"Can't Help Falling in Love" (1970)
In the late sixties Columbia record executives determined that the way to keep their classic voices like Andy Williams and Tony Bennett commercially viable was through movie themes and contemporary hit covers. (Clive Davis, in his 1975 autobiography, reports Bennett as being none too happy about the strategy, favoring Great American Songbook standards.) Williams's first chart entry takes Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and straps it onto a bolting horse; the heights to which arranger Al Capps pushes Williams's vocal make him sound like a jockey trying not to lose control. This was a single-only release in the US, with a flipside called "Sweet Memories" taken from his 1969 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head album. Written by Mickey Newbury, that song seemed to have all sorts of natural, unappreciated hit potential. It featured a melodic hook in the verses later used by John Denver in "Sunshine on My Shoulders," while the choruses allowed Williams to sing falsetto and (unlike the A-side) to glide with grace.
Side B: "Sweet Memories"
"One Day of Your Life" (1970)
Written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Al Capps * 45: "One Day of Your Life" / "Long Time Blues" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#77); easy listening (#2) * Entered: 1970-06-06 (easy listening); 1970-06-27 (Hot 100)
The Andy Williams Show ran on NBC from 1962-1971 and had served as a convenient springboard for the popular easy listening crooner's record releases. For eight episodes during the summer of 1970, the program morphed into Andy Williams Presents Ray Stevens. This was an apparent trial run for the comedy country singer who had scored a surprise #1 earlier in the year with the earnest "Everything Is Beautiful." A June episode of the show featured a Williams guest turn where (in addition to wrangling with the show's ever-present "Cookie Bear") he performed this hyper-arranged Neil Sedaka-Howard Greenfield number, which sounded made to order for a Kodak commercial. (It also seemed poised to merge into a medley, at any moment, with Gary Puckett's "Young Girl.") Although the A-side was a single-only release, the rural B-side "Long Time Blues," written by "Classical Gas" guitarist/comedy writer Mason Williams (no relation), had shown up previously on the 1969 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head album.
Side B: "Long Time Blues"
Written by Michael Nesmith * Produced by Mike Post * LP: The Andy Williams Show * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: —
The Andy Williams Show LP, released in the fall of 1970, gathered up a handful of his previously recorded covers from the late sixties and added six freshly recorded ones ("Joanne," "Make It With You," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life," "Close to You," "El Condor Pasa," and "Snowbird"), then added applause tracks and segue music. Produced by Mike Post, the album presented a more scaled-down band sound as opposed to the big, orchestral approach more typically found on an Andy Williams record, and sold respectably in the US while going top ten in the UK. "Joanne" is Williams's steel-guitar countrypolitan version of ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith's #21 hit from earlier in the year. The song's baying vocal hook is perhaps what got the dog on the cover participating. In 1971, the album appeared on one of the rare surviving playlists of Los Angeles MOR station KMPC, which justifies inclusion here.
"Home Lovin' Man" (1970)
Written by Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, and Tony Macaulay * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "Home Lovin' Man" / "Whistling in the Dark" * LP: Alone Again (Naturally) (1972, two years later) * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#10-1970; #27-1972) * Entered: 1970-10-24 and 1972-11-04
The three British songwriters Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, and Tony Macaulay were late-sixties/early-seventies zeitgeist-crafting VIPs, generating between them such era-defining hits as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," "Gimme Dat Ding," and "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)." Their evocative, seafaring "Home Lovin' Man," though, which featured a "Whiter Shade of Pale" organ intro and an uncredited pianist sounding very much like Nicky Hopkins, had all the earmarks of a big hit in Britain, where Andy Williams's recording of it peaked at #7. (According to Williams, in his Moon River and Me memoir, the song had originally been intended for actor-singer Richard Harris, who was "irate" over the interception.) In the US, though, it only managed to go top ten on the easy listening chart. The flipside contained a big, Al Capps-orchestrated version of Henry Mancini's "Whistling Away in the Dark," from the Darling Lili film (starring Julie Andrews). Both sides were non-album tracks, reflecting a possible short-term effort on Columbia's part to keep Williams's singles and albums as separate marketing entities.
