Nelson Riddle

Sing a Song with Riddle/Hey Diddle Riddle

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DRG Records' 2006 two-fer CD Sing a Song with Riddle/Hey Diddle Riddle combines the most esoteric LPs in Nelson Riddle's catalog; one of them so esoteric that it never even got released the first time around. Riddle recorded both albums in 1959 for Capitol. The more unusual of the two might seem to be the first one, Sing a Song with Riddle. Here, in an early example of karaoke music, he provided arrangements similar to those he often wrote for Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole, and the idea was that the record buyer would be the singer! As annotator Will Friedwald points out, "[Riddle] almost never has any melody going behind the soloist....Casual listeners will have to pay close attention to tell what song is being played...." The idea has been copied, notably in the Beach Boys' Stack-O-Tracks album and, arguably, in Jamaican dub. Here, it allows Riddle fans to appreciate the different elements of his arrangements. But it is definitely an acquired taste. Hey Diddle Riddle, on the other hand, is easier to understand; it simply consists of 12 Riddle swing arrangements of nursery rhymes. You can't quite call the resulting set a children's album, however, since it is hard to imagine children of the late '50s or early '60s responding to it. The idea was Riddle's, but, as Friedwald admits, "Capitol must have had a hard time figuring out who the potential audience might be for it," and not being able to figure that out, simply left it in the can. Forty-seven years later, Riddle fans will enjoy it as providing more examples of his inimitable style.

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