Julie London: Around Midnight

The sultry singer is in her element in a set of small-hours specials including Lush Life and the either observational or sexist Black Coffee


Fans of Julie London have been spoilt for choice just lately with a steady stream of her reissues being released. Sings Latin In A Satin Mood (Jazz Wax 4601LP), Sings Latin In A Satin Mood + Swing Me An Old Song (Jackpot Records 48791) and Five Classic Albums (featuring Lonely Girl, Calendar Girl, Julie, London By Night and Send For Me – Avid Jazz AMSC 1424) have all been reviewed in Jazz Journal this year.

Here we have Around Midnight, awarded four stars in the All Music Guide and here reissued on vinyl. It was clearly intended for intimate late-night listening, and numbers like Black Coffee are classics of the genre.

Sarah Vaughan introduced Black Coffee in 1949 but it is really more associated with Peggy Lee, who featured it on her 1953 album of the same name. Paul Francis Webster’s evocative lyric is aimed at the lovelorn but the suggestion in the last line of the bridge that a woman is born to “stay at home and tend her oven” has always bothered me. Webster, who had 16 Academy Award nominations as a lyricist over the years, might have been expected to have come up with something better than that.

Lush Life is an ideal vehicle for Ms London’s sultry delivery but surprisingly she leaves out Billy Strayhorn’s lengthy introduction, which is an essential element of the lyric. Something Cool and Don’t Smoke In Bed are cool-school classics from the 50s and perfectly suited to her laid-back interpretation. All About Ronnie, which was one of Chris Connor’s signature songs, is another of a similar vintage but unfortunately Julie London never recorded it.

As always, London’s performances are replete with an innocent charm that belied her very glamorous appearance.

(1) ’Round Midnight; Lonely In Paris; Misty; Black Coffee; Lush Life; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; Don’t Smoke In Bed; You And The Night And The Music; Something Cool; How About Me?; But Not For Me; The Party’s Over; (2) A Foggy Day (37.50)
London (v) with: (1) Dick Reynolds Orchestra. Hollywood, August 1960. (2) Bobby Troup Orchestra. Hollywood, 2 March 1955.
Jazz Wax Records JWR 4603