REVIEW POTPOURRI – Singer: Connie Francis

Connie Francis

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Connie Francis

Now 83 years old but still active, Connie Francis is a living legend in pop music. Her 1957 megahit, the lovely Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby Who’s Sorry Now, was one truly fine song, made extra special by CF’s totally sincere rendition, even if a tad smothered by sentimentality. That year, American Bandstand featured her lip-singing it and, as a six year old, I remember wishing, just momentarily, that she would adopt me as her little boy on a single Mom basis – LOL !!!

BTW, with respect to Kalmar and Ruby, the 1950 Fred Astaire and Red Skelton musical biopic, Three Little Words, also from MGM (Hmm, interesting coincidence), and about the two songwriters, had a very stirring and expressively different performance of WSN by Gloria De Haven, very much in the Peggy Lee/Julie London tradition.

Exciting is a set of 12 very classic pop standards – Time After Time; Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen’s Come Rain/Come Shine; a very personal favorite, There Will Never Be Another You; Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, of which my copy of the late Karen Chandler’s early ‘50s Coral 45 is the gold standard; That’s All; All By Myself, etc. She performs with heartfelt expression but her timing and phrasing is sometimes leaving me wanting something more, an elusive nuance and magic that such balladeers as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme and Doris Day had aplenty. But I really liked her singing of Time After Time. And the arrangements of the gifted Ray Ellis, like those beautiful ones for many of the Johnny Mathis late ‘50s hits, enhanced the album.

For me personally, the worst record she may have released – and one of the top ten worst in recording history, was the 1963 Brylcream Sing Along with Connie. First, it was an insult to the finest Sing Along group then popular, namely Mitch Miller’s. Secondly, the arrangements were hokey, cornballish and, most obviously, a rush job of rush jobs, much like most Christmas albums and TV specials. Thirdly, the Brylcream commercials flooded the American Bandstand. And finally, those little dabs made men’s hair greasier and grosser – forget pursue, the gals would all avoid ya!

The album would also impact the 1963 Christmas of the greater Cates family groups in the vicinity – the price for the record, when first released, was $1 when one purchased a tube of the ointment. Within a week, the price was down to ten cents without the required extortion.

A most “thrifty,’ well-to-do relative whose anonymity shall be honored in this instance, like the other sleeping dogs, bought a pile of the 10 centers and flooded every household with a copy as his way of good will to all men and women. Even after 30 years, no other copies of a record flooding the rubbish sales and Goodwills would be in such mint plus condition.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Rare record shops had their copies priced at 20 bucks and more by the mid ‘80s.

The singer’s life would be shattered by two horrific events. In 1974, a rapist would bust into her room at a New Jersey motel and brutally assault her, never to be found to this day. In 1981, her brother was murdered by two Mafia hitmen.

But her ability to move on and bless so many both here and abroad is only one of the reasons she is so worthy of honor for her life’s work.

Several selections, maybe the whole album, can be heard on YouTube, while prices on the Amazon page start at $4.39 for LP and $6.80 for CD.


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