Classic Album Collection

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Classic Album Collection Review

by William Ruhlmann

The "classic albums" collected in this unlicensed European package (which is a "box set" in the sense that a cardboard sleeve surrounds three CD jewel boxes) are Sammy Davis, Jr.'s first three LPs for Decca Records, Starring Sammy Davis, Jr. (1955), Just for Lovers (1955), and Here's Looking at You (1956), plus bonus tracks mostly taken from one-off singles of the same period. Starring Sammy Davis, Jr. was a chart-topping hit that helped establish Davis as a major star, and it remains a good summary of his talents, with his personality bubbling over in the vocal performances of standards and songs from Broadway shows, even including his talent for impressions in his version of the Tony Bennett hit "Because of You," which he sang in the styles of various singers as well as movie stars like Cary Grant and Jimmy Cagney. Davis' chart singles of the period also included standards like "Something's Gotta Give" and "That Old Black Magic," done in his inimitable style. Just for Lovers, which reached the Top Five, was a typical ballad collection that Davis mostly sang straight, except for the uptempo closer, "Happy Ending." By this time, he was recording forgettable movie themes like "Six Bridges to Cross" and "The Man with the Golden Arm" as singles, though his duet with Carmen McRae on "A Fine Romance" was fun. Here's Looking at You is a big step down, not so much because of Davis as because of whoever handled A&R on the record and picked mostly second-drawer material for him to sing. Happily, by this point, he had gone to Broadway to star in his own musical, Mr. Wonderful, and three songs from the original Broadway cast album close the third disc, among them the show's hit, "Too Close for Comfort."

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