In 1972, "Home Lovin' Man" would reappear on the Alone Again (Naturally) album, with a reissue of the track as a single maxing out at #27 on the Billboard easy listening chart. Although the album itself bore the title of a Gilbert O'Sullivan song, the O'Sullivan-penned flipside for the "Home Lovin' Man" single reissue did not make the cut. Entitled "Who Was It," the recording had appeared on O'Sullivan's UK chart-topping LP Back to Front and charted in the US the following year in the distinctive voice of Hurricane Smith. Williams's version, though, features an unsettling, double-tracked lead vocal.
Side B: "Who Was It"
"(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" (1971)
Although Erich Segal's Love Story was enough of a bummer to fit early seventies film trends, it also had a sentimental, tearjerker quality, rife with images of two lovers (played by Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw) frolicking in the snow, to function as an effective cultural escape. The pervasive title theme (which contained no vocalized manifestations on the soundtrack) was among the last of the big multiple-version hits, although the Godfather theme tried to keep the tradition alive the following year. Out of the five charting recordings of this song, all of which competed with each other in early 1971, the crescendo-heavy Andy Williams version climbed highest at #9. Columbia label-mate Tony Bennett would enter the charts with an equally dramatic iteration a week later, but wouldn't be able to contend with a Williams single that had already caught fire. Side B contains a comparatively soothing interpretation of George Harrison's "Something," which alternates between cheerful horns and moody strings.
Side B: "Something"
"A Song for You" (1971)
Written by Leon Russell * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Ernie Freeman * 45: "A Song for You" / "You've Got a Friend" * LP: You've Got a Friend * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#82); easy listening (#29) * Entered: 1971-08-21 (Hot 100); 1971-08-28 (easy listening)
Oklahoma songwriter/musician Leon Russell had long established himself as an in-demand LA session player and side man by the time he recorded his first solo album, A Song for You, in 1970. With its sophisticated structure and expressive melody, the title track became a favorite cover tune for big voices. Andy Williams was among the first to interpret it, adding it to his You've Got a Friend album, which rounded up eleven versions of contemporary hits. With its opening chord sequence mirroring the first two chords from "Love Story," among more general similarities in mood throughout, it sounded like a suitable follow-up. An Al Capps-arranged show band version of "You've Got a Friend" appears on the B-side, while the back cover depicts a flashy Elton John look.
Side B: "You've Got a Friend"
"Love Is All" (1971)
Written by Jack Elliott and Norman Gimbel * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Dick Hazard * 45: "Love Is All" / "Help Me Make It Through the Night" * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#29) * Entered: 1971-12-04
"Love Is All" was part three in Andy Williams's early seventies run of minor-key chansons nouvelles, the idea clearly being to replicate the success of "Love Story." This was another vocalized version of an instrumental movie theme, this time for Herbert Ross's bummer film T.R. Baskin, about a newly-independent young runaway (Candice Bergen) struggling to get a footing in Chicago. The era's preoccupations with the cold muddle of modern life are on full display along with ripe thematic offerings for timely feminist cultural critique. Disadvantaged by the film's poor reviews and box office receipts, though, "Love Is All" only managed an easy listening chart appearance before vanishing, never even showing up on an album. In 1973, Engelbert Humperdinck would barely dent the Hot 100 with the song. Side B of Williams's single is a version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," about a lonely one night stand, and in spite of Ernie Freeman's atmospheric string arrangement, it comes off as a cruel swipe at Bergman's sexually vulnerable film character.
Side B: "Help Me Make It Through the Night"
"Music from Across the Way" (1972)
Like William's previous three singles, "Music from Across the Way" sailed the same melodramatic, minor-key waters as "Love Story." That song's Carl Sigman even provided lyrics for it, with German show band maestro James Last handling the music. Last's own version, sung by an anonymous choral group, outperformed Williams's, reaching the Hot 100 at #84 around the same time. After a brief easy listening chart appearance, the track would eventually turn up on Williams's forthcoming Love Theme from "The Godfather" album. For the opening piano line, arranger Ernie Freeman borrows from the Carpenters's "For All We Know" refrain. On side B of the single is a treatment of Gordon Lightfoot's 1968 track "The Last Time I Saw Her," which Glen Campbell had turned into a charting crossover single in 1971.
Side B: "The Last Time I Saw Her"
"Speak Softly Love (Love Theme from The Godfather)" (1972)
Written by Nino Rota and Larry Kusik * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Al Capps * 45: "Speak Softly Love (Love Theme from 'The Godfather')" / "Home for Thee" * LP: Love Theme from