Julie London: Sings Latin In A Satin Mood + Swing Me An Old Song

The sultry if jazz-free charm of Latin In A Satin Mood is combined with the singer's earlier swinging foray with Jimmy Rowles

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Julie London was discovered at the age of 17 when working as an elevator operator in a men’s clothing store in Los Angeles. She became a film actress and later a singer recognised for her sultry, languorous singing. London said in an interview “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of over-smoked voice and it automatically sounds intimate.” Billboard magazine voted her Most Popular Female Vocalist for three years running in the 50s.

London recorded more than 30 albums between 1955 and 1969. In Latin In A Satin Mood she delivers 12 classic Spanish and Mexican numbers that were popular in the 50s and 60s while in Swing Me An Old Song she sings a mix of traditional songs with those popular in the first three decades of the 20th century.

Her mellow, often contralto voice is backed in the Latin album (also reviewed here on vinyl) by Ernie Freeman’s orchestra with mariachi trumpets, bongo drums and a Mexican strolling-style vocal quartet. The music is very much of its time with some of the best examples of the genre being Frenesí, Sway (Quién Será) and Vaya Con Dios. After listening I felt like I’d been watching one of those old nostalgic films. The trip down memory lane is certainly enjoyable but I didn’t discern any jazz in there.

By contrast, each number in Swing Me An Old Song is thoroughly supported by the swing and cool jazz arrangements of pianist Jimmy Rowles and his orchestra. Carmen McRae described Rowles as “the guy every girl singer in her right mind would like to work with” and over the years he also accompanied Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.

While the track list might appear dated – for instance, Comin’ Thru The Rye was written in 1782 by Robbie Burns – the unconventional approach by both London and Rowles is surprisingly modern. London is highly adept with playful lyrics and of course consistently seductive throughout. Try Be My Little Bumble Bee for starters.

Discography
[Sings Latin In A Satin Mood] (1) Frenesí; Be Mine Tonight; Yours; Bésame Mucho; Adiós; Sway; Perfidia; Come Closer To Me; Amor; Magic Is The Moonlight; You Belong To My Heart; Vaya Con Dios; [Swing Me An Old Song] (2) Comin’ Thru The Rye; Cuddle Up A Little Closer; After The Ball; Be My Little Bumble Bee; Camptown Races; Old Folks At Home; Downtown Strutter’s Ball; How Come You Do Me Like You Do; Row, Row, Row; By The Beautiful Sea; Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home; Three O’clock In The Morning (63.38)
London (v) with: (1) Ernie Freeman & His Orchestra. Los Angeles, 1962. (2) Jimmy Rowles & His Orchestra. Los Angeles, 1959.
Jackpot Records 48791