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Dario Vanni Love Songs

 

Sample Songs

Love's Been Good To Me
Come To Me
Lady Came From Baltimore
When I Am With You

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Love's Been Good To Me

(DV-LV-5189009-1)

MUSIC, ART AND ROMANTIC LOVE

(COMPILED BY CHARLES SEELEY)

Whoever said that romantic love was a fantasy of the 19th century had no clue regarding human nature. We cannot help who we fall in love with. Music has always been love’s assistant, the great penetrator of the heart. Cupid’s arrow often flies on the wings of music. How many people have a love song in common that brought them together? How many memories haunt us when we hear a particular song?

The magic of music, when it has to do with romantic love, remains a nebulous mystery. No one can quite figure it out. For sure, there are all kinds of theories, (1) the brain becomes stimulated a certain way when melody line and specific combinations of lyrics “vibrate” it via the ear drums, (2) we are wired to be stimulated by another’s aura or presence when he or she is attractive to us visually and the hormones introduce a higher state of romantic or sexual excitement, simply magnified by music, (3) we are continually in a state of either memory or regret from a past heartache or living in a state of longing for a possible new love. Except when we’re making love, we seldom live in the present moment. The writer Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) said, “In their first passion, women love their lovers; in the others they love love.” Whether this is generally true or not in most cultures I cannot say, but it does bring up a marvelous point: do music and art contribute to our idealizing love and, therefore, program us to fall in love with love rather than the real person? After all, romantic love speaks of the ideal love, those moments when we are blinded through those rose colored glasses and see only perfection in the other person. A true “twin flame” is perhaps quite rare; for those two people to get on in the world suggests they have accepted each other’s flaws as well as “perfections.”

This album, along with its wonderful songs and performances, is unique in the sense that all of the tunes represent the positive presence of romantic love. In the title song by poet-songwriter Rod McKuen, we hear the history of a drifter who, nevertheless, is satisfied with his life because he found love along the way—and it was good and positive. In Come to Me, we hear the warm, sensual calling of intimacy, “come to me, wrap my love around you, come to me, now that I have found you.” And, later on, it literally smokes with an inner sexual flame: “I’m on fire, now that you caress me, my desire is that you possess me.” It doesn’t get much steamier than that! Which brings up a question from the ancients: is all romantic love inevitably sexual?

Dario Vanni has a way of singing himself into your soul, not just your heart – at least for me. I hear a kind of man-boy sometimes crying out in the night of men. In Frank Loesser’s I’ve Never Been in Love Before or When I am with You or even I Look at You, we hear an innocence that is also worldly at the same moment. Of course, it could be that’s how the artist planned it; perhaps the singer is more cunning than we know and he makes us believe being loved by someone new is an idyllic romantic experience, fresh and exciting. But I don’t believe that. There is a sincerity in Dario’s work which tells me he truly feels what he sings with the full spectrum of his life experience, whatever it might be. The “soul” part comes in for me when Dario sings songs like the heart-piercing My Lady or Leon Russell’s A Song for You. Here we hear the wisdom of experience (perhaps present and past-life, who knows?) pleading with woman and the universe. “With all the trying and the dying people do, you’d think the light would pierce the night and come glowing through…still I’m staying here with only you…” This song is the penultimate spiritual-romantic love song because it does not foreclose on romantic love, yet holds the greater picture of the wisdom of human existence as the centerfold. Russell’s excellent lyrics also speak to us eloquently of something lost, yet something found, as in “I love you in a place where there’s no space and time, I love you for my life, for you are a friend of mine….and when my life is over, remember when we were together! But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song for you.”

