After hearing “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and “The Holiday Season” probably more times than I would care to admit to, it hit me that the only time one can hear Andy Williams on the radio anymore is when FM stations such as “Lite FM” (and nearly every suburban music-playing station) switches to an all-Christmas format in November.
It’s funny; when I was growing up it seemed as if there was no escaping Andy Williams. He had a weekly variety show on NBC; his records were played on popular standards AM stations such as WIP in Philadelphia and WNEW here in New York, and if he had a Top 40 hit such as “Moon River” or “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” you could add such powerhouses as Philly’s WFIL and New York’s WABC to that list; and finally, Williams was the host of the Grammy Awards in the first decade that they were televised.
The new double-CD compilation “The Essential Andy Williams,” released just a little more than a year after his passing, is an excellent opportunity to take stock of his talents. There is a tendency to overlook Williams because he was more in the league of Jack Jones rather than say the stratospheric levels of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. This is not a knock on Jack Jones who was, and still is, a terrific singer. Williams and Jones battled it out on the pop charts in the fall of 1964 with renditions of Henry Mancini’s “Dear Heart.” Jack Jones incidentally has a cameo in the recently released film, AMERICAN HUSTLE.
Andy Williams may be synonymous with easy listening music but his supple tenor voice was both powerful and full of range. Perhaps it was a coincidence but he seemed to save his best work for songs from movie soundtracks as exemplified by “Born Free,” “Love Story,” and “Love Theme From The Godfather” (a.k.a. “Speak Softly Love”).
My favorite Andy Williams tune is his Top 25 hit from the fall of 1969, “Happy Heart,” and it’s as upbeat as its title. The producer and arranger on that tune was Al Capps who would make similar feel-good records a few months later for teen idol Bobby Sherman.
You’ll get a new appreciation of Andy Williams after listening to this well thought-out compilation.