A Swingin' Soundtrack for Summer Jet-Setting
Summertime is right around the corner, not only the summer months, but summer temperatures, too. School is letting out, the days are getting longer, families are bustling to go on vacation, and plans for multiple backyard BBQs are in full swing. We thought long and hard on which album we should feature for the re-boot of our vinyl blog, and it occurred to us the summer months evoke the feeling of world travel, far-off destinations, cool and crisp cocktails, and a loved one to share the adventures with. Recently acquired for the Classic Waxxx collection is none other than Tony Bennett's "If I Ruled the World - Songs for the Jet Set" LP, released in 1965 on Columbia Records.
The Cover Art:
The main photo for the album cover features an aerial shot of (what we assume to be) Hawaii (or some other swell tropical destination) courtesy of Pan American Airways, a once hip and trendy commercial airline in the 1960s. Tropical island destinations were all the rage during this era of social change and prosperity, and the cover art for the record certainly could double as a novel travel poster for the airline with Tony Bennett's mug as the celebrity spokesperson. The cover is standard design fare for the time; part advertisement for the artist, part advertisement for the style of music tucked between the covers, with great use of color and typography treatment. You can't go wrong with a bold slab-serif font to draw attention.
We particularly like this classic style of album cover, and have noticed many artists giving their modern work this type of treatment. It communicates what it need to and doesn't try to stray into design territory that doesn't make sense. It fits in well with the rest of the crooner section of the record collection and is bound to get several revolutions on our turntable this summer.
Bennett follows in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra's 'concept' album, "Come Fly with Me," for this collection of jet-setting numbers. The record builds off of the opening track, "Song of the Jet," composed by Bossa Nova mastermind, Antonio Carlos Jobim (Bossa Nova was all the rage at this time, too), harkening to the exotic locale of Rio de Janeiro. Aside from this track, however, the only real allusion to being a concept album is the destinations each song supposedly inspires. Duke Ellington's "Love Scene" evokes thoughts of Harlem, "Watch What Happens" conjures feelings of France, and "Fly Me to the Moon" makes the listener yearn for, well, the moon. (We're still a ways from commercial travel to the moon, but when that happens, you can bet this song will be the anthem.) All of the other tunes reflect thoughts and feelings for London, Venice, Florida, 'Dreamland' and 'Cloud Nine.' Regardless of the destination, much of the swinging, up-tempo songs and easy-listening ballads make you want to hop a plane to anywhere.
If you are itching to get out of town, or need some inspiration on where to travel this summer, throw this record on for size and familiarize yourself with Bennett's itinerary. Wherever you end up, you'll have a great jet-setting soundtrack for all of those wonderful jet-setting memories.
Interesting Side Trivia:
Bennett dedicated his recording of "Sweet Lorraine" to Nat "King" Cole before his passing, a month prior to the album's release.
All arrangements for the album are conducted by Don Costa with The Ralph Sharon Trio (Ralph Sharon: piano; Hal Gaylord: bass; Billy Exiner, drums) and The Will Bronson Singers, featuring Al Cohn on tenor sax; album producer: Ernie Altschuler.