Mel Torme At The Movies

Mel Torme

Turner Classic Movies Music / Rhino Movie Music, 1999é

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's a sad irony that Mel Tormé At The Movies, a compilation disc featuring some of his contributions to films (as well as some personal favorites), came out around the time of Tormé's death earlier this year. By no means was this disc released to capitalize on his death; rather, this compilation was planned far in advance... and it shows.

This 20-song collection shows the progression of Tormé from a Sinatra-like crooner to the glory days where he became one of jazz's best-known vocalists due to his free-flowing scat style. But it also shows Tormé at the end of his career, when his work almost became a parody of what he once did - and that's a sad legacy to leave behind.

The first part of this disc tends to drag a bit, as songs from classic movie musicals of the '40s are featured ( Good News from 1947 in particular, which has five songs featured). At this time, you could hear how Tormé was being sculpted as the next Sinatra, something which just didn't seem to sit right on my ears. At times, it sounded like Tormé was forcing himself to perform numbers like "Be A Ladies' Man" and "Lucky In Love". It just didn't always seem like his heart was in the material - and after hearing his jazz numbers later on the disc, who could blame him?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One other thing I found difficult about these tracks was that you often had about three vocalists working on the same number at the same time. "Mrs. Whippen (Outtake)" and "Be A Ladies' Man" are two examples of tracks that I thought sounded very cluttered. Of course, if you're an afficionado of these types of movies, your opinion of these songs will undoubtedly be skewed in the opposite direction.

By the time Tormé moved into the '60s, his distinctive style had been established, and he uses it with great relish. Tracks like "Love Is Just Around The Corner (Live)", "These Desparate Hours" and"The Lady's In Love With You" all have an air of happiness about them, and are genuinely fun to listen to. The only exception to this is "All That Jazz," another number which I thought sounded cluttered with the additional vocals.

For all the star power and draw that Tormé had, it seems sad to see that the last two tracks on Mel Tormé At The Movies fail to utilize his distinctive gift with any honor. I don't know how Warner Brothers got him to do a two-minute croon of "Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives," and after listening to it, I wish he had turned down the gig. Simply put, it's a waste of his talent. Likewise, hearing "Live Alone And Like It" from Dick Tracy makes me wonder why Tormé's talents were being underutilized for numbers like this when he still had everything it took to belt out the scat.

Mel Tormé At The Movies is definitely geared towards the person who spends their free time re-living what some consider to be the golden age of the cinema. Chances are the younger kids (especially those who only knew Tormé from his guest appearances on Night Court) won't be willing to take a chance with this disc. Too bad; there are many moments which could show them just how interesting and how much fun the world of jazz could be. At the best, this is a fitting tribute to one of America's premier vocalists. At worst, it highlights both the positive and negative of a career that deserves to be remembered better.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Turner Classic Movies Music / Rhino Movie Music, and is used for informational purposes only.