Album Reviews

Ann-Margret: Songs From The Swinger (And Other Swingin’ Songs) (él Records)

ann-margre

Ann-Margret
Songs From The Swinger (And Other Swingin’ Songs)
él Records/Cherry Red

Plenty of women were labeled “the female Elvis,” but few came close to fitting the description than Ann Margret, the gorgeous, vivacious Swedish redhead who exuded a natural sexuality that unsurprisingly made her a star of stage and screen. Much like her male counterpart, she was cast in films based solely upon her sex appeal, and these features varied in quality, yet much like Presley, these films often found her engaging in song. This latest él Records collection pulls together two albums from the mid-60s that highlight two of Ann Margret’s cinematic exploits.

Songs from “The Swinger” (And Other Swingin’ Songs) was released in 1966, and of its dozen songs, five of them appeared in her 1966 film The Swinger. Directed by George Sidney, the film is a humorous adult sex comedy that utilized Margret’s multiple talents—her acting skills, her singing ability, and her jaw-dropping beauty—and resulted in an excellent (though now slightly dated) romp of a film. The music—produced and composed by Marty Paich—is superb; the title track was written by Andre and Dory Previn and arranged by Johnny Williams, and her takes on the Quincy Jones-arranged “I Wanna Be Loved” and Harold Arlen standard “That Old Black Magic” are quite delightful, while Kelly’s Dance” and “Swinger’s Holiday” are instrumental passages.  The other seven songs are a mixed bag; taken from contemporary singles and other recordings, they range from merely okay jazz tunes (“By Myself,” “Cute,” “After The Lights Go Down Low”). to more interesting fare, such as a sultry version of Willie Dixon’s classic “I Just Want To Make Love To You” a wonderful version of  the Mondo Cane theme song “More,” and  “You’ve Come A Long Way From St. Louis,” an otherwise forgettable number save for its egregious lifting of the fuzzed-out “Day Tripper” melody.

The Pleasure Seekers, from 1964, is a much more satisfying and traditional soundtrack album. The film was yet another sex comedy, this time set in the exotic location of Madrid, Spain, and Margret sings four Sammy Cahn compositions, while the rest of the album consists of incidental music written by score composer Lionel Newman. The title track is a swinging number that’s jaunty and joyous, and one of Margret’s best numbers. “Next Time” and “Everything Makes Music When You’re In Love” are classic Cahn numbers, jazzy-pop that might not be particularly great in terms of songwriting, but are catchy-as-hell numbers that delight. “Something To Think About” is a breathy, sultry ballad,a dreamy wisp of a song that’s impossible to not fall in love with. The rest of Lionel Newman’s score is a blend of orchestrated pop that mixes in Spanish styles such as bossanova and cha-cha; it is at times dreamy, fast-paced, mellow, and groove-making.

Although Ann Margret initially may have been dismissed as “the female Elvis”—certainly the comparison wasn’t completely inaccurate, especially after the two appeared in the fabulous Viva Las Vegas and having a brief romance as a result—she quickly turned her talents into a long and  varied career, with albums and films that still hold up and are pleasurable decades after the fact.

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