Maybe you thought all had been wrung from the American standards, that Sinatra, Fitzgerald, and Torme had left nothing to interpret, voiced every emotion woven into our great songs. But even in Sinatra and companys wake, these songs had untapped meaning. They were waiting for Betty Johnson.
In Love Walked In, the third album of Bettys work in the 1960s with the Metropolitan Jazz Quartet, she strides through the best of American popular song, leaving her own stamp on them and beckoning us to see that every corner of these songs had not been explored. She stirs something new in us when we thought the songs could evoke nothing more. The album is a testament to her ability to refresh the standards and a tribute to the richness and resilience of the songs themselves.
On the wind of Bettys kiss, songs written and first recorded in the 1920s and 1930s My Heart Stood Still, What A Difference A Day Makes, These Foolish Things, Mean To Me grow new blossoms. They find another Spring. These re-invigorated classics are the core of this collection. But just as shining is her consideration of later masterpieces such as Climb Every Mountain, If I Were A Bell, and Ive Grown Accustomed To Your Face. In Bettys care, all the songs maintain the royalty of their origin.
And what about the origin of the voice? When Betty Johnson recorded this music in the early 1960s, she was nearing her retirement from show business so she could focus on family life. The hiatus would last for thirty years, until 1993 when she stepped back into the limelight, releasing new recordings and filling any nightspot she played. The quality of the sound upon her return matched that of the early 1960s sound. Just as Betty made the songs on Love Walked In seem ageless, she too seemed ageless.
The voice that would weather a three-decades-long retirement had reached an apogee when the material in this set was recorded. At the time, Betty ranked among the best female vocalists in the entertainment industry. Her pop chart performance in the late 1950s and 60s rivaled or surpassed those of Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Kay Starr and Doris Day, and she was a constant and welcomed presence on national television and radio. She was a regular on shows that were among the medias most popular: Don McNeils Breakfast Club on radio and Jack Paars Tonight Show on television. Men and women listening to popular music or paying attention to the mass media in the late 1950s and early 1960s could not ignore Betty Johnson and they were surely glad they didnt.
Betty had been singing professionally since the late 1930s when, as a young girl, she began performing sacred music with her parents and brothers. Over the next ten years with The Johnson Family Singers as they were known across the South -- and then after the advent of her solo career in the 1950s, her voice developed a warm clarity, accentuated as the years progressed with a wisdom that gave authenticity to the songs she sang.
She had learned to project and enunciate in her familys sextet, but as a soloist she developed style, the art of putting across a song. The 1950s were a turbulent period in Bettys personal life; love, separation, prosperity, and rejection marked her world and, naturally, marked her musical presentation. Betty Johnson became a better singer because she knew lifes joys and sorrow. She could convincingly deliver Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams as she does on this album because quite possibly she had done so herself. The experience of her living and her crisp, pure voice produced a visceral impact. It was a voice that articulated your love, your pain, your desires in a startlingly appealing way. You wanted that voice to sing every love song, to whisper to you before sleep.
Alas, it was just a voice on record. But it seemed to be so much more.
And the voice continues to arouse emotions. These interpretations in Love Walked In, these partners for your emotions, are the centerpiece of Betty Johnsons performances today. Thirty years could not dim them.
1. Can't We Be Friends
2. If I Were a Bell
3. The Tea in China
4. Carlos' Riff
5. My Heart Stood Still
6. What a Difference a Day Makes
7. California Here I Come
8. These Foolish Things
9. A Bushel and a Peck
10. Love Walked In
11. Jazz: Gone With the Wind
12. Climb Every Mountain
13. Mean to Me
14. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
15. Do Re Mi
16. Jazz: When You're Smiling
17. What is There to Say
18. I Love a Piano
19. How Long Has This Been Going On?
20. Where or When
21. Kate's Jazz
22. Blue Room
23. Like Ships
24. I Know That You Know
25. I've Grown Accustomed to His Face
26. Wait Till You See Him
27. All the Thing You are