Sammy Davis, Jr.

The Definitive Collection

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Sammy Davis, Jr. was an outsized talent. Whether dancing or singing or acting (or drumming, or doing impersonations), he spent more energy, carried more emotion, and involved himself more deeply in his performances than any other artist of his caliber. His earliest hit material -- "Something's Gotta Give," "Love Me or Leave Me," "That Old Black Magic" -- signalled the advent of a show-biz vocalist who could blow the roof off the joint like a blues shouter, and though Davis was impeccably refined, he was obviously channeling Broadway figures like Ethel Merman or Al Jolson rather than the mellowed, mellifluous sound of swing-influenced vocalists. (As such, he earned more fans in the showrooms of Las Vegas than the nightclubs of New York.) Hip-O's Definitive Collection is not only a fine compilation of Sammy Davis, Jr. highlights, it's the best single-disc overview of his career, beginning with his '50s Decca material and ending in the mid-'70s, when his hits petered out after a late chart-topper ("The Candy Man"). It features all of his hits and it's the first single-disc compilation to include songs from every one of his movie or Broadway hits -- "Too Close for Comfort" (Mr. Wonderful), "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" (Porgy and Bess), "Night Song" (Golden Boy), "The Rhythm of Life" (Sweet Charity), "The Candy Man" (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), even "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow (Baretta's Theme)." It also includes a pair of well-chosen album tracks, "My Shining Hour" from his collaboration with the Count Basie Orchestra, and "Lonely Is the Name," the title song from a very good mid-'60s LP.

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