If a pop singer is backed by a jazz band, he/she doesn't automatically turn into a jazz singer -- having jazz accompaniment doesn't necessarily make you jazz. But if a pop singer likes to swing, having jazz accompaniment is certainly a plus. Like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. was a jazz-influenced pop singer who knew how to swing hard. And when Davis joined forces with drummer Buddy Rich in 1966, swinging hard was inevitable. The Sounds of '66 documents a 1966 show in Las Vegas, where Davis was backed by Rich's big band. Although Rich had a reputation for being difficult to work with and could be a loose cannon at times, he was an extraordinary musician -- and if you were able to get along with the volatile drummer (musically or personally), he could certainly add a lot of fire to your performances. Fire is exactly what Rich brings to The Sounds of '66; he clearly inspires Davis to go that extra mile on performances of songs that range from "Come Back to Me" to Sammy Cahn's "If It's the Last Thing I Do" and Frank Loesser's "Once in Love With Amy." Even "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (a song that listeners generally associate with The Wizard of Oz) is hard-swinging -- Davis and Rich approach the E.Y. "Yip" Harburg/Harold Arlen song as aggressive big band pop, not children's music. A major departure from the famous Wizard of Oz version, Davis and Rich's version is definitely an adult interpretation. Not every album that Davis recorded in the '60s is great, but lovers of traditional jazz-influenced pop can't go wrong with this excellent CD.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson