Fancy Meeting You Here
Didn’t I Say?
Didn’t You Say?
Didn’t We Say?
Didn’t Who Say?
With those opening words and a flourish of percussion and brass I am returned to childhood and the first concept album I ever heard.
A pairing between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney with tight and swinging orchestration by Billy May (then on the comeback trail) the album Fancy Meeting You Here evokes a world of leisurely world travel as exemplified by the steamer trunks shown on the album cover and the songs of the 30s it draws on that even when the album was recorded (1958) seems a vanished one - if it ever really existed outside of depression era comedies depicting the romantic travails of the rich and glamorous (think most anything from the 30s with Cary Grant - Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, his Irene Dunne pairings.)
Similar to those films we encounter a sophisticated couple whose relationship has taken a turn for the worse though they can be quite civilized when they meet again, usually in hotel lounges, cruise liners, airport departure lounges, sharing martinis and dissecting love and relationships in terms ranging from rueful to sharp.
(btw - When did travel move from being seen as a glamorous expedition to something to be endured? The last gasp of glamorous travel may be the late 60s bomb The VIPS with Liz and Dick and assorted others snowed in at an airport. After that we got the 70s disaster flicks that seemed to actively camapaign against putting your life in the hands of a captain, whether air or boat)
In the title track we get the initial civilized banter, discussing their past paramours, the trips they have taken since last seeing each other and then they settle into their tour around the world. The album almost feels like the soundtrack to a show, the structure lends itself well to the visualization of their redeveloping relationship and the exotic locales feels like the backdrops you*d see briefly to establish that yes, these are glamorous globetrotting people (though we do get references to Rosemary and Bing’s Midwestern background to show they have common sense and don’t buy into the whole thing) The first side of the LP even ends with a version of Love Won Let you Get Away that serves the same role as the first act curtain closer or as they specifically say, its the close of Side One.
Though there is a slight ‘Small World’ quality to the album, and the topical refernces (Elvis, brigitte bardot) feel a bit awkward Bing and Rosemary seem to be having so much fun and the whole tone is so good-natured that those are minor issues. I suffer from a disadvantage in only being familiar with some of the songs from this album so it is hard to tell how much is improvised, there are multiple points where specific references are made to the other stops on their ‘tour’: Hindustan, Monterey, Brazil, Capri.
Capri is the one place that gets a bit of a dubbing with references to stale mandolins, too many tourists and mediocre pasta that would have been better back on the Strip in LA. The album closes with a reprise of Love Wont Let You get Away, wherein the squabbling pair, still bickering, are united in their duet of
Much as I love this album it has never inspired me to check out more of Bing or Rosemary’s work, respected though they are nothing has made me want to listen to much more but this album is near perfect for me.
written by H Arefe-Aine