Joe Williams

A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry

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During the mid-'50s, Joe Williams was one of the hottest properties in vocal jazz thanks to a big hit recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra ("Every Day I Have the Blues"). But when he moved from Verve to Roulette a few years later, he modified his version of the big-band blues for his first album with the label. Roulette owner Morris Levy was interested in crossover potential -- he had recently hit number one in 1957 with the folk-pop singer Jimmie Rodgers -- and he had Williams record an album of lush ballads with strings arranged by swing veteran Jimmy Mundy. (Vocal fans thinking of Frank Sinatra as arranged by Gordon Jenkins instead of Billy May will be well on their way to imagining the sound of A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry.) Although Williams, like Sinatra, was a fabulous swing vocalist, he was also an excellent balladeer with a rich vibrato and the confidence to let a straight reading speak for itself. Torch songs comprise most of the song list, and include "What's New?," "It's the Talk of the Town," "Where Are You," and Irving Berlin's "Say It Isn't So."

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