Album Review ~ Stereo Review 1974
Given my Mittyish druthers, I don't suppose there is any other performer I'd be more pleased to be able to sing like than Perry Como. God knows I've been trying hard for years. A discreet little hum in an elevator, a favorite phrase or two when I'm alone listening to him on the radio or on records, and several miserable, but oddly ego building, full-fledged attempts in my shower concerts. It is there I am most able to give free rein to my imitation of the mellow, easy style, the seductive phrasing, and, most of all, the long, rich vocal line that has always reminded me of slowly pulling a Milky Way apart. Ever notice how the caramel stays in one golden thread? Same thing with Como. He can spin out a melodic phrase more sweetly and more unselfconsciously than anyone since Tino Rossi. He's been around almost as long, projecting the same languid, Mediterranean charm since the days when he, Sinatra, and Dick Haymes were all boys singers. The odd thing is that I never tire of him.
He hasn't worked much in the last several years (but neither has J. Paul Getty), but you'd never know it by the sound of his new album. It is just more, thankfully, of the same kind of performances that have made him the world's easiest-to-listen-to singer.
His virtues can best be summed up by his immaculate performance on a ballad new to me, "I don't Know What He Told You". Its lyrics, about a man pleading with a girl to remember that no matter how infatuated she is with a stranger she met briefly at a party, he still "couldn't love you more". It is arranged with a gentle Latin beat - as are two other songs here, "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" and "The Most Beautiful Girl" - a beat that sounds so good to hear again in pop that I hope it is a trend of some sort. But the singing of it is so masterfully relaxed, the dramatic punches so underplayed, and the mood so much more a wistful regret than whining complaint that "soap opera" never enters your head. (Can you imagine the teary breast beating that other perennial, Tony Bennett, would have given it?)
For all the complaints about Como's deliberate calm - some say sleepwalking - with all material, I've always thought it a very wise artistic choice. Given the lush quality of the voice itself, he could easily turn himself into a singing waiter at a clam house if he added a furbelow or two of "dramatic interpretation". He never made it in films, for example, where he tried to "act". By the time TV came along he was wise enough to just let it happen easily and naturally. The result, of course, is small-screen history.
I'll admit that I thought that Como's performance of "Temptation" here was a bit too cool, but then I've always been a great admirer of Crosby's version from the early Thirties - he gulps and swoons around the lyrics like someone on his way home from a first date with the Dragon Lady. Otherwise, not a single quibble with anything he does here. I could have done without a couple of the songs, such as the plastic pieties of "Hands Of Time (Brian's Song)" or the false naiveté of Peter Yarrow's "Weave Me The Sunshine", but two out of ten is a low error score on any album.
STEREO REVIEW MAGAZINE 1974
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