Listening to The Johnny Mann Singers is listening to a slice of life from the past that no longer exists—the exotic, cool, sophisticated, technically advancing era of the 1950s and 1960s. Further to that, their music takes you even further back, diving straight into the jugular of American Popular Song, capturing traditional American music of the Twentieth Century. With their rotating cast of multiple male and female vocalists, The Johnny Mann Singers proved to be one of the finest easy listening vocal groups of the era. El Records’ compilation, Night, highlights what made the group such a delightful listen, compiling three of their finest records.
Night, their debut album, appeared in 1956, and arrived with a bit of controversy. The album’s cover featured a very voluptuous, very nude woman in profile. It’s quite tasteful by today’s standards, but it was too risqué for the era. Funny, because the music inside the sleeve was very mellow, innocuous covers of standards related to nighttime. The vocal takes on “In The Still Of The Night,” “Midnight Sun,” and “The Night We Called It A Day” are gorgeous enough to lull you into a very relaxed state.
The other two records offered here, Roar Along With The Singing 20’s and Swing Along With The Singing 30’s, are as their titles suggest—tributes to the popular songs of their respective decades. The music here is downright fantastic; upbeat harmonies and melodies that give standards like “My Blue Heaven,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” a fresh new sound. These two records are pure nostalgia, and were the wonderful alternative for the adult and older music fan—those who preferred Lawrence Welk over Elvis Presley.
Johnny Mann and his singers—the most famous of which was a young Vicki Lawrence—would make dozens of more records for an audience who enjoyed music of an earlier era, and Mann would continue to make music until his death in 2014. Night is an excellent highlight of some fine easy listening takes on American Popular Song.
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Categories: Album Reviews