PATTI – a PAGE in everyone’s life

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2013 got off to a rather sad start, musically that is. On January 1st the golden voice of Patti Page was silenced forever, and one of the true American cultural icons left this world. She left behind an incredible amount of records – the sales of which have been certified at over 100 millions, her 1950 single “Tennessee Waltz” alone sold over 15 millions. Patti made her first record in 1947, and stayed actively in show business up to late 2012 – when she announced on her website that she was retiring due to health reasons. That concluded 65 years of singing, recording and performing – and a career which stands as unparalleled in musical history.

To sum up everything Patti has done is nearly impossible, and all aspects of her career and musical legacy have been discussed already. I will do the personal angle on this, and talk a little about my personal views on Patti Page. She most certainly was a page in the book of my life as well. What never ceases to amaze me is that every person I meet has their own view on Patti Page, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s never heard of her. Whether she is a pop singer, a country singer or a jazz singer depends on your taste in music – but Patti has done all kinds of music, and her versatility is just amazing…..

Patti Page (1927 - 2013)

Patti Page (1927 – 2013)

Born with the name Clara Ann Fowler on November 8 1927, the renamed Patti Page died on January 1 2013 at the Seacrest Village Retirement Community, of heart and lung ailments at the age of 85.

Patti is usually classified as one of the classic pop vocalists, which she is. She is also labelled a country singer, which is also correct. Even on some of her pop records, she added a certain country flavor. She did jazzy stuff with big bands, she did her share of silly novelty songs and she recorded an album of American hymns, and Christmas songs. Add to it a whole lot of different stuff; Patti did rock ‘n’ roll and twist, she recorded the English Version of the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest Winning entry, Vicky Leandros’ “Apres Toi”, she recorded Philly Soul (Gamble & Huffs “A Brand New Me”) in the late 60’s and Elton Johns theme from “The Lion King” movie, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” in the late 90’s. So checking out Pattis recorded legacy will have you finding a lot of well known songs, and quite a lot of musical surprises!

A very early LP, this 10" album collects her hits of the late 1940s

A very early LP, this 10″ album collects her hits of the late 1940s

Patti was known to be technically perfect, and usually the first take on any recording was used as the final product. So researchers have been known to be surprised that they never find any alternate takes, That of course also could be one reason there is such an incredible amount of records to be found – she used all her studio time very well, and she was known to learn new material very quickly.

Even from the late 1940s, Patti had albums released, and while a lot of them just collected her most recent hits and popular songs of the day, some of the others had more of a theme, ie. “The Waltz Queen”, her recording of Gordon Jenkins “Manhattan Tower” and her 1962 album “Sings Golden HIts of The Boys” which is a great collection of Patti doing songs that had been hits for male artists like Rick Nelson, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Chubby Checker… Playing these three albums back to back will give a you marvellous lesson in versatility!

Everybody knows Patti’s biggest hits; “Tennessee Waltz”, “”(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window”, “Cross Over The Bridge”, “Old Cape Cod”, “Allegheny Moon” and others… And if those are the songs you want when you go buying Patti Page records, you can get several hundreds of best of/greatest hits collections that will satisfy your needs… If you want to dig a little deeper beyond those well known 50’s hits – you also have several options – some great collections that will no doubt be of great musical value.

50 years after her first record came out, this great box set was released in 1997

50 years after her first record came out, this great box set was released in 1997

The 4 disc box set “Golden Celebration” was released in 1997, celebrating her first 50 years as a singer. You get all her hits of the 50s and 60s on the first two discs. The Third disc contains her best country songs, and the fourth is dedicated to her more jazzy, big band material. The set also contains some songs that had been previously very hard to find. Highly recommended for all music lovers!

Patti herself chose to celebrate her 50th Anniversary as a singer with a concert in Carnegie Hall, that was recorded and later released on disc as “Live at Carnegie Hall – The 50th Anniversary Concert”, a disc that later won Patti her first Grammy Award in the category “Best Traditional Pop Record” – very well deserved!

Patti, an obviously happy 1997 Grammy Award winner. And for a new album none the less!

