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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Little Jewels of Perfection 4: Sea of Dreams by Nelson Riddle



So, imagine that you are Agent Triple P for a moment. You have just arrived in a city after a long flight from London or Vancouver or Toronto or any of the other places we fly to other places from. You are somewhat weary but you realise that you need to stay awake another few hours to help adjust to the different time zone. You have met up with your companion for the visit and are exploring your suite overlooking the sea. Possibly you are in the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica (although you are some way from the sea in a suite) or the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. You have had a companionable shower or bath and are drinking a glass of Champagne or possibly even a cocktail which you have ordered on room service or have brilliantly assembled from the minibar. As you gaze out over the moonlit sea and contemplate whether to go downstairs for dinner or order room service you need some truly sensuous and relaxing music to unwind to whilst you watch your companion dress for dinner...

...and what music goes better with a palm tree framed moonlit sea view in the background, the rustle of silk lingerie in the foreground and the gentle fizz from your glass of Laurent Perrier Rose Brut? There can be only one answer: the sublime Sea of Dreams (1958) by Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra. This record is the quintessence of lush orchestral music. Warm, sensual and utterly hypnotic it is like pouring Yemeni Sidr honey over Eva Green's tummy and getting Scarlett Johansson to lick it off. The third track Tanga Tahiti is one of the most romantic pieces of music ever recorded; full of an erotic longing unmatched by almost any other piece of music we know. Two minutes and thirty-one seconds of utter brilliance.



Nelson Riddle was the greatest arranger in American popular music with an extraordinary ability to let the music breathe, especially when showcasing one of the singers he worked with such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitgerald. His five album recording of Ella Fitgerald sings the Gershwin Songbook (1959), made a year after Sea of Dreams, included But Not for Me which won Fitzgerald the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Female. It also contains another of Triple P's favourite arrangements How High the Moon.

Riddle was born in Oradell, New Jersey in 1921. He studied piano as a child but switched to trombone and following his war service in the merchant marine he got a job as a trombonist in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He studied arranging and conducting under film composer Victor Young and Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; most famous these days for his guitar concerto.

He started to work with Nat King Cole and by the fifties had his own orchestra recording with Capitol Records. Capitol encouraged Frank Sinatra, whose career had stalled somewhat, to work with Riddle and their first track together was I’ve Got the World on a String. This led to a partnership which continued for twenty years. For many the sound of Sinatra and the sound of Riddle are synonymous.

Late in his life, Riddle had something of a renaissance, working on three albums with Linda Ronstadt. Nelson Riddle died in 1985 at the age of 64. We are forever grateful to him for the wonderful sounds in Sea of Dreams, which has been the incidental music to many of our most enjoyable evenings.

One final bonus is that the cover of the album features the lovely Margaret Empey, Playboy's Playmate of the Month for both May 1955 and February 1956.

Track listing:

1. Out Of The Night
2. My Isle Of Golden Dreams
3. Tangi Tahiti
4. Dream
5. There's No You
6. Drifting And Dreaming
7. Easter Isle
8. Let's Fall In Love
9. Polka Dots And Moonbeams
10. Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)
11. Autumn Leaves
12. Sea Of Dreams


You can buy Sea of Dreams with the very nearly as good Love Tide (1961) in a double album set. And you should!

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