Johnny Hartman / I Just Dropped By To Say Hello – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

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Reviews and Commentaries for More Male Vocal Albums


Folks, the later Stereo Impulse pressing of this classic Hartman album we dropped the needle on recently was so Tubey Magical, RICH yet CLEAR, and above all shockingly natural, it would be hard to imagine a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that could hold a candle to it (outside of the Coltrane-Hartman record from the year before of course).

The Bennett-Evans record we love so much here at Better Records would qualify as a contender, but that album was recorded in 1975. And it doesn’t have half the Tubey Magic this Hartman album from 1963 does.

RVG Knocks Another One Out of the Park

Our hats are off to Rudy Van Gelder once again! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. If only more of them did…

You may have noticed that Rudy Van Gelder comes in for a fair amount of criticism from our band of reviewers here at Better Records. So many of the albums recorded by him are awful sounding, but is it fair to place the blame solely on him? You can’t fault Rudy Van Gelder for the sound of pressings that, for one reason or another, do not have the naturalness of the copy we are listing here.

He obviously recorded this album amazingly well – the copy we are offering here is proof positive; it should single-handedly end the debate, forever.

Rudy can’t be blamed if the magic of the tape didn’t end up in the grooves every time, or even most of the time. Too many things can go wrong when a record is made. Let’s be thankful that so many things went right when they made this one.

What to listen for you ask? Simple — smooth, sweet, relaxed vocals. Many pressings — especially the early ones, as counterintuitive as that may be — tend to have spitty vocals. The best pressings are easy to spot. When Johnny sounds full, rich, tubey and grit-free, you have yourself a Hot Stamper.

Liner Note Excerpts from the Coltrane/Hartman Album

Johnny Hartman was Coltrane’s unequivocal choice for the singer he’d like most to be caught with in front of a mike. Hartman is one of the very best of a strong lot of big-voiced crooners who were the sine qua non of the big bebop band. He conjures up images of Earl Coleman with the big voice, the even bigger collar, and the skinny, drooping bop tie; of Lee Richardson, a good one, whom Hartman replaced with Dizzy’s Band; of Herb Jeffries, the Brownskinned Buckaroo; of Herb Lance and Arthur Prysock; and of course, of the Great Mister B, Billy Eckstine. Where are they now? That jazz singing, especially among male singers, has declined since the fadeout of the bebop band is one of the least controversial topics in jazz. Replacing the masculinity of the crooner with the effeteness of the lark is only another kind of the premature destruction of artists by factors which have nothing to do with their art, which destruction we are the passive witnesses of in these times.

So we are fortunate to have Johnny Hartman back in the life, and in a better than “favorable” setting, too.

You are immediately struck by Hartman’s dark satin lyricism in They Say That Falling In Love Is Wonderful.

His voice, always a perfectly tuned instrument, is unobtrusive and relaxing, heavy in quality but almost without tremolo, which makes Hartman unique among the big-voiced boppers. His enunciation is impeccable (you’ll hear every word on this record), which makes him unique among all male singers. He respects the word, adapts his vocal embellishments to the value (in meaning and sound) of the word: which makes him unique among everybody.