Song Of The Day 4/18/2015: Mel Tormé – “Requiem: 820 Latham”

You Pick the Artist III: To zip up this week of crowd-sourcing, Andras Jones gave me Jimmy Webb, possibly the most unique lyricist ever to spring from the once-fertile (figuratively and, unfortunately, literally) cove of Los Angeles. I took webmaster's privilege on this one and decided to open it up any artist who'd ever done a Webb song, even though Webb's done a few recordings of his own (one of which I featured last year). After filtering out the eight million versions of the great song "By The Time I Get to Phoenix," I came up with a few possibilities. In fact, since I'm in such a generous mood, I'll throw the other finalists at the bottom of this entry, just for laughs.

Keep in mind my all-time favorite thing with Jimmy Webb's name on it is probably Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman." I felt like looking around a little further, though, and when I did I stumbled upon Mel Tormé's version of "Requiem: 820 Latham." I mainly chose it because of the words. Webb painted great romantic miniatures that nevertheless used relationships as conduits for life-or-death principles. This screed -- also covered by Webb's other reliable muses, the 5th Dimension-- is one of his most vertiginous ballads ever. I mean, Christ: "Instead I was found dead and well / Carrying on my life, with much gusto and death breath / Buried without casket and no one writes my epitaph / 'Cause they heard that I'm still breathing and they think that means I'm still alive." Where my goths at?

I also wanted to put something up here by Mel Tormé because I keep forgetting about him unless I happen to be roasting chestnuts by an open fire. (Torme co-wrote "The Christmas Song.") As an interpretative artist Tormé isn't usually held in quite the highest esteem of Sinatra, Bennett or Fitzgerald, but the guy's vocal tone is synonymous with richness and resonance. (I once called Ice-T "the Mel Tormé of rap" because he had that same vocal power in his slower material, and also because I'm not above making argumentatively silly analogies.) Tormé was also an adventure seeker: He didn't run away from pop music and sought new standards that could use his brand of melancholy. Seriously -- sometimes this guy colored way outside the lines. Pair that young soul with Webb's urgency, plus a dirge-y organ part, and you've got one introspective cocktail hour.

Here are some more Webb gems I almost chose. Thanks, Andras! And thanks to everyone who picked an artist this week; we'll do it again in October so you can do your worst then.

Ray Charles - "I Keep It Hid"

Joey Scarbury - "Midnight Mail"

Michael Brennan - "Mixed-Up Guy"

Thelma Houston - "Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon"

Zumpano - "Rosecrans Boulevard"

The Highwaymen - "Highwayman"
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