12/12/11 By Christopher Loudon
Doris Day Redux
Previously "lost" tracks surface from an underrated vocalist
In 1966, Doris Day ended her 21-year recording relationship with Columbia Records. The partnership, which began in 1945 with the massive hit “Sentimental Journey” (with Les Brown’s orchestra), generated plenty of hits—“Secret Love,” “Everybody Loves a Lover” and, of course, her signature “Que Sera Sera—and a far greater number of misses, including such clunky novelty tunes as “Rickety Rackety Rendezvous,” “Run Away, Skidaddle Skidoo” and the aptly-titled “Oops.” Along the way, Day also shaped some of the finest vocal albums of the 1950s and early ’60s, including the exquisite Duet with André Previn and the stunning bookends Day By Day and Day by Night.
At the time of her parting with Columbia, Day confirmed her intention to cease recording altogether, opting to quit before age took its inevitable toll on her voice. Occasionally, on her hit TV series (The Doris Day Show, which earned a decent, five-season run from 1968-73) and on a pair of TV specials, she would sing; but 1965’s Doris Day’s Sentimental Journey (a collection of World War II-era tunes), remained her final studio album.
Then, in the mid-1990s, when Germany’s Bear Family label assembled all of Day’s recordings in four boxed sets spanning 24 CDs, 11 all-but-unknown tracks surfaced. Recorded in 1967 but never commercially released, they were, in 2006, combined with three songs from 1970’s The Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff Special and, under the direction of executive producer Michael Feinstein, released as The Love Album on his Concord-affiliated label, Feinery.
At the time of their discovery, they were widely celebrated as the only “lost” Day tracks in existence. Then, earlier this year, news surfaced of another hidden trove of Day material. Seven tracks, recorded in the 1980s (mostly for Doris Day’s Best Friends, a cable series centered around Day’s passion for, and remarkable commitment to the welfare of, four-legged pals) were newly discovered. An additional recording of “Happy Endings,” a sweetly sentimental tune written by Day’s son, the late Terry Melcher, with Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, was also unearthed, featuring a vocal by Melcher.
The eight tracks were combined with four selections from her Columbia days (all hand-picked by Day as personal favorites) and released by Sony in the U.K. under the title My Heart. To everyone’s (including Day’s) surprise, My Heart proved a massive success, earning Day the honor of becoming the oldest (at age 87) artist to place an album featuring new material in the British top 10.
Now, likely due to its unexpected popularity overseas, a U.S. edition of My Heart, featuring an additional track (the rather creaky, early 19th-century folk tune “Stewball,” re-popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary, about a beloved racehorse) has been released.
Day, who remains arguably the most underappreciated vocalist of the past half-century (vocal connoisseur Will Friedwald rightly places her best work on par with Sinatra and Fitzgerald), sounds as warm and pure as ever, with only barely detectable deterioration to her crystalline sound. She opens with the perky Lane-Lerner charmer “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here,” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, a tune that she’d featured on her 1970 TV special.
Unlike Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and other contemporaries, rarely did Day, even as her music career inched toward the mid-1960s, invade the pop-rock hit parade for material. So, it is refreshing to hear her takes on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream,” the Joe Cocker hit “You Are So Beautiful,” and Johnston’s nostalgia-tinged “Disney Girls” (written for, and recorded by, the Beach Boys in 1971), easily My Heart’s standout track.
Another Johnston-Melcher composition, “The Way I Dreamed It,” is a lilting homage to idealized romance, a somewhat odd choice for the four-times-married Day. Johnston and Melcher also co-wrote the title tune, Day’s version of which originally played over the end credits of the 1991 PBS biographical tribute, Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey. Day provides a spoken introduction to “Happy Endings,” saluting her son’s myriad talents. Though he’s nowhere near his mother’s league, Melcher, who began his music career as half of the California pop duo Bruce & Terry (again, with Bruce Johnston) and went on to produce, among others, the Byrds and the Beach Boys, can sing, his soft tremolo strongly reminiscent of Art Garfunkel.
The four archival tracks include “My One and Only Love,” lifted from Day’s 1962 album with Previn, her 1951 rendition of “My Buddy” from the Gus Khan biopic I’ll See You In My Dreams (costarring Day and Danny Thomas), “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” from The Love Album and, in honor of her birthplace, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein’s “Ohio,” from Wonderful Town, originally included by Day on her 1960 collection of Broadway hits, Show Time.
My Heart is currently available from Amazon and on iTunes.
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