Falling in Love Is Wonderful
Ten Ballads in a Row Equals Pure Bliss
Jimmy Scott was born with Kallmann's syndrome, a rare hereditary disease that inhibits hormonal development. This condition gave the five-foot-tall singer a perpetually boyish look, and prevented his voice from changing— his adult voice resembles that of a boy soprano's. "They called him 'Crying' Jimmy Scott because his voice just broke your heart," Ray Charles once said, as he recalled hearing Scott sing with the Lionel Hampton band in the 1950s.
Scott turned this handicap to his advantage. Through an on-again, off-again career spanning four decades, he perfected a sublime and unsettling contrast: He beams the optimism of youth, and at the same time his singing is informed by an adult knowledge of the bitterness and cruelty of romance. Ray Charles became Scott's champion, and when the R&B star started his Tangerine label in the early '60s, Scott was one of the first signings. Charles gave top-shelf arrangers Gerald Wilson and Marty Paich a simple mandate: He wanted Scott's voice cradled within a lush, string-heavy sound accented lightly by woodwinds.
This turns out to be an ideal canvas. Singing songs associated with Frank Sinatra ("Someone to Watch Over Me," "How Deep Is the Ocean") and other crooners, Scott cultivates a mood of quietude that brings listeners into the emotional core of the songs. Everything here is syrup-slow—this is the rare instance where ten ballads in a row is pure bliss. Although there are moments when the tunes swell to a peak of emotion, Scott's everyday-casual phrases, the tossed-off half-forgotten ones, are just as memorable. He's one of those singers who can send shivers down your spine with the slightest of sighs.
The album, a career high, was responsible for one of Scott's "retirements" from the business. Shortly after it reached the marketplace, Herman Lubinsky, the owner of Scott's former label, Savoy, claimed the singer was still under contract and threatened to sue Tangerine. Charles withdrew the record before the press or the public could appreciate it. Exasperated, Scott stopped singing and took a job at a Cleveland hotel. He was lured back to music several times over the years, and in 1992 released an album called All the Way on Sire records, triggering a major comeback. Only after Lubinsky's death did Falling in Love return to circulation.
Released: 1962, Tangerine (Reissued 2003, Rhino)
Key Tracks: "How Deep Is the Ocean," "They Say It's Wonderful," "If I Should Lose You"
Catalog Choice: All the Way.
Next Stop: Billie Holiday: Lady in Satin
After That: Bobby Purify: Better to Have It.
Book Pages: 682–683
#1 from Adam Herbst, New Jersey - 03/30/2009 7:32
I’ve heard Jimmy Scott sing on a number of occasions and have a few of his albums, but not this one. He seems to be more mannered than a stylist - perhaps something that a singer falls back on towards the end of a career - it certainly seemed like Sinatra did as his instrument faded. Tony Bennett is a counter argument, though.