The Songs Of Bobby Troup – Bethlehem Records mono BCP-1030, 24:44 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
(Bobby Troup – piano, vocals; Bob Enevoldsen – valve trombone; Howard Roberts – guitar; Red Mitchell – bass; Don Heath – drums)
Here’s what Fred Dellar of Mojo Magazine had to say about Bobby Troup: “He sang as though he had just half a voice. No volume, it was all about confiding”. This reissue of The Songs Of Bobby Troup is ample evidence of this quotation.
Some years before there was Bobby Troup the singer, there was Bobby Troup the songwriter, who later he morphed into Bobby Troup singer-songwriter. Of his early compositions, the best known are Route 66, which Nat Cole turned into a hit in 1946 and even earlier in 1941 Daddy which was recorded by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra. As for the singer part of his life, this had been encouraged by Johnny Mercer in the early 1950s, so perhaps it should not come as any surprise that seven of the eight tunes in this offering feature Mercer’s compositions. While Troup never achieved any commercial success with his recording career, which lasted only from 1954 to 1959, this mid-‘50s session showcases a very pleasing vocalist who made the most from a very limited vocal range.
Most people would expect that Johnny Mercer would write important popular songs, so the opening tune “Cuckoo In The Clock” might not fall into that category. However this amusing piece, is done with Troup’s engaging style and is similar to another one of Mercer’s jingle-like numbers “Jamboree Jones” which is not included in this release. “Midnight Sun” is remembered mostly as an instrumental made prominent by Lionel Hampton, (he was one of the co-writers) but Troup’s take on the lyrics is very winning. In 1944 Otto Preminger directed “Laura” which was noir-detective story starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews for which David Raksin wrote the score and Johnny Mercer provided the lyrics. Bobby Troup sticks to the piano in his version and while he is no great shakes on the keyboard, he does have a nice touch and does not stray far from the melody. The go-to version of “That Old Black Magic” comes from the singer Billy Daniels who had a hit recording in 1950. If you listen closely to Troup’s interpretation some of that Daniel phrasing comes through, but done with a lighter touch.
Anyone who ever attended a Frank Sinatra concert or night club show will recall that at certain point, towards the end of the show, Sinatra would have the lights dimmed, undo his bow tie, sit on a stool with drink in hand, and start on what he called his ‘saloon’ songs. Inevitably, one of these songs was “One For My Baby” and Sinatra’s rendition was always filled with longing and pathos. Bobby Troup’s vocal talents are no challenge for Sinatra, but he does understand the lyrics and gives the tune a bluesy reading.
The 1950s produced a number of vocalists similar in style and demeanor to Bobby Troup which included Joe Mooney, Matt Dennis, and Jackie Paris all of whom seemed to have short-remembered careers. Nonetheless, Bobby Troup had a breezy familiar style that made him an appealing and approachable performer.
TrackList: Cuckoo In The Clock; Midnight Sun; Laura; That Old Black Magic; One For My Baby; Jeepers Creepers; Skylark; I’m With You