it up and over any orchestra and make herself be heard to the very backseat of any auditorium or stage. Yet she also makes this seem unforced, Eydie never screams or yells, even her most powerful and highest notes seem to just slip out equally easy.

One of the EPs made at the start of her career

One of the EPs made at the start of her career

In her book “Rock-A-Bye-Baby“, Aida Pavletich deals with something she labels “the Stageshow quack”. Though it sounds pretty awful, it is actually used to describe the powerful voices of (traditional) female singers, who all have the kind of vocal power that can fill a large theatre with just the sound of their voice. Examples given are: Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Barbara Cook and to a certain degree; Cleo Laine. I wouldn’t hesitate to also include Eydie in this category, though like all the others – her voice is unique and can never sound like (or be compared with) any of the others mentioned above.

In the late 1940s, the young Eydie combined her daytime job as an interpreter for the United Nations with singing in a band on weekends. In 1950 she made her first records (with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra) and songs like “Cherry Stones” and “Powder and Paint” were released on 78rpm shellacs. She signed with Coral records as a solo singer in 1952, and thus started her rise to become one of the most consistently popular and respected singers on the planet, and making the first in a very long line of fabulous records! (Her last studio album of new recordings, “Silver Screen Songs” was released in 1996)

This 2-disc Collection has 25 of her Coral recordings (and 20 more from her ABC years)

This 2-disc Collection has 25 of her Coral recordings (and 20 more from her ABC years)

From 1956 on, Eydie released one great album after the other, starting with “Delight” (1956). She also devoted some of her albums to certain themes, like “Eydie Vamps The Roarings 20’s” (1958), “Eydie Swings The Blues” (1957), “Eydie In Dixieland” (1959) and “Gorme Sings Showstoppers” (1958). No matter what theme, Eydies voice was spot on, and proving she could handle any type of material equally well. Her other 1958 album, “Eydie In Love” shows off her softer side, and it it one of the most beautiful collection of love songs ever made. Her talent for involving herself in the lyrics clearly shows here, and the record never turns saccharine or syrupy. Maybe her recent marriage to Steve also helped her sound so convincing….? Any and all of her albums made between 1956 and 1960 are essential listening, and all of them stand as prime examples of “how-to-do-standards-very-well“. If ALL music from the 1950’s should be obliterated from the planet, except the very best – what would remain from that decade would be the albums of Frank Sinatra and those by Eydie Gorme! The 1960’s saw Eydie branch out and expand her talents into other kinds of Music.

Her 1961 outing “I Feel So Spanish” has a very accurate title; on this album, Eydie removes any trace of her American singing self, and turns into fiery Spanish senorita – ay!! Being fluent in Spanish helps of course, but the way she sings gives away no clues that this singer was born in New York!

Eydie's first musical transformation: the very fiery, Latin "La Gorme" makes you feel very Spanish too

Eydie’s first musical transformation: the very fiery “La Gorme” makes you feel very Spanish too

During 1963 and 1964, Eydie made her two greatest, and still much-cherished pop hits; “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” and “I Want You To Meet My Baby”, reaching no 7 and 43 on the Hot 100 respectively. Both are classic girl group sounding pop confections of the 60’s – both show off another facet of the great Gorme voice, and both are musically miles away from anything she had recorded so far. Just to make sure she’d never get stuck in just one musical camp, 1964 also gave the world her first collaboration with The Trio Los Panchos, the album “Amor” as well as “Gorme Country Style“. The last one has been called the worst country album in history, which may be correct if you judge it by country standards. What the album is, is a great collection of country songs given a new, big band sheen – and re-dressing them as standards. On those terms, the album works very well indeed – and flows easily into Eydies long line of albums containing well-known songs performed by a great singer. The only difference is that these originate from around Nashville rather than Broadway or Tin Pan Alley….

This 1964 collection should be judged as a standards record, rather than a country record

This 1964 collection should be judged as a standards record, rather than a country record

At the 1967 Grammy Awards, Eydie was awarded the trophy for “Best Female Vocal Performance” for her recording of “If He Walked Into My Life” – and never has a winner been more deserving! The song (from the musical “Mame”) truly captures every nuance of what’s so great about Eydie. It was also a huge hit on the AC charts – reaching no 5. 1969 once again saw Eydie in the Top Ten of the AC Charts. This time around, it was the title track from her album “Tonight I’ll Say A Prayer” that got to no 8. Her 1971 album “It Was A Good Time” was an all the way pop album, with her outstanding versions of “Going Back”, “Fire And Rain” and “Oh, No Not My Baby” being obvious highlights.

"It Was A Good Time" (1971), a great pop album

“It Was A Good Time” (1971), a great pop album

For the remaining 25 years of her recording career, Eydie did a little bit of everything: from covering Spains 1973 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, “Eres Tu”, to light disco and a stunning version of Melissa Manchesters “Come In From The Rain” on her 1981 album “Since I Fell For You“. No matter what kind of material she chose, she was always great, and she kept her voice right through to the end. Eydie Gorme is one of the truly great voices of all time, and it is impossible not be to completely swept away when she is singing! Whether crooning a soft ballad, belting out a Broadway tune, catching fire in a big Spanish dramatic number or dancing along with “I Want You To Meet My Baby” – she is totally Eydie and that means the best there is!

Oh, by the way: That little EP, “Eydie Sings The Hits” – I still have it! The cover is quite worn around the edges and the color has really faded, but the record itself still plays without scratches. Besides being a great record, it also stands as a tribute to my parents, who were wise enough to make sure their young son discovered the joys of music and great singers from an early age!

At the end of the year – heading for the future!

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I would like to take the opportunity on the last day of 2012, to once again say to all my readers and followers that I truly appreciate you following my blog, and that I’m so happy to receive all your nice comments!

Planned projects for 2013: profiles on the careers of legendary “classic pop” singer Eydie Gorme (who turned 85 this year!), a closer look at all the albums of one of my favorite rock singers, Bob Seger (whose recording career enters its 45th year in 2013!).

Janet Jackson could look back at 30 years of recording this year – and she’s come a long way since she sang about “Young Love” at the age of 16! I also plan to write a thorough profile on the albums of Mariah Carey, another singer who’s gone through quite a lot of musical changes since her 1990 debut!

2012 was also the year we lost two of the greatest voices in pop music: Whitney Houston and Donna Summer – both fondly remembered and much missed!

During 1982, Sweden’s maybe best singer ever, Anita Lindblom (b. 1937), made her last album – a collection of gospel songs, sung in Swedish. So this year marked the 30th year of her retirement from the recording business. It’s a great big shame, as vocally no other singer has ever sounded like Anita, and although there are more than 100 records bearing her name, I still wish she would make some more. But, I guess she’s happy to be out of the limelight, as she’s still living in Thoule-sur-Mer (outside of Cannes, France) taking care of homeless cats (bless her!) and obviously having no regrets about giving up her career while at the top of the game…

Sweden's finest - Anita Lindblom with one of her cats. How do we get her back into the game...?

Sweden’s finest – Anita Lindblom with one of her cats. How do we get her back into the game…?

With these few words, I wish you all a very happy New Year – stick around for more musical musings next year!

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers!

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers!

 

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