IMAGINE A DARKENED ROOM. Perhaps it’s your apartment which, with the lights on, is unimpressive. But it’s nighttime and all the lights are out. In the darkness, it’s . . . different. There is a single candle burning, giving off an illumination that softens everything. Little can be seen but a lot can be felt.
You have brought someone special here.
Someone very, very special.
An old-fashioned romantic, you want everything to go perfectly because tonight is the night you are going to pop “the question.”
Music is important. The right music for this occasion is, in fact, very, very important.
But what to play?
There’s the old standby, Sinatra. But his “mood” albums aren’t really sexy—just, y’know, “moody.”
Johnny Mathis works nicely in most cases but he’s always rather elegant, even a little too sweet at times.
For sustained mood — romance with lots of not-too-subtle sensuality plus a touch of overt sexuality — nothing comes close to Julie London’s ABOUT THE BLUES.
Sexiest slow dancing album?
The songs on ABOUT THE BLUES were recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood in late 1956 and early ’57. The sessions were produced by Bobby Troup, a singer, pianist, and songwriter whose best-known composition is probably Route 66. (Troup married London in 1959.)
Russ Garcia was the arranger and conductor. A small band included noted jazz players Maynard Ferguson (trumpet), Barney Kessel (guitar), Shelly Manne (drums), and Willie Smith (alto saxophone).
The twelve tracks clock in at 34:29, a reasonable if slightly generous running time for an LP record in the ’50s. Each song has the word blues in the title:
Basin Street Blues
I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
A Nightingale Can Sing The Blues
Get Set For The Blues
Invitation To The Blues
Bye, Bye Blues
Meaning Of The Blues
About The Blues
The Blues Is All I Ever Had
Blues In The Night
Bouquet Of Blues
ABOUT THE BLUESs was released as Liberty LRP-3043 (mono only) in May 1957. It was reviewed in the June 10, 1957, issue of Billboard, where the reviewer gave the album a positive review. He stated, “On these selections, [London] is at her breathiest and most sultry, seeming to sing not with her vocal cords, but rather to radiate a protoplasmic sound.”
As we all know, protoplasm is “the organized colloidal complex of organic and inorganic substances (such as proteins and water) that constitutes the living nucleus, cytoplasm, plastids, and mitochondria of the cell.”
The use of “protoplasmic” by the reviewer may be some kind of hipster slang from the mid-’50s (at whose meaning I am not going to hazard a guess).
ABOUT THE BLUES reached #15 on the Billboard best-selling LPs chart.
Popping the question
Okay, let’s go back to the darkened apartment with the soft light of a glowing candle. While ABOUT THE BLUES is still playing, it’s time to pop the question:
“Honey, I know it’s our anniversary this weekend but do you think we can go to the Star Trek convention on Saturday?”
FEATURED IMAGE: Each of the photos of Julie London in a gold evening gown in the images on this page was photographed in late 1956 for a cover article in Life magazine (image below). The article inside is a brief look at her career leading to her role in José Ferrer’s latest movie, The Great Man.
The first and third sections of this article belong here on Neal Umphred Dot Com. The second section would normally be found on my record collectors blog Rather Rare Records. So think of this piece as a hybrid of sorts.
If you are going to replicate the scene in the first paragraph, consider using Mia Bella’s clean-burning, natural wax candles.