Sammy Davis, Jr.

Hearin' Is Believin'

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As the '70s wound down, this artist changed his wardrobe from hippie love beads and bellbottoms to the groovy suits and gold chains of a Shaft persona. But the material he was recording underwent no such development. After having cut his teeth on some of the musically hippest songs of all time, he was being forced to gnaw less-robust fare due to the fickle taste of the public. On this album, the programming basically teases the listener with bits of this and that before settling into a major opus, the lengthy "Beatles Medley." One of the most interesting things about what is basically a stunning performance is how much the public's perception has changed about this kind of artist doing this sort of material. At the time this medley was recorded, there were undoubtedly plenty of hipsters laughing through their teeth at Sammy Davis, Jr. doing this type of material, especially at such length, an act which in itself tends to suggest the performer thinks mastery of some sort is being presented. But the ensuing decades have resulted in a renewed and indeed growing respect for artists of the Davis Jr. ilk, and the result is that his covers of the Beatles tend to be viewed as an act of great respect by an artist who is every bit up to the task at hand, rather then simply some old geezer trying to be cool. On the other hand, one can wonder just where he was headed when the material was arranged, as the idea of following the near-T.S. Elliot apocalypsia of "A Day in the Life" with a tune as simplistic as "Something" is a bit mind-boggling. But maybe that's the whole idea. Elsewhere on this set of live recordings from the Sydney Opera House there is a lovely version of "Begin the Beguine," the fine but heavily abbreviated cover of "Up, Up and Away," a lengthy take on an ancient spiritual entitled "Holy John," and a pompous Paul Anka number entitled "I'm Not Any Man," which due to some sloppy indenting looks as if it is supposed to be part of the moptop medley. Altogether, not such a bad collection of '70s Sammy Davis, Jr., with better sound than some of the other collections from the same live recordings.