Talking about “memories of good days,” we used to think of at least 10 years ago or even before. However, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus peril, even the beginning of this year (2020) seems like “those good times” for us now. That feeling was even strengthened when I watched the magnificent video recording at Wiener Musikverein at the beginning of this year. Numerous nostalgic American Standard numbers brought me back to the truly “good old days.” I dare to pick out some rock and pop singers’ brilliant standard albums.
The concert featuring only the film music composed and conducted by John Williams, the maestro of film music, and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was held at Wiener Musikverein, the Hall of Fame for music in Viena, in January this year (2020). For John Williams, it was literally a fantastic stage. It was not just a pop concert. There is no hierarchy in music among artists, and members of Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, who love his music, were truly serious. The stage filled with the joy of playing music impresses us overwhelmingly, which would be compared favorably with a superb classical music concert. Familiar melodies from <Star Wars>, <E.T.>, <Harry Potter> and others are revived with the sound of best orchestra in the world. The magnificent addition to their performance is Anne-Sophie Mutter’s violin. Watching her playing the violin vividly as if she is rendering the classical concerto almost creates an illusion that these tunes are written for her. After being fascinated with the beautiful and melancholy tune of <Remembrances> from <Schindler's List> played on violin, the performance reaches its climax with <Imperial March> and <Raiders March> requested by Philharmoniker. You can enjoy them on CD, but I recommend you to enjoy the sound together with the video on the aforementioned set of CD and Blu-ray Video—<Remembrances> is included on the Blu-ray disc only.
In February, a month after this concert was held, Anne-Sophie Mutter visited Japan, and continuously performed the Beethoven program enthusiastically. I went to Suntory Hall on February 20. The shadow of Corona virus was looming at that time, and more than half of the audience was wearing a mask. I was wondering how Mutter felt looking at the audience with face coverage from the stage. That was barely before the time concerts had to be cancelled. Now more than half a year has been passed since the spread of the virus, and Musikverein in Viena has gradually restarted holding concerts. Watching the dream-stage video of Johnb Williams, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter performing together, I sincerely hope that the normal days will return as soon as possible.
Nilsson is a popular rock and pop singer having had lots of fans from the end of 1960s to ‘70s. After having made <Everybody's Talkin'>, the theme song of the movie, “Midnight Cowboy,” a hit, he enjoyed his unwavering popularity by having “Without You” topped the charts both in the United States and Britain in ’72. He also basked in the glory of winning the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
In “A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night” he selected only the nostalgic standard numbers and sang them softly. Listening to him calmly singing old numbers such as <Always>, <Lullaby in Ragtime> and <As Time Goes by> makes us feel like watching a monochrome film. It is important to note that Gordon Jenkins’ Orchestra is accompanying the singer—Jenkins arranged many albums for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Whether we like it or not, it makes us slip back in time to the good old days. I can say that it is a great trailblazing album which led the time for pop musicians to approach standard numbers seriously.
This is a standard album by Linda Ronstadt, who made massive hits including “You're No Good” and “Blue Bayou,” and became one of the singers representing the West Coast pops from ‘70s to ‘80s. Starting with the title song, she selects beautiful familiar ballads only such as <Lover Man> and <Nelson Riddle>, and expresses the sentiments of songs straightforwardly. I find it quite attractive that we can feel her personality as a pop singer sufficiently at the same time. They are arranged by Nelson Riddle, a maestro known for working with Frank Sinatra.
This is a classic album of standard numbers by a pop singer released in autumn, 1983, which ranked No.3 on Billboard charts. Because of its popularity, “Lush Life” and “For Sentimental Reasons” were recorded successively. It is a standard trilogy by Linda Ronstadt which would be remembered into the future.
Rod Stewart is the super-star in the world of rock’n’roll —born in Britain and moved to the United States in ’75, and produced numerous hits. His popular series recorded during the 21st century is “The Great American Songbook.” Starting with “Vol. 1” released in 2002, the series lasted until “Vol.5” in 2010, and it is said that the album made a sale of over 20 million discs in total. As the title shows, only the standard songs of good days are selected, and together with the fascinating husky voice of Rod, it is impressive. His voice is so distinctive that we can easily tell it is Rod’s. In addition to the excellence of the music itself, what makes it fabulous is that the music is covered 100% with Rod’s color.
“Vol. 3” is quite attractive having gorgeous guests, including Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder, participate in some of the tracks. Stevie Wonder’s harmonica performance in <What a Wonderful World> really touches our hart. The melodies of standard numbers Rod is singing such as <Stardust>, <Manhattan> and <I Can't Get Started> are gentle, nostalgic, and at the same time, always fresh.
Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to JAZZ JAPAN, STEREO, and others. He joined a big band, Shiny Stockings, as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).