Patti, an obviously happy 1997 Grammy Award winner. And for a new album none the less!

In recent years, the UK based label Jasmine Records has given the world a musical gift that is truly great; they have put together no less than 3 very thorough collections, which are widely available in the webshops and also as downloads. With brilliant liner notes that contains the dates of recording and all other facts collectors might want to know. Put together, you get 267 different songs – and with it Patti Page at her very best, in a lot of different musical settings. They are pictured below, so you’ll know what to look for!

The first of the Jasmine box sets, "Near To You"

The first of the Jasmine box sets, “Near To You”

“Near To You – Celebrating a Career Defining Class” does what it says on the tin! You get 111 songs, mostly from the late 1940 and the 1950. Here’s the place to start your Patti Page musical Journey!

The second box set from Jasmine Records

The second box set from Jasmine Records

You will be transported back to “Another Time, Another Place” with the second of Jasmine Records box sets. This one contains more of her 50’s output, some of the 60’s country records, a couple of Christmas songs, some religious tracks, and it also includes some rarities not commercially released previously – even radio spots and jingles!

"Keep Me In Mind" is the last of the Jasmine Records collections of Patti Page

“Keep Me In Mind” is the last of the Jasmine Records collections of Patti Page

Added to the two previously mentioned box set, is the singe disc “Keep Me In Mind”. You get even more rarities here, some novelty tunes and some very hard to find tracks that were originally put out as 7″ B-sides, and after listening to all three collections, there is no way your mind will not be on Patti Page!

Many of the albums Patti recorded from the mid-1960’s onwards seem to be rather neglected, and most of them are deleted from the catalogues and are quite hard to find these days. Collectables have put out three “2 on 1” discs, at least giving 6 of those albums a limited re-release. If, however, you can find any of these original albums anywhere – my suggestion is that you just buy, buy, buy!! Keep an eye out for: “Say Wonderful Things” (1963), “Blue Dream Street” (1964), “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” (1965), “Today My Way” (1967), “Gentle On my Mind” (1969), “Stand By Your Man” and “Honey Come Back” (both 1970), “I’d Rather Be Sorry” (1971), “A Touch Of Country” (1979), “No Aces” (1981) and “Special Thoughts” (1982) – they are all worth having, and they all give you yet another perspective on the wonderful musical legacy of Patti Page!

After winning her 1997 Grammy, Patti ventured into the studios once more, and recorded what turned out to be her last regular album (it was followed by another Christmas disc) in 2000. Titled “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” it links Patti of the past with Patti of today in a great musical setting. Sounding mature and confident – it is a great contemporary country record, showing once and for all that even at age 73 Patti was right at home with the current trends, she still sang very well and sounded exactly right doing country music in the new millennium also…

Patti's last album, "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" came out in 2000

Patti’s last album, “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” came out in 2000

In addition to the title track, this album also includes that other, by now quite old “Tennessee Waltz” – redone 50 years after the original was made, and so you can favourably compare Patti’s versions and see which one you like the best. She does a bluesy cover of Tammy Wynette’s old hit “Til I Get It Right”, turning the song inside out, and making it sound like it was tailor made for Patti Page. By this time, after 53 years of making records, Patti had done everything at least once, she had sung her way into billions of hearts, had numerous hits, singles and albums on the charts – and she had done all of it exactly right!

Toni Arden – A hidden treasure re-discovered

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Incredibly enough – Toni Arden was one singer who had somehow slipped under my musical radar for a long time. It wasn’t until Jasmine Records put together a Box Set of her music that I discovered her. After all, Jasmine had collected 54 songs by this singer, which immediately alerted me to find out more; here was a singer who obviously had done quite a lot of recording! And as I found out later on, those 54 tracks were just the tip of the iceberg!

A publicity photo of the young Toni Arden at the start of her career

A publicity photo of the young Toni Arden at the start of her career

Diving into her music, I discovered a very versatile singer, who started out in the late 1940’s – and who had kept on recording into the 1980’s. A wonderful singer with a very good voice, doing a wide range of different material – I very soon found I had a new musical favorite! Even though she mostly worked in the so-called rock ‘n’ roll area – Toni is very much a classic pop singer, but never afraid to take on a musical challenge outside of the great American songbook.

