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Best rendition of "Embraceable You" - Choose up to two selections...

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George and Ira Gershwin - "Embraceable You"

"Embraceable You" is a song with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The song was written in 1928 for an unpublished operetta named East Is West. It was published in 1930 and included in that year's Broadway musical Girl Crazy performed by Ginger Rogers in a song and dance routine choreographed by Fred Astaire.

Billie Holidays's 1944 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.




The Nat King Cole Trio



Ella Fitzgerald - Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Song Book - 1959



Judy Garland - 1940 version



Billie Holiday - 1944 recording



Frank Sinatra - from the 1960 Capitol LP - "Nice 'n' Easy"


In an ideal world, we would have a lavishly decorated piano bar serving complimentary cocktails as no rendition of any showtune is as tuneful as the one that is belted out in full voice by the well-fueled patrons of a lavishly decorated piano bar which serves complimentary cocktails... ;)

The "Showtunes Sing-Off" series of threads will appear twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays

Any and all commentary is more than welcomed and you can post alternate versions of this tune in the space below...

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I have to give Kiri te Kanawa credit for being an all-too-rare example of an opera singer who can make a (relatively) successful transition to popular music - it's a fun playful take on a well-known standard - without over-playing it to such an extent that it's far closer to being a parody than a performance... but she didn't make the final cut of five for one reason - She kicked up the tempo to a speed which seems to strip the song of any semblance of genuine sentiment - It's more a string of notes - albeit well-sung notes - rather than actual words that were written to express a genuine emotion.

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Judy Garland got the first vote - she ran the table on vocal control, good tone, enunciation, pronunciation, voice suitability, and versatility.

This was a contest in which each of the five can make a rock-solid case for not only meriting inclusion but finishing in one of the two top slots when the voting ends.

Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday can effortlessly make a case for their being selected in either first or second place and may very well do so...

But my second vote went to Frank Sinatra who just nailed "musical phrasing" by infusing the tune with a wider range of emotions - He was able to convey an odd sense of loss - as if the request - "I love all the many charms about you - Above all, I want my arms about you" - was made more out of a sense of longing for a love that has passed him by than as a playful expression of the joys of a new-found romance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Three who couldn't crack the top five but merit mention... You'll notice a weakness for crooners - No one who's Irish can successfully resist a sentimental tune... It's next to impossible so we don't even bother to try...



 

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Now this is hard. I liked all of these versions, though I knew, as soon as I'd played the first few bars, that Frankie had won it for me. There is something just so right about his phrasing. I've always loved his voice and his way with a lyric, so I suppose it was like coming across an old friend.

Then I thought about who would be my second choice, and I couldn't make up my mind between Billie Holliday and Judy Garland, mostly because they were so different. On the one hand we had Holliday's lazy, jazzy style and on the other hand the more musical comedy style of Garland, both valid and both beautifully done. So, as I couldn't vote for both of them, I left it at just one vote for Sinatra.
 

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Now this is hard. I liked all of these versions, though I knew, as soon as I'd played the first few bars, that Frankie had won it for me. There is something just so right about his phrasing. I've always loved his voice and his way with a lyric, so I suppose it was like coming across an old friend.

Then I thought about who would be my second choice, and I couldn't make up my mind between Billie Holliday and Judy Garland, mostly because they were so different. On the one hand we had Holliday's lazy, jazzy style and on the other hand the more musical comedy style of Garland, both valid and both beautifully done. So, as I couldn't vote for both of them, I left it at just one vote for Sinatra.
I didn't realize until I read your review - due to the similarity of the CD covers of each of the two Garland recordings that I had bookmarked - that I placed the wrong Garland version into the post - It was supposed to be the 1940 version which is a straight vocal take rather than the "big production number" edition which was taken from the 1943 film "Girl Crazy".

A listen to the version that was meant to be judged within the contest may be able to convince you to add that second vote.

To change your vote, click on "Change vote" at the top of the poll - and then make your two selections - You'll to recast your Sinatra vote and add a checkmark for your second selection.

My thanks for writing "the more musical comedy style" which immediately tipped me off that the wrong recording was in place.
 

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I have the Sinatra and the Fitzgerald in my collection, but my first choice would be Nat King Cole. A major influence is the arrangement. IMHO the song is pretty square (and does not display Ira at his peak). I need it to swing a bit. My second choice is Billie Holiday - but not that recording. I much prefer her 1950's recording with her Verve-provided small group.
I also have a nice version by Sarah Vaughan with a small group.
 

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Wow great start and in with the heavyweights!

Like others this focus made the song's weaknesses apparent but that's part of the game. tipsy/gypsy doesn't work at all for me.

I've already expressed my feelings re Opera singers performing this material so Kiri version was a nice surprise. She chose wisely working with John McGlynn. It made me think I hadn't heard anything about him for some time and now find he's sadly RIP. He did a lot to bring this material back for folks my age.
.

I can't find on youtube the Sarah Vaughan version I have (Somewhere!). But its rather sexy, you can imagine what Embracing leads to...

But a polls a poll. Wherever possible I intend to cast one vote. And this time its Nat King Cole. That version seems to be right in the middle of his stylistic evolution from early 'Hep' Jazzier vocals (so influential on Ray Charles) and the later, mass popular success as a full voiced later day crooner. Its the version I'll seek out again.

Bring on the next one....
 
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