Andy Williams Music To Watch Girls By - The Very Best of... Review

Compilation. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

These are the sounds that kept white middle-aged America tapping its toe amidst the...

Alwyn Turner 2005

Released to coincide with a British tour by the 77-year-old king of lounge-core, here comes yet another compilation of the old favourites. They're all present and correct, the songs everyone knows from TV adverts, movies and cover versions: "Music To Watch Girls By", "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Can't Get Used To Losing You", "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses". And, for the most part, they sound as fresh and breezy as they ever did.

Andy Williams scored his first solo hit in 1956, but was at his artistic and commercial peak in the '60s. Possessing a voice that could soar with deceptive ease over a fully orchestrated score, he had few pretensions to jazz credibility, and settled quite happily in the mainstream. For a decade from 1962 he hosted one of the most popular light entertainment shows on American TV (in which capacity he introduced the world to the never-ending Osmond family), and came to epitomize the world of easy-listening pop for grown-ups. These are the sounds that kept white middle-aged America tapping its toe amidst the social upheavals of those turbulent times.

The formula varies little - the brass section punches above its weight, the violins slide in close harmony, the female choruses hum along -and, if it has a tendency to go syrupy when the pace slows, its hard to resist the glossy sheen of it all. Especially when the rhythm section bustles as efficiently as it does on "Can't Help Falling In Love".

The real problem is that, dependent on the song-writing of others and on covers of contemporary hits, Williams' repertoire lacks much depth beyond the handful of classics. Do we really need another version of "Unchained Melody" or "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head"? They won't do anything to offend while they're playing, but with a bit of judicious trimming of the 26 tracks, this could have been a more tightly focused album. Some more of the groovy bongo-and-guitar beat heard on "House of Bamboo" wouldn't have gone amiss either.

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