In traversing the magical land of music, art, and romantic love, it would not be fair to exclude the heart. Perhaps none of us can ever define what the heart is, except maybe to say it is the center, the core of all things? The ancients predicted that when major crisis besets the earthplane sometime in the 21st century, it is only in being heart-centered that we may be exonerated from the terrible fates of the masses. Even current metaphysical gurus are suggesting this time soon to descend upon us. And it is here in music sung with lyrics where we think with our hearts, where we have the opportunity to practice opening ourselves to the art of the possible, that love is found. Even in Johnny Green’s Never Til Now from the motion picture Raintree County, Dario Vanni’s interpretation brings a freshness to the lyrics, “Never til now did I dream you’d care, did I dream my heart could be true, never til now have I found love, never til I found you…”

And, perhaps, we can end this introduction with the bridge lyrics to this song: “Somehow I wasn’t aware that life was so beautiful…” The heart recognizes the beauty of life and the power of the presence of NOW. It’s all we ever have, anyway. So it is the heart that is found in both the magic of life and in the art forms with which life has expressed itself. Music plays a central role in all of life, including the formation of the universe, for the ancients have told us the solar system and cosmos itself were created from sound. Enjoy this album. Some songs may be familiar to you, others not. But know this: they all have a loving, positive message. No matter what, it teaches, live life NOW!

Charles Seeley

The Songs in this Album

Reviews by Clarkspur Emden

1. Love’s Been Good to Me (McKuen)

The last of the 20th century folk song boom that began in the mid-1950s with up and coming folk singers, reached full-bloom in the 60s via Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez and an estimable roster of talent. Rod McKuen began as a coffee house poet, worked his way into song writing, and became highly successful as a natural-born American talent, a cut above many others. Glenn Campbell, Frank Sinatra, and many fine artists sang McKuen’s songs and several became popular hits during the 1960s and early 70s. McKuen’s association with Jacques Brel also brought him international attention.

Dario’s version of this song is lovely and simple. The key of F major finds his rich tenor voice casual, yet intense enough to thrill us when he hits those high-Fs and Gs. What I like a lot about this recording is the dynamic variation Dario attains. First softly, then he builds up, comes back down, ascends again and leaves us with a gentle, honest folk song feeling that this could have been sung at a railroad siding, awaiting the next train to a destination unknown.

2. Come to Me (Allen-Hayes)

This very sensual selection comes out of the 1960s when many love songs still had a simple, ardent meaning. The implication of these lyrics are nothing short of sexual invitation, yet they also convey a kind of romantic honesty and confidence: “…don’t be afraid for love to come to you, my lover come….lover, come to me…..” The Puritan ethic which ruled American moral standards for so many years has crumbled for the most part. Many of our ancestors were often inhibited about love and its many wonderful forms of expression. Fear of many possible outcomes as a result of love-making influenced earlier generations. Religious belief systems, moral teachings outside the church, parents whose own experience made them not wish a child to repeat their foolishness, etc. Now, the pendulum has swung to the other side so drastically that frequent sex is likened to having another smoke or drink. This casual attitude has brought romantic love’s bright light down to a mere glow in the dark; the mystery dissipates when there is no longer the magic of imagination and unexplored possibilities within the unknown. The fantasy becomes muted as we are attracted to another person sexually. It is hoped that this lamentable cycle will end soon and we will find a happy place mid-road wherein the embrace of romantic love still holds court. That to love wisely is to be wise, to be happily cautious about intimacy is prudent, and that it be indulged only when both partners have thought about all outcomes and talked it through. But most of us do not fall in love this way. We are lit up from within by the flame of our new-found love, we react passionately, emotionally, and often with great abandonment.

Dario’s chosen key for this wonderful performance is G-minor; he begins on low E-flat, then to low D notes to enrich the sensuality. The singer is in such good voice here that his vibrato thrills on the high notes with a fast quaver that inspires even the least of all romantics: me. The requisite Latin beat throughout the song moves the energy with the vocal as strings and high female voices wrap it up for this reviewer. I truly like every measure of this track. Hope you do, too.

3. I’ve Never Been in Love Before (Loesser)

Frank Loesser’s mega-hit Broadway play Guys and Dolls produced one of the loveliest tunes of the 1950s, in my opinion, truly worthy of the Goddess of Music. This arrangement begins with the lush string arrangement of keyboardist Dave Cherry, never giving us a hint of the melody, but creating the romantic mood before the vocalist enters. In the C major key, you might think the vocal line to be too “white”, but it is not the case here. Dario glides into the melody with lots of feeling and vocal command. Midway, we get to hear the wonderful open trumpet sound of Gil Evans, who stays in for the remainder of the song, weaving in and out so as to make us feel the trumpet is not just a complimentary part of the vocal, but an equal soloist. His marvelous soaring brass sound and ascending runs add superbly to this excellent Dario Vanni performance. Most people don’t know this, but Dario’s first instrument of choice was trumpet. He played since 6th grade and, in high school, headed his own dance band and gave up the instrument only because it was not compatible anatomically with singing. Seems the glottis is adversely affected from the air pressure exuded as “blow-back” from the mouthpiece, as I understand it.

“For this is wine that’s all to strange and strong” in the bridge section brings Dario’s tenor voice up and soaring; when he winds the song up after Gil’s solo, he tweaks the melody up to a high-G and ends with a Vanni well-known extended last note and everyone winds down with him, including Evans’ trumpet, disappearing amongst the strings. This is probably one of the best male performances of this song you are likely to hear. Dario’s in good company here, for I like Sinatra’s also.

4. The End of Never (Darin-Forest)

The arrangement of this song comes from that marvelous time when electric guitars could twang with strings. Dave Cherry’s chart for this is just that, as Phil Masuto’s excellent twanging guitar weaves in and out of the vocal arrangement. For pure romantic love sentiment, this one is hard to beat: “I will leave you at the end of never, come whatever, not before,” speaks eloquently of an ardent love that shall not die. Excellent lyrics like “when the earth is chilled by the sun, then the love we’ve begun will be over and done” has an honest truth in it: no matter, all things eventually come to an ending. Dario’s voice is at once both intimate and powerful as he negotiates the unusual melody of this tune with total command. On the second go around, when all gets hushed, Dave Cherry adds soprano voices deep in the background along with the strings and guitar—quite excitingly eerie, I thought when I first heard the recording. The arrangement ends in a wonderfully intimate, “I will leave you, I will leave you, at the end of never,” and when he returns, Dario is “whoa-ing” his way to the end with excellent vocal control as the emotional message comes full-cycle.

This rarely heard song is a gem. It was written and originally recorded by Bobby Darin (with lyrics by Francine Forest) and Darin’s heart-felt rendition of the song was what inspired Dario to perform the song live at a time when high-quality supper clubs had showrooms and people still loved how an excellent delivery of a love song stirred their romantic imaginations.

5. A Song for You (Leon Russell)

Composer Leon Russell wrote his masterpiece in this song in my view. “I’ve been so many places in my life and time, I’ve sung a lot of {love} songs, I’ve made some bad rhyme” the song begins. This is sheer poetry set to melody. Later on, after the bridge ramps up the song and it settles back down to a quiet moment, the lyrics once again transport us: “I love you in a place where’s there’s no space or time, I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine…” Whatever romantic image is evoked here, it is real and he loved the person as well as the woman. “I know your image of me is what I hope to be” tells us the singer-poet knows he does not measure up to what his lover wishes for him, but he is willing to explore that possibility.

The arrangement is simple here with just some light strings and electronic guitar. After midway, a haunting node-guitar enters deeply reverbed. Nothing more is needed. Dario’s high tenor voice comes into play in this recording hitting high F-sharps wide open. The singer also alters Russell’s original melody a tweak or two, but the result is a classy, elegant rendition of this wonderful song.

6. The Lady Came from Baltimore (Tim Hardin)

This tune has the good feeling of listening to a 19th century folk song written in the 20th century. We seldom hear Dario’s voice in this wonderfully raw and accessible style, for, somehow, he realized there was really no other way to deliver this tune. It begins with a rather suggestive lyric, “The lady came from Baltimore and all she wore was lace”, but we soon learn that the guy really fell for the girl, wooed her, and won her, even against her Daddy’s wishes. “I was there to steal her money, take her rings and run, but then I fell in love with the lady, got away with none” pretty well sums up the gist of the song. Dario does not key his tenor voice too high here, but stays within the parameters of a musically comfortable delivery, since the song is straight-forward and intended to be sung by anyone who can hold pitch and execute the lyric.

7. I Look at You (Mathis/Robinson)

At the height of his hugely successful career, singer Johnny Mathis turned to song writing with a Ms. Robinson. The results were some pretty wonderfully written and executed songs. I Look at You was one of those most excellent romantic tunes, sung by Mathis and arranged into a lush, romantic chart by the elegant Glen Osser. “As far as I am concerned, Johnny is the king of these songs,” Dario told me. “His tone color and vocal range, emotional capability, and sensitivity to the material can’t be beat. If I record his songs, they are in tribute to him and my own teenage memories that his performances evoked, that can’t be bought or sold.” I would agree that the Columbia Records period for Johnny Mathis, especially in albums like Heavenly, can’t be bested. It was a time, an era—and there was only one Johnny Mathis.

All of the above said, however, we cannot discount Dario’s touching treatment of this song. This arrangement begins with Dave Cherry seemingly “doodling” at the piano, we have no hint of what song is about to unfold. Even when the voice enters, it’s still just piano and voice. But Cherry’s brilliant arranging subtly brings on strings and then those wonderful soprano voices in deep echo. “I look at you and I say to myself, what more could I want if I had you? But I wouldn’t dare to speak it out loud, I stand and I stare, my head in a cloud” tell us a lot about the intimate feelings the singer carries for this mysterious, heretofore unavailable, female. On the second go-around, an oboe takes over the melody and, as Dario paraphrases Johnny’s original recording taking license with the melody, the arrangement soars to a high-G and winds back down to a lovely and gentle ending, bespeaking the vulnerability of this young lad yearning for the unattainable lass.

8. One Hand, One Heart (Bernstein/Sondheim)

We all know that Sondheim is a name forever associated with Broadway, but the masterful Bernstein music of the 1950s for the wildly successful (to this day!) musical West Side Story attained new heights in musical accomplishment. There isn’t a bad song amongst the lot of them. Sondheim was a lyricist at the time, young and pretty much unknown outside of Broadway’s immediate circles. Bernstein had already written his own set of lyrics for the piece, originally titled, “East Side Story,” but, when producers walked away from the project in the early 1950s because of racial overtones, Sondheim came in and augmented the words. We are never sure how much of some of the lyrics are Bernstein-Sondheim or just the latter’s work. At any rate, the combined efforts of these two men made history on the Great White Way and paved the road ahead for a multi-ethnic America within the theatrical musical.

This recording is rare on account that there are two Darios on this track. The story goes thus: Dario was planning to sing the song with a mezzo-soprano named Jane Ederly. Miss Ederly could not be reached before the performance date except for one rehearsal. So Dario wrote in the harmonies and sang them himself! This recording, intended only as a demo for the soprano, survives only because someone at the studio did not discard it, but thought it original and unusual. The performance is sincere, simple, straight-forward. I think its beauty lies in its sincerity and I will say no more except to ask you to savor this track because romantic love seldom gets any better than this. One now wonders what Miss Ederly looked like and how she and Dario got on when the number was performed for a now forgotten event in the early 1970s.

9. This Guy’s in Love with You (Bacharach/David)

The song writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David caught fire in the 1970s, championed by excellent artists such as Dionne Warwick and trumpeter Herb Alpert. The Dario Vanni rendition on this track was intended for live audiences, therefore, the arrangement is rather straight and conventional, not straying far from the original hit versions. Actually, though, it’s a pretty plush arrangement: piano, strings, acoustic bass, trumpets, and trombones (love those trombones!) make up the instrumental roster. It’s typical Vanni inasmuch it’s both intimate and expansive in places. Yet the consummate result is very romantic, positive, and fun to listen to – a fine tribute to those two composers who today are, unfortunately, neglected. Incidentally, one of this team’s best efforts, A House Is Not a Home, has been recorded by Dario and blows me away. This recording will be released in 2010 and you’ll find it on The Movies’ Greatest Hits, Volume 2.

10. When I Am with You (Mathis/Robinson)

This is the second of the Mathis-Robinson collaborations Dario recorded as models for his nightclub acts. Once again, as Dario states earlier, nothing tops the original Mathis Columbia recording of this song. But, that said, our young singer here brings much to be desired to the tune and the Dave Cherry arrangement is first-rate: Drums, strings, piano, voices. What’s more romantic than “When I am with you I am nothing I was before, I am everything I ever wished I could be and more! So it’s not for yourself alone that I love you as I do, but for what I am when I am with you.” This smitten lover will travel “where angels won’t go” and proves it in his ardent performance. The singing voice is glorious here, filled with romantic excitement and excellent vocal technique and color. If one really sits down to listen, note for note, one will observe both the sincerity and professionalism of this artist who molds, contours, and shapes his tones to fit the mood of the song and the emotional expression it commands. The solid tenor sound with its mellow lower range doesn’t hurt things, either.

11. Never Til Now from Raintree County (Johnny Green)

In an album filled with great love songs, this one demonstrates Dario’s “classical” vocal sound most. He never makes it operatic, but drives the song in a high-key (A-flat) and complements it with a light-tenor power. The wonderful Dave Cherry is at the keyboard surrounding himself with strings, bass, even a French horn in the mid-section. Cherry arranged much of Dario’s work in the 1970s and contributed greatly to the success of the Vintage Vanni Series, for, without his arrangements, much of this grand musical undertaking would not be possible. Lamentably, Dave Cherry died in 1989, so what we hear in this collection is also the legacy of a great musician as well.

The motion picture Raintree County, for which this theme song was written by composer Johnny Green, starred Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift, Lee Marvin, and a marvelous cast. It was intended as a kind of Gone with the Wind epic (and indeed the original release clocked in near 3 hours), but many things plagued the project and, in 1957, when it was released, the world had changed and Civil War films were no longer in vogue. That said, however, the movie had its brilliant moments.

The late Mario Lanza recorded this song two years before he died at the age of 38 in 1959. His impassioned performance for RCA Victor still holds a lot of punch, even though Lanza was inclined to over-dramatize and be a bit histrionic at times. On the other hand, Dario’s performance is filled with nuance. I would speculate that this singer worked hard at making the lyric come through with dynamic shadings. The high placement of his effortless tenor voice in this song reminds us just how much technique goes into even a simple tune such as this little ditty from the movies.

12. My Lady (unknown)

This incredible recording is an anomaly: (1) Dario cannot recall ever having recorded it. He hints at late 1970s or early 80s when he was experimenting with new music. (2) There are no notes or records indicating the composer (s), copyrights, and/or release dates. Was the music ever published? (3) The song and its performance represent a complete departure from anything Dario Vanni has ever sung. In the singer’s words: “It seems I was heading in a new direction with my music, looking deeply into the metaphysics of romantic love. When I hear the song now, it seems to be a declaration of the human condition.” Indeed. The stark, raw-edged, but honest lyrics (and blow-me-out-of-the-water delivery) seem to confirm this: “With all the trying and the dying people do, you’d think the light would pierce the night and come glowing through,”or “In the stillness that I know with only you...and still in love with all my heart, you know it’s true—still a little rain, dishonest with the pain that I caused you…you caused me a beautiful heartache, too.” Is this about being in love with God or a lover? Or are they all one here? “Cast upon an isle of love and tears” and “know together we can leave the ground” all point up the romantic-spiritual innards of this unusual piece. As Mr. Seeley suggests, this is the penultimate love song.

The arrangement is nothing short of stunning. With only an arpeggio-ated piano (Dave Cherry again?) to back the voice, the singer begins in deep reverb on super-high mezza di voce “Oooo’s” and descends to the working key with the opening verse. I cannot justly describe what Dario does with this song, the colors he uses from his vocal palette, or the overwhelming emotional impact the performance has on me. Perhaps it evokes my own psycho-spiritual dysfunction in this world, who knows? Perhaps none of it matters. Just listen to this song and the amazing rendition of it. Beyond this, I fear, the rest is just idle patter.

13. BONUS SELECTION: Nights in White Satin (Justin Hayward)