Joanie Sommers

Softly: The Brazilian Sound

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Released in 1964, the aptly titled Softly, the Brazilian Sound was Joanie Sommers' seventh long-player for Warner Bros. in under five years. She had been marketed as a torch balladeer to popular jazz and Great American Songbook enthusiasts, as well as a teenybopper to a considerably younger audience. Sommers joins forces with Laurindo Almeida (guitarist/arranger) in a move that predates Frank Sinatra's collaborative efforts with Antonio Carlos Jobim by several years. In actuality, the so-called "bossa nova" movement was one of the only trends to have any effect on the American pop scene during the mid-'60s -- particularly when going up against British Invasion bands. And it's little wonder that Jobim's name crops up throughout the effort, as he co-penned a couple of tunes -- including the sultry opener, "Meditation" (Meditacao). Comparatively traditional is Henry Mancini's title theme to Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page's concurrent romantic comedy, Dear Heart. Almeida's score is tempered, yet stays fairly close to Andy Williams' Top 30 hit reading of the song. "Watching the World Go By" -- which shouldn't be confused with the Dean Martin classic -- is the other cinematic selection. Sommers' refined confidence not only sells the number, but makes it one of the project's least dated entries. Although arguably obligatory, "Quiet Nights (Corcovado)" gives Almeida an opportunity to weave his lyrical and romantically charged acoustic guitar on the Jobim bossa nova archetype. Conversely, Almeida could have gotten significantly more mileage had he removed the syrupy and heavy-handed string section. "Once (Ils S'Aimaient)" is a perfect match for Sommers' expressive voice as she subtly contributes to the composition's ever so slight sense of melancholia. After an instrumental introduction that seems to portend a reflective ballad, "Softly, as I Leave You" is taken at a quicker tempo, giving the singer a bit more melody to work with. Unquestionably, Sommers' downy intonations are at once hypnotic and seductive. "I Could Have Danced All Night" then counters with a happy-go-lucky visage that settles into one of the finest samba vibes on the platter. She offers the same unencumbered flair to the bluesy "You Can't Go Home Again," while the Johnny Mercer collaboration with Almeida on "Old Guitaron" allows Sommers to engage listeners with the warm, inviting intimacy that she was becoming known for. In 2007, Collectors' Choice Music combined Softly, the Brazilian Sound with Sommers' 1960 long-playing debut, Positively the Most, making each available for the first time in decades.

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