Sammy Davis, Jr.

Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr. Review

by William Ruhlmann

Sammy Davis, Jr. made another comeback as a record seller at age 46 with his number-one version of "The Candy Man" from the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and his LP Sammy Davis Jr. Now in the first half of 1972. Only months later, Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr. is the follow-up album, containing the intended follow-up hit single, "The People Tree," another song in the bouncy style of "The Candy Man," again written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Davis, of course, was no stranger to the songs of Bricusse and Newley already, having charted earlier in his career with their songs "Gonna Build a Mountain," "If I Ruled the World," and "What Kind of Fool Am I." Those songs were in their inspirational mode, suited to Davis' melodramatic style, and they have provided him with a couple more such compositions in "Tomorrow" and "I Do Not Love You" here, as well as another in a bouncy mood, "It's a Musical World." That gives them four of the five songs on the first side of the LP, the only exception being another inspirational number, "In My Own Lifetime" from the Broadway musical The Rothschilds. The album's second side is bookended by two bravura performances by Davis. At the outset, he spends nearly seven minutes on "You Can Have Her," arranged in a country gospel style, acting as if he's on stage pulling out all the stops. At the end, he lovingly performs Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," a song he no doubt identifies with as a fellow hoofer and because he associates it with one of his mentors, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (whom Walker did not have in mind in writing it). In between, there's yet another potential follow-up to "The Candy Man" in "Sweet Gingerbread Man" and an attractive version of "Love Is All Around" (aka the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) that brings out its similarity to the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (even if it was written by Sonny Curtis). Portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr. is an uneven collection, but it contains a few Davis gems.