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out-of-this-world singing in the style of the big-band crooners, I urge you
to investigate Boy Singer, a sensational new CD by Peter Marshall.
Yes, the one and only handsome, affable Peter Marshall, whom you loved for
years as the best host in the history of Hollywood Squares, has really
recaptured the lush sounds of the good old days of Crosby, Sinatra and Torme.
His vocal stylings have been one of the best-kept secrets in music. (He’s
played the big rooms in Vegas and co-starred with Julie Harris in the
ill-fated Sammy Cahn–Jimmy Van Heusen show Skyscraper, but his talents
are largely unknown to New Yorkers.) This is his long-awaited first solo CD.
It is a marvel.
If he sounds thrillingly like the great Dick Haymes, there’s an obvious
reason. Mr. Haymes was once married to film star Joanne Dru, who was Mr.
Marshall’s sister, and his laid-back, uncluttered, no-frills phrasing has
been a very real influence. The 14 cuts on this remarkable collection reflect
that kind of purity, with gorgeous arrangements by Ray Ellis, Alan Copeland,
Sammy White and Larry White and a 46-piece orchestra that comprises some of
the greatest studio musicians the West Coast has to offer. Mr. Marshall
sounds as relaxed in that setting as Sinatra in one of his legendary 4 a.m.
sessions with Nelson Riddle, and the phrasing is just to die for. Especially
on “Everything Happens To Me”—I have never heard notes bent like that on this
song. In fact, I have never heard the song sung with so much hip freshness.
The perfect combination of voice (as warm or cool as the songs demand),
brilliant arrangements, great material and easy, conversational phrasing make
this a treasure. I am so jazzed up by the chuckles, the occasional
been-around crack in the voice, the low lush dives on words like “love” and
the first-rate songs—the Burton Lane–E.Y. Harburg jewel “Poor You” has always
been an overlooked favorite of mine—that this CD has rarely wandered far from
my stereo since it arrived. “Oh, You Crazy Moon,” “This Heart of Mine,”
“Fools Rush In,” “I’ll Close My Eyes,” “I’m Glad There is You”—-the
repertoire is faultless, unhackneyed and interpreted with fresh vision.
There are new discoveries, too: “Night Life,” a song unknown to me (by Willie
Nelson, of all people!) turns out to be the most swinging thing on the list.
The string intro on “The More I See You” is worth rewinding just to hear the
arrangement before the voice comes in. It all has a wisdom, maturity and
appeal that makes the material timeless. I know there’s a tongue-in-cheek
theme (boy singer from the World War II days of radio transcriptions, like
the weekly show Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest used to do for war bonds), but
the hip singing transcends that theme and emerges as contemporary as any
vocal stylist can sound today.
Although there are plans afoot to release this CD in stores, Mr. Marshall is
presently distributing it himself. The only way you can get it at the time of
this writing is via the Internet. Mr. Marshall has his own website:
www.boysinger.com. Log on for complete details on how to order; he ships
immediately. Trust me on this: It is one CD that no lover of the art of the
American popular song can afford to be without.
Now isn’t it time for him to play a New York room like Feinstein’s at the
Regency and reacquaint the world with what a terrific singer Peter Marshall
is? In a crippled world of honks and screams and terminal laryngitis,
listening to the vanishing art of singing like this is like learning how to
walk again after a broken leg.