Joel Goldenberg: Andy Williams and others

Andy Williams in the 1960s.

We now near the completion of the W list, and of this series of Retro Roundup's favourite songs from solo artists and groups.

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Andy Williams: His high-ish voice was never my cup of tea, although his Christmas material felt as cozy as sitting next to an active fireplace. Still, there are at least two songs of his I really like — the herky-jerky rhythm of Can't Get Used To Losing You with Williams' vocal ultra-multi-tracked; and his vocal version of the instrumental hit Music to Watch Girls By. Very kitschy. Indeed, many of Williams' hits were vocal versions of songs that had been hits in totally or largely instrumental versions, including his first hit, Canadian Sunset; and a later one, Henry Mancini's Moon River.

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Deniece Williams: I had quite enough of the incessant radio play of Let's Hear It For the Boy back in 1984. But Williams' top-10 version of the Royalettes' 1960s song It's Gonna Take A Miracle is superb and prompted repeated listenings on my part. I could do without the trills, though.

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Hank Williams: This country legend's entire catalog should be heard, but avoid original LPs with the word "stereo" on the covers. Those are original recordings with much later string overdubs. Revisionism is not usually a good thing. However, labels like Eric Records and others are doing a bang-up job converting mono recordings into stereo, and some of those conversions of Hank's songs can be heard on YouTube.

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Paul Williams: This guy, with Roger Nichols, wrote some fantastic pop songs recorded by Carpenters, Three Dog Night and others. But his singing is a bit bizarre, with some words being pronounced in a strange way. Case in point, "hangun' around" from his rendition of Rainy Days and Mondays.

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Al Wilson: At a time when Lou Rawls was in a bit of a lull hit-wise, Wilson filled the gap soundalike-wise with his massive hit Show and Tell, which I've liked since its release in 1973. A very good natured hook-filled song. An earlier song, The Snake from 1968, is considered a Northern Soul classic, but it's a bit too generic for my taste. The original finger-snappin' version by writer Oscar Brown Jr. is better.

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Brian Wilson: What can I say? My favourite artist of all time who I was honoured to meet twice and interview on the phone. I've written plenty of times about his work with the Beach Boys, and his solo material is quite good as well. But the one song that matches the depth of his work with the Beach Boys is Midnight's Another Day, which is almost as heartbreaking as the song that I'm sure influenced it — 1971's desolate 'Til I Die. Both are songs that could bring the listener to tears, considering the well-documented difficulties in Brian's life.

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Jackie Wilson: One of the greatest soul singers of all time who was handed schlock to sing way, way, way too often in the 1960s. He got much better material in the late 1960s, resulting in hits like Whispers (Getting Louder) and especially (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher. But my favourite, from that same time period, is I Get The Sweetest Feeling, which is just perfect rhythmically and has a very enthused vocal. If only he was handed that type of material all the time.

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Murry Wilson: The father of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. A real piece of work who verbally and physically abused his sons, and may have been responsible for Brian being almost completely deaf in one ear and not being able to hear stereo. An essential listen — the 40-minute Help Me Rhonda session in which a drunken and jealous Murry berates Brian for taking too long to record songs. Those who like Brian will be enraged/amused by what you hear. On the other hand, he did co-write (with Brian) what may well be my favourite Beach Boys song of all time — Breakaway. So I'll give him that.

Next time: The Winstons and others.

 

 

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