Various Artists

A Collection of Various Interpretations of Sunny, Pt. 2

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As a follow-up to the 16-track A Collection of Various Interpretations of Sunny, Pt. 1, Roof Music and Trocadero Records of Germany again unite to bring a second edition with even more elaborate packaging, featuring 17 additional versions of Bobby Hebb's classic song. The series is so popular that Hebb toured Germany in May of 2002, his second trip to that country in the span of a few months. There are some absolute nuggets here -- Marvin Gaye's superb rendition has only been available on his boxed sets, while the Electric Flag's monster version has an opportunity to be heard by those who missed Buddy Miles' vocal the first time around. The eight-page liner-note booklet features Bobby Hebb's photo from the '60s sheet music, and has an interview by Jonathan Marx in which Hebb explains that the song is about a sunny disposition. AMG's Bobby Hebb biography was the first place where this fact was published, many feeling the timeless song was written for God or Hal Hebb, Bobby's older brother, who was a member of Johnny Bragg's band. Ella Fitzgerald's terrific performance and Shirley Bassey's superb take, embellished by Bassey's Goldfinger-theme vocal style, are untouchable. Bassey's holding of the final note à la "Goldfinger" is more than a coincidence. After the line "Sunny one so true, I love you," Hebb slips in a subtle riff from the James Bond theme song. The version by Dusty Springfield on the previous collection, as well as Chris Montez and the Four Tops on this CD, embrace the Bond riff. Gary Lewis & the Playboys do not, but it is one of Lewis's best vocals ever. As the listener goes from version to version, it becomes clear the reverence and respect artists have for this title. Bobby Hebb's disco remake was scheduled for this album but dropped, which is questionable since it would be preferable to Leonard Nimoy. Then again, Star Trek fans may seek the album out because of Mr. Spock's inclusion. His is a tougher listen than Robert Mitchum from the previous volume, as Nimoy's inability to stay on key makes it border on parody. The jazz of Les McCann, as well as that of Brother Jack McDuff and David Newman, could be a hint that an all-jazz "Sunny" compilation might be in the works. The song was a rare hit on country, R&B, and pop charts in the '60s, but has evolved into a jazz standard, with everyone from Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington to Pat Martino paying tribute. The magic of Bobby Hebb's genius composition makes it irresistible, and one can listen to cover after cover without getting tired, that is, if they skip Nimoy's take. Leonard Nimoy singing right before the great Ella Fitzgerald is, well, something to behold. Jose Feliciano does a nifty opening guitar riff from Paul Revere's "Kicks" on his version taken from Feliciano!, his 1968 breakthrough which had the hit "Light My Fire." Any album that can find James Brown toned down and show him in a warm light is truly amazing, and this compilation is first class all the way, giving the world an opportunity to study a song of immense passion and depth.