The Definitive Collection
CD: Real Gone Music RGM-0512 (2-CD set, USA)
About This Album
This compilation was originally released by Columbia/Legacy on April 18, 2014 as The Essential Percy Faith but only as a digital download. It was finally made available on CD by Real Gone Music on October 7, 2016. It uses the same cover photo, track sequence and mastering as the mp3 version of the album.
Editorial Review from Amazon:
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Percy Faith invented easy listening music; along with Mantovani, he pioneered the use of string sections to soften and sweeten the brass-dominated sound that dominated popular music during the ‘40s. Faith was also one of Mitch Miller’s main men at Columbia Records, where he provided arrangements for everybody from Doris Day to Tony Bennett to Johnny Mathis, and he composed some of the most memorable soundtrack themes of all time. Now, Real Gone pays tribute to one of the great arrangers and composers in pop music history with a 32-track set spanning 22 years of recordings, including hit singles, tracks drawn from a total of 20 different albums, and a number of his most revered compositions for the screen. Among the highlights: the #1 hits “Delicado,” “Where Is Your Heart (from ‘Moulin Rouge’),” and “The Theme from ‘A Summer Place;’” his soundtrack themes to the films Tammy Tell Me True, The Oscar, and The Love Goddesses, and the TV series The Virginian; and some of his signature adaptations of Latin music like “How Insensitive (Insensataez)” and “Brazil (Aquarela Do Brasil).” Joe Marchese provides the notes, and the package includes photos from the Columbia vaults as well as some of the great cover art that adorned Faith’s album releases. Remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York…like the title says, the definitive—and largest ever—Percy Faith collection!
THE YEAR WAS 1960. Elvis Presley was out of the army and "Stuck on You," Chubby Checker was busy doing "The Twist," Bobby Darin was dreaming of his lover "Beyond the Sea," and Brian Hyland was making sure everyone saw that "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Yet in the year-end Top 40 filled with memorable pop and rock-and-roll melodies of every stripe, one stood head and shoulders above the rest. Resplendent violins, warm brass and lilting piano triplets took Percy Faith's "Theme From A Summer Place" to the Billboard Hot 100's No. l spot on February 22, 1960. The atmospheric ballad stayed there for nine consecutive weeks, a record which wouldn't be tied until 1968 with The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and wouldn't be broken until 1977 thanks to Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life." Today, Faith's Grammy Award-winning Record of the Year remains the longest running instrumental No. 1 in the history of the Hot 100, and one of the most recognizable pieces of music of all time, cropping up with regularity on film and television. For all its success, "Theme from A Summer Place" is just one essential part of the remarkable musical legacy of Percy Faith. The late artist's innovative orchestration techniques placed him at the vanguard of the lush genre known alternatively as mood music, light music, or beautiful music. Real Gone Music's The Definitive Collection is a widescreen portrait of his most sweepingly romantic themes for young lovers and beyond.
"Percy Faith was very, very instrumental in my career," Johnny Mathis confided to this author in a 2015 interview. "I was thrilled to be able to work with Percy." Johnny is just one of the legendary artists who benefitted from Faith's musical acumen, collaborating on such acclaimed albums as Good Night, Dear Lord and the bestselling Merry Christmas. Tony Bennett recalled to Variety last year of Faith's golden touch: "I was a jazz singer. And Mitch Miller said, 'Don't do that.' So they gave me Percy Faith and his orchestra, and my first record was 'Because of You' in 1951, which was No. 1 for ten weeks." As Mathis revealed, "Percy was an artist-in-residence at Columbia Records who had no obligation at all to do anything other than record his own music. It was a kindness on his part [to record with me]." That kindness, and his abundant skill, established Faith as an in-demand personage for more than 25 years at the label. He arranged and conducted over 75 of his own albums as well as hundreds of sides for the cream of the Columbia crop.
Born on April 7, 1908 to a working class family in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Faith was inspired by his uncle, a violinist, to take up music at the age of seven. Piano came naturally to the young man, and by eleven, he was performing in public. At fifteen, he gave his concert debut at Toronto's venerable Massey Hall, but at eighteen, his promising future in music was nearly curtailed. Faith and his three-year-old sister were at home when her clothing caught on fire. Stamping out the flames with his hands, he saved his sibling's life, but the injuries left him unable to continue as a classical pianist. He resolved to use his gifts elsewhere in the musical realm, and turned to arranging and conducting.
