the Tracks

In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra reformulated swing music around his vocals. So successful was this recipe, it became known as “swinging” music or music for “swingers.” Any Sinatra album with “swing” in the title (like Songs for Swingin’ Lovers) is ultra-hip, but as Ricky Ritzel points out, Come Fly With Me is the pinnacle of the Capitol years. Fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin (“Ain’t that a Kick in the Head’) and Sammy Davis, Jr. (“That Old Black Magic”) are lounge faves as are Bobby Darin (“Mack the Knife”) and Tony Bennet (Songs for the Jet Set).

Burt Bacharach’s name says it all — this tunesmith synthesizes everything from Bach to rock. His classic tunes with lyricist Hal David include “I Say a Little Prayer” and “What the World Needs Now (Is Love).” Ennio Morricone, the godfather of spaghetti western soundtracks, provided Clint Eastwood with music to narrow his eyes with in Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Henry Mancini’s movie scores have embedded more than his fair share of archetypes in the culture’s subconscious with themes like “The Pink Panther” and “Peter Gunn.”

For the eclectic, Ken Nordine’s “Word Jazz” albums feature his mellifluous recitations of stream-of-consciousness poetry over freeform music. Colors features thirty-four 90-second odes to all shades of the visual spectrum. For stud boys weaned on Devo there’s the EZ Listening Disc, with Muzak versions “Mongoloid” and “Jocko Homo.” Esquivel, the eccentric father of “Space Age bachelor pad music,” has several reissues. Listen to “Mini Skirt” (with it’s signature “catcall” whistling) as a simple barometer to see if he’s at home in your pad.

For state of the art cocktail artists, check out the Lounge-O-Leers album Experiment in Terror. “Also, our CD singles Right Now and Today offer Top 40 done as lounge music,” explains Ricky Ritzel. He also recommends SacreBleu by Dimitri From Paris, Luxury by Fantastic Plastic Machine (a Japanese import on the EMN label) and Ursula 1000.

For compilations, try the “Ultra Lounge” series: 20+ volumes like Bachelor Pad Royale and Cocktail Capers with artists like Les Baxter, Yma Sumac and “king of exotica” Martin Denny. Rhino offers a “Cocktail Mix” series and SPY Magazine assembled a Spy Music CD — with Cold War anthems like the John Barry Orchestra’s “James Bond” and Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.” For kitsch themes of the small screen, Television‘s Greatest Hits offers Neal Hefti’s “Batman,” Hugo Montenegro’s “I Dream of Jeannie” and Mort Stevens’ “Hawaii Five-O.” —RT