Toni Arden was born February 15, 1924 as Antoinette Ardizzone and died at her home in lake Worth, Florida on May 29, 2012, at the age of 88.

Arden started out as a big band singer in the 1940s, singing with Al Trace, Joe Reichman, Ray Bloch and Shep Fields. She started recording as a soloist in 1946 for the minor label National Records. 

Toni was featured with Al Trace's band in the mid 40's, so here's your chance to hear her beginnings!

Toni was featured with Al Trace’s band in the mid 40’s, so here’s your chance to hear her beginnings!

She then signed her first solo recording contract with a major record label, Columbia Records, in 1949. On this label she had several hits including “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” (which reached #7 on the Billboard charts), “Too Young” (which reached #15), “Kiss of Fire” (which reached #14) and “I’m Yours” (which reached #24).

A great album from the mid 1950's, available on CD and as download

A great album from the mid 1950’s, available on CD and as download

In the mid-1950s she moved to Decca Records, where her only million-seller was “Padre” in 1958. LPs on Decca included “Miss Toni Arden,” “Besame!”, “Sing a Song of Italy” and “Italian Gold.”

One of her earliest records was an English language version of Josephine Baker’s hit song of the 1930’s, “J’ai deux d’amours” – called “Two loves have I” in Toni’s version. She has an amazing ability to adapt her voice to the different material she sings, from smooth and silky on ballads, to an almost operatic vocal on her fabulous version of “Come back to Sorrento”. Her cover of Skeeter Davis’ 1953 no. 1 hit “I forgot more than you’ll ever know” gets the Toni make-over in such a way, you’d think the song was written for her! She glides through pop songs and foxtrots as if  dancing on a cloud, yet she injects so much latin “fuego” into her Spanish records – she comes off as a very tough competitor to Lola Flores, Concha Piquer, Marife De Triana and Juanita Reina!

She might not look like a typical Spanish senorita, but she sure does sound like one!

She might not look like a typical Spanish senorita, but she sure does sound like one!

Toni Arden may also be the only caucasian singer who have really understood the difference between latin music and Italian music. The former is all about temperament and fire, the latter is all about emotions and keeping the embers just glowing. The proof of this is obvious when you compare Toni’s “Besame!” album with her albums of Italian songs!

Another great album; On this Toni simply glows - the Italian way!

Another great album; On this Toni simply glows – the Italian way!

In addition to making records, Toni was also a busy night-club act across the USA appearing in such venues as New York’s “La Vie En Rose” and “Copacabana”. She was also a regular guest on many popular television programmes like “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “The Dinah Shore Show”, and “The Bing Crosby Show”. She even appeared in a couple of movies – usually in singing guest spots. No matter what she did, she was the utmost professional – and earned rave compliments from both Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone for her singing and versatility.

Another Italian album, this one dating from 1963

Another Italian album, this one dating from 1963

She slowly eased into more contemporary pop music and some early rock ‘n’ roll in the late 50’s/early 60’s, including a duet with her brother Jan Arden titled “Blow out the candle”. But like most other classic pop singer she was left in the shade during the 1960’s…. But as a night club attraction and supper club headliner she was still much in demand – and always displaying versatility, vivacity and that great voice!

1973 LP

As late as 1973, Toni poured some of her “Tender Loving Care” on her listeners…

After her stint with Decca, she recorded for both RCA Victor and Mercury Records. Her last album “My World is You” came out 1981 and  features songs solely written by Gladys Shelley.

Her last album! Recorded 1981, Toni does the songs of Gladys Shelley....

Her last album! Recorded 1981, Toni does the songs of Gladys Shelley….

Thanks to re-issue labels like Jasmine and Sepia Records, most of Toni Arden’s music is once again available – and she definitely should be re-discovered by music lovers everywhere! She is a truly wonderful singer, whose passing away last year barely got a mention in the papers…. That’s a pity – because her talent succeeds her reputation by far!

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