Beginning in the early 1930s, Faith became a fixture on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio programming. In 1937, he launched his own CBC show, Music by Faith, and before long it was picked up to air in the United States as well. In 1940, Faith headed to the U.S. and took the reins of The Carnation Contented Hour in Chicago. Moving to New York and continuing his upward trajectory, he began an association with the NBC network, and then with CBS. Late Late in the decade, he began recording for various labels including Majestic, RCA Victor, and Decca, where he was employed in the field of A&R (Artists and Repertoire). Faith’s early recordings set the tone and style for the rest of his career. On September 20, 1947, Billboard reviewed The Exciting Music of Percy Faith, a Majestic album of 78s: "Scoring a set of six familiars screen and stage songs with rich instrumental color in the harmonies of the strings and woodwinds, to which is blended symphonic overtones and a pronounced rhythmic beat, maestro Percy Faith provides easy and pleasant listening for those desiring the everlasting song favorites in full instrumental dress." The glowing review could have just as accurately described his recordings in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s.
Columbia Records took notice of Faith’s exquisite sound. In 1950, Percy joined the label as both a recording artist and musical director working closely with A&R chief Mitch Miller. (In addition to the tracks which he produced for Faith, Miller can be heard on "Music Until Midnight (Lullaby for Adults Only)" playing English horn and oboe.) In a busy first year, Faith accompanied vocalists including Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra while cutting his own singles. The August release of "All My Love (Bolero)" established him as a major presence. His recording featuring The Ray Charles Singers reached No. 7 on the Billboard chart despite stiff competition from other versions of the same song by the orchestras of Xavier Cugat and Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Patti Page. Patti's rendition ultimately eclipsed the others by reaching No.1.
The bolero beat of "All My Love" is just one illustration of Faith's frequent application of Latin forms to his music. His 1947 Decca album Fiesta Time was praised by Billboard for "creating a carnival spirit in the varied and contrasting moods and rhythms, taking in the samba, guaracha, bolero, and tango dance forms." When he joined Columbia, he mined the rich veins of Latin and South American music on tracks such as "Jungle Fantasy" by Puerto Rico's Esy Morales and "Delicado" by Brazil's Valdir Azevedo. Prominently spotlighting Stan Freeman on a vibrant harpsichord, "Delicado" gave Percy one of his most enduring hits when it peaked at No.1 on Billboard in 1952. It would be his first chart-topper but not his last.
Faith's recording of "Where is Your Heart" from the film Moulin Rouge was crowned the top song of 1953. The ballad by French composer Georges Auric with American lyrics by William Engvick was a vocal number credited to "Percy Faith and His Orchestra featuring Felicia Sanders." The single lasted an impressive 24 weeks on the chart, residing at pole position for ten of those weeks. Faith continued to work with Sanders through 1956 on her solo recordings, but none matched the success of the alluring, ethereal movie theme.
Indeed, the music of Hollywood plays a central role in the Percy Faith story, and he recorded several LPs of memorable movie themes. The Definitive Collection includes a number of his cinematic excursions, including Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington's shimmering "Return to Paradise" from the movie of the same name, the rousing "The Bandit (Theme from O Cangaceiro)" from the Brazilian western, Luis Bonfá's and Antonio Maria's "Samba de Orfeu" from Black Orpheus, Nino Rota's "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet" (for which Faith picked up his second Grammy), and Jerry Goldsmith's "Theme from Chinatown" from the Academy Award-nominated score.
An accomplished melodist in his own right, Faith scored a number of motion pictures. In a 1970s radio interview with disk jockey and perennial game show host Wink Martindale, Faith revealed that Warner Bros. Records had actively courted him in 1959 to leave Columbia. Among the enticements was entree to the WB film studio as a composer. Faith believed that, had he accepted the offer, one of the WB pictures he could have scored was none other than A Summer Place. He couldn't have known at the time that his name would become more associated with the film than its composer, Max Steiner.
A friend in the publishing business who had previously tipped Faith to "Delicado" brought him a cue from Steiner's score. Faith immediately recognized the composition's pop potential: "It had the beginning, the semblance of what was going on [in popular music]… I could hear a new type of drumming. There was something going on. It was the beginning of rock, which was coming out of R&B music." Faith was surprised that the theme had come from the veteran Steiner's pen. He immediately phoned the composer, who was twenty years his senior. Percy remembered Steiner telling him, "I played the melody which was in 4 [to the publisher], and the dirty little so-and-so turned it into a 6/8, and put these triplets in and was trying to tell me it was something new! Hell, Beethoven and Mozart have been using triplets for 200 years!"
Of Faith's own film work, most notable is The Oscar (1966). The drama co-written by science-fiction great Harlan Ellison marked Tony Bennett's silver screen debut, and yielded a Top 10 Easy Listening hit for the singer with Faith, Jay Livingston, and Ray Evans' "Song from The Oscar (Maybe September)." The Definitive Collection additionally presents the movie's "The Glass Mountain" as well as Faith and Mack David's "The Love Goddess" from 1964's The Love Goddesses, and "Tammy Tell Me True" from the comedy of the same name that Faith scored in 1961. "The Virginian," his theme to the 1962 NBC western series, could be heard Wednesday nights on the network for the program's first eight seasons. (Faith's recording of "The Syncopated Clock" from "Sleigh Ride" author Leroy Anderson was also familiar to television viewers as the theme to CBS-TV's The Late Show movie between 1951 and 1976.)
Like Hollywood, Broadway beckoned Faith. Over the years, more than ten musicals got the album-length Percy Faith treatment at Columbia, from Kismet (1954) through Jesus Christ Superstar (l971). Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's jubilant showstopper "With a Little Bit of Luck" and courtly "Embassy Waltz" have been culled from Percy's 1956 recording of My Fair Lady (the original production of which was bankrolled by Columbia). A bucolic reading of the same songwriters' "Camelot" hails from his 1960 album dedicated to the musical. The LP was promoted by the label alongside the Original Broadway Cast Recording and another "cover" album from Andre Previn's trio.
Along with Latin and movie music, pop was another key component of the artist's oeuvre. The dawn of the 1960s saw him relocate from New York to California, and concentrate more heavily on his own recordings rather than as an arranger-conductor for the label's singers. So successful was he that Columbia deemed October 1960 to be "Percy Faith Month," pushing his 27 releases to that point by servicing record stores with special racks, brochures, photos and more.
As the sound of American popular music changed, so did Percy Faith. The Definitive Collection showcases a pair of 1950s now-standards written by lyricist Carl Sigman, "Ebb Tide" and "Till." Percy introduced the latter, originally written in French, but Pianist Roger Williams had the more successful recording, reaching No. 22 to Percy's No. 63 on the Billboard survey. Faith composed the relaxed "Theme for Young Lovers" as a 1960 single, peaking within the Top 40. Three years later, he re-recorded the song as the title track of Themes for Young Lovers. The album introduced the "new" Percy Faith, interpreter of contemporary pop-rock hits in soft yet imaginative arrangements. It included future classics from Carole King and Gerry Coffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, and became Faith's most successful non-holiday long-player. Themes for Young Lovers reached No. 12 on the Billboard Top LPs (Stereo) countdown and became his longest-charting album, at 36 weeks. (Camelot was runner-up, at 23 weeks.)
Naturally, Columbia wanted more of the same. Soon, Percy was adapting Great Folk Themes into instrumental form, and selecting Latin Themes for Young Lovers (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius De Moraes and Norman Gimbel's beguiling "How Insensitive") and Themes for the "In" Crowd (Billy Page's "The ‘In’ Crowd," a hit for both The Ramsey Lewis Trio and Dobie Gray). New standards by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney filled Faith's albums. Between 1963 and 1976, the ever-prolific Faith released more than 25 albums of pop hits, often named for those songs: Leaving on a Jet Plane, I Think I Love You, Black Magic Woman, and Clair among them. As of the mid-sixties, Columbia also urged Faith to incorporate a chorus into most of his recordings. He had intermittently employed vocalists on his records since his earliest days at the label, but voices took on a new prominence within his instrumental textures during the lyric-oriented rock era.
Percy Faith never stopped looking forward. He told historian Gene Lees in 1974, "It's an electronic world now, and I've been studying the Moog, the Arp, the Fender Rhodes piano. I use them in my recordings sometimes." After having revisited "Theme from A Summer Place" in a vocal version in 1969, he returned to it once more in September 1975 as "A Summer Place '76." The updated track retained the original's soaring strings and added a joyous disco beat, yielding a No.13 Easy Listening hit.
On February 9, 1976, Percy Faith died of cancer at the age of 67. Forty years have passed since his death, yet the popularity of his music has hardly waned. Most of the albums in his massive Columbia discography remain in print today, and his timeless sets of Christmas music are revived year after year as true staples of the genre. His influential arrangements live on, too, via concert performances and re-recordings by respected conductors such as Alan Broadbent, Terry Woodson, and the late Nick Perito.
"I loved Percy Faith," Johnny Mathis said, "because I think he was the most inventive of all with his sound." The deceptively simple style of Percy Faith can't be summed up in a single word, though many certainly apply: sophisticated, romantic, whimsical, dreamy, relaxing… just don't call it elevator music!
A very well packaged compilation that includes great liner notes, recording dates, photos of Percy Faith and reproductions of album covers. However, it represents another missed opportunity to reissue tracks that still have not made it to CD, such as the re-recordings of Swedish Rhapsody and Show Me.