Johnny Hartman

The Many Moods of Johnny Hartman

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It is difficult to envision the circumstances Johnny Hartman found himself in to put his name to this album. Hartman, one of the finest interpreters of the American Popular Song and perhaps the best balladeer of our time, is reduced to warbling (literally) a set of inane tunes composed by Gene Novello by himself or in collaboration with others. Not only are the songs mundane, but the arrangements are cloying and the performances, with the exception of Hartman's voice, uninspired and gimmicky. There's an electric piano, synthesizers -- all the doohickeys generally used to mask the aesthetic poverty of the music. The one track which is a cut above the others is a catchy "I've Only Myself to Blame," which features some very good alto by an unidentified player. It is the only one which Hartman seems to enjoy doing. Arrangements are by Fred Norman, a veteran jazzman who has produced credible jazz recordings and other jazz events. His association with this project is almost as surprising as Hartman's, which makes one suspect that it was done to help Hartman make a few dollars. The session was recorded in 1976 and stayed in the vaults until released in 1996 to take advantage of renewed interest in Hartman because he was on the soundtrack for The Bridges of Madison County. Hartman tries, but even his talent cannot save this material. It would have been better for everyone if the album had stayed buried.

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