Monday, December 31, 2007

What a great way to end the year!

In my never-ending quest to find "new" releases for SSJ Records' (Japan) "One Shot Wonder" vocalist series (the criterion is that the singer can only have made ONE album), the Fall of 2006 found me crawling around in a sub-basement (don't ask) in Glendale, CA. That's where I came upon singer Dick Noel's 1978 album "A Time for Love."
I knew of Noel, but mostly as one of the busiest session singers in the entire history of the profession. Operating out Chicago, rumor has it that his voice has been heard on more than 13,000 commercials and jingles. That might be some kind of a record. But I was unaware that he'd ever made an album, only a handful of mostly undistinguished singles in the 1950s. But there it was! And with as rarefied a collection of selections from the Great American Songbook as one could imagine.
I took the LP home and was astonished by what I heard. This beautifully supple, rich, male baritone backed by the solo piano of Chicago legend Larry Novak, singing his heart out on such as "A Time for Love," "Here's that Rainy Day," "Why Did I Choose You?" and seven more.
It wasn't until I arrived back at my flat that I noted the liner notes for this sub-rosa release on the small Legends label were written by Mel Torme, who could not have been more complimentary even if he had been writing about himself! High praise indeed!
I immediately took the necessary steps for SSJ to license the recording for re-release and to try and track down Noel. I succeeded at both. In the process, it was especially rewarding to make the acquaintance of the singer, who is now happily retired from the jingle mill and living in Southern California. Of all the things that he has since told me about his long, interesting career, stretching back to just after the end of WWII, none was more fascinating to me than the details of the recording of "A Time for Love" itself. He wasn't familiar with some (perhaps even "most") of the songs that pianist Larry Novak set before him at the beginning of the lone session for the album that commenced at midnight (although there are several '78 dates inexplicably listed on the back of the LP for the recording, Noel swears that there was only ONE) and lasted until six a.m. He is a crack sight reader, able to read the proverbial fly specks off a sheet of music. And he followed the lead of Novak's playing and really dug into the emotional core of the songs, as often as not in only one take, even though not entirely familiar with some of the material. Must be the up side, end result of all those years of having to instantaneously excavate the "meaning" of all that advert music copy.
Finally, even though I prefer to believe the more mythically resonant lone session version, the number of them that finally went into the making of "A Time for Love" is immaterial. Today, the results of Noel, Novak and original executive producer Wayne Knight arrived in the mail from Tokyo. My name is also on it as "Release Producer." Of all the record projects I've been involved in the last few years, none has made me happier than this one. In my opinion, Noel and Novak's recording is on a par with Irene Kral and Alan Broadbent's 1975 classic "Where is Love?" And it just doesn't get much better than that! Here's a taste.
"A Time for Love" is already for sale at the trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and thrifty cyber commerce site: . Right now, it appears to have already sold out, but keep checking back. They're certain to have it back in stock soon.

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