Connie Francis – 26 Greatest Hits (Audiophile Version) – Top Music International Stereo-only SACD, UD-SACD8938.2, 79:40 **½:
Concertta Rose Maria Franconero started playing the accordion at three, and eventual won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show. At the suggestion of the host, she changed her name to a more acceptable, marketable Connie Francis. She possessed an extraordinary voice, capable of expressing emotion. Her career would ebb and flow as a pop singer, teen idol, country artist and foreign language performer. Unfortunately, parental issues, failed marriages, legal action and victimization by a violent crime curtailed her livelihood.
Francis enjoyed her most significant success with a string of hit singles in the Fifties and Sixties. She never fit the All-American stereotype of Sandra Dee stardom (records and movies), and was relegated to the comic best friend roles in the “Spring Break” movies. As a pop singer, she displayed a sharper attitude than Leslie Gore or Brenda Lee. A consistent niche was never established to market her vocal talent. Rock ‘n roll covers seemed incongruous, and were not received with enthusiasm. Female performers had not impacted this genre. As the Sixties closed, she recorded country music. With her sentimental tone, she appeared to be a natural fit for this. But other performers had greater commercial triumphs covering her covers. Francis would receive acclaim for her Italian language recordings.
Connie Francis 26 Greatest Hits is a compilation of material separated into four categories (Greatest Hits, Country And Western, Rock ‘n Roll and Italian Favorites). Her most commercial work is effectively represented by hits like “Stupid Cupid” and “Lipstick On Your Collar”. Anchored by concise studio arrangements, Francis’ vocals breeze through the material. As is the case with much of her catalogue, the song selection is not entirely reliable. Her version of the Ink Spots fluid, “If I Didn’t Care” is overproduced and lacks charm. Her debut single, “Who’s Sorry Now” remains her finest recording, allowing her voice to express poignancy. The country selections are also inconsistent. Her take on “Tennessee Waltz’ has a delicacy that shows her command of the material. Conversely, Hank Wiiliams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” lacks the organic quality of the original or stylization of the Tony Bennett version. Rock And Roll songs (“Don’t Be Cruel’, “I Hear You Knockin’”), lack perspective and are ill suited.
Her collection of Italian melodies finally captures the talent and enticing intricacies of her voice. “Come Back To Sorrento” showcases her sensitivity and feel for Italian language. Her intuitive rapport with these compositions has a positive influence on “Mama” and “O Sole Mio”. This section of the CD is the most cogent in the chemistry between artist and material.
Connie Francis 26 Greatest Hits is a nostalgic look at a talented singer, whose career did not reflect its potential. In today’s environment her dominant vocals could have been developed in the modern Country venue. Her multi-lingual aptitude might have been embraced by the World Music scene. The modernized SACD Stereo sound accentuates the lofty caliber of her voice. The orchestral arrangements are crisper and sound vibrant, due to hi-res mastering. [This SACD was created for the Far East market; it’s not too likely an audiophile Connie Francis SACD would be released in North America…Ed.]
TrackList: Who’s Sorry Now; Fallin’; Stupid Cupid; If I Didn’t Care; I’m Sorry I Made You Cry; Frankie; Lipstick On Your Collar; My Happiness; God Bless America; Singing The Blues; Tennessee Waltz; Young Love; Your Cheatin’ Heart; Bye Bye Love; Peace In The Valley; Cold, Cold Heart; Let Me Go Lover; I Hear You Knockin’; Just A Dream; Don’t Be Cruel; Arriverderci Roma; Mama; I Have But One Heart; O Sole Mio; Santa Lucia; Come Back To Sorrento.
— Robbie Gerson