The Incredible Vickers Brothers will release Torch Songs For Swingers later this month. What better way to get a feel for musicians’ styles than to find out what music they love themselves? Besides, like, actually listening to their songs, which you should totally do. Check out the mix tape the “brothers” Rob and Bob made for MAGNET, and look out for Torch Songs on January 21. Says Rob (or is it Bob? … not even their mother can tell them apart), “Most of the artists we love tend to write their own material. But some are great in the way they interpret songs from other writers. Over the course of recording Torch Songs For Swingers, listening focus was placed on performers who put their own, unique stamp on great songs dealing with loss, separation, sadness and struggle.”
Bob Dylan, “The Night We Called It A Day” (Dennis/Adair)
Rob: Like many Dylan fans, I was skeptical at first when I first heard that Bob would be doing an entire album of songs better known in their versions by Frank Sinatra. But the album Shadows In The Night is one of his recent best. Much of its success, in my opinion, is down to the fantastic pedal steel playing of Donny Herron. There’s some very tasteful horn playing going on here, but Herron’s work is really what provides the “orchestra” under Bob’s vocals.
Joe Cocker, “Do I Still Figure In Your Life” (Dello)
Bob: Originally recorded by a great, underrated English band called Honeybus, this song was given a wonderfully soulful treatment by Joe on his With A Little Help From My Friends album. The Honeybus version, written by leader Pete Dello, is well worth checking out, but Cocker really managed to make it his own.
The Everly Brothers, “Like Strangers” (Bryant)
Rob: The mournful harmonies of Phil and Don can take a simple, beautiful song like this and make it one of the most heartbreaking things you’ll ever hear.
Madeleine Peyroux, “Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile” (Zevon/Calderon)
Bob: I love how she interprets old standards but also more modern writers in a way that you could imagine Billie Holiday doing if she were still around. This is a very simple, lovely song by Warren Zevon and Joe Calderon.
Chet Baker, “My Funny Valentine“ (Rogers/Hart)
Rob: Though it’s been done to death by many artists over the years, this is the one that gives Chet Baker a true claim to greatness. He did a good vocal version of it, but I think the song works best as an instrumental. It contains a nice blend of light and dark.
Freddie Scott, “Hey Girl” (Goffin/King)
Bob: He never had much of a career, but Freddie Scott made an indelible mark with this great song from the brilliant Goffin/King songwriting partnership. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but think that a young Brian Wilson must have been paying close attention to it. It’s nothing like the Beach Boys, but the arrangement, to my ears at least, predates what Brian would do later with Pet Sounds. I’ve got to think that some of the Wrecking Crew are possibly playing on this track, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, it’s one of the stand out tracks from the early ’60s, pre-Beatles era.
Peggy Lee, “The Folks Who Live On The Hill” (Hammerstein/Kern)
Rob: If you love the Beatles and Sinatra, it will eventually lead you to Peggy Lee. The Beatles version of “Till There Was You” was taken from her arrangement, and Sinatra actually conducted the orchestra on this Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern masterpiece. It was released as a single in England and has a haunting Nelson Riddle arrangement. This song gets me every time and is one of the best things she ever recorded.
Grant Green, “Idle Moments” (Pearson)
Rob: Green, during his Blue Note years, was a brilliant jazz guitarist who had great tone and feeling. This lengthy instrumental, written by Duke Pearson, who also plays piano, is the perfect Sunday-morning come-down tune after a late, troubled Saturday night.
Frank Sinatra, “A Cottage For Sale” (Robinson/Conley)
Bob: From No One Cares, an LP that is sometimes jokingly referred to as “the suicide album.” It’s easy to see why with this stark song, which is taken at a funeral pace. Gordon Jenkins was the perfect go-to arranger when Sinatra was in a somber mood.
My Little Hum, “Ever Fallen In Love” (Shelley)
Rob: I love how these guys take this frantic, furious song from the oh-so English Buzzcocks, slow it down, soften it a bit and turn it into a poignant oh-so California pop song! Love the dreamy guitars, and the vocal is really beautiful. I could also point out that the overall production is stellar, but I’m going to declare a conflict of interest since the band and I share the same producer. (But nice work, Allen.)