The song of the day for Saturday, June 1, 2013 is “Thou Swell.”
About This Song
“Thou Swell” is one of Rodgers and Hart’s earlier songs, written in 1927 for A Connecticut Yankee. Based on the Mark Twain novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the musical concerns a young man about to be married who dreams that he is part of the court of King Arthur in the year 528. The lyrics cleverly play with both the old and new language: thou and swell; thine eyes are cute too; I’d choose a sweet lollapaloosa in thee.
About This Version
Your song of the day chooser obviously has her favorites and returns to them often: Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, “The Rules of the Road,” and Rodgers and Hart. Between repeated playings of the new Bennett/Brubeck: The White House Sessions, Live 1962 all week, she has been listening to a lot of Rodgers and Hart and was reminded that not only is “Thou Swell” a charming song, but that Tony Bennett’s recording of it is rather swell too.
The two Rodgers and Hart albums were the first albums that Bennett created on his own Improv label after leaving Columbia. Not only are they wonderful songs, but the George Barnes / Ruby Braff Quartet with Bennett’s voice is perfect. The unusual quartet featured two guitars (Barnes and Wayne Wright), cornet (Ruby Braff) and bass (John Guiffrida). No piano, no drums, no strings, no reeds. For this author, Bennett is at his very best when he sings with small, intimate groups (as on these albums and the 1964 When Lights Are Low with the Ralph Sharon Trio and the 1961 Tony Sings For Two, with just Sharon on piano). There is a purity in these albums and Bennett’s ever-present exploration and commitment to the emotional content of the songs he sings is enhanced. Tony: thou swell, thou witty, thou grand.
“Thou Swell,” as well as Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers & Hart Songbook, is available from iTunes. This contains both Tony Bennett Sings 10 Rodgers & Hart Songs and Tony Bennett Sings … More Great Rodgers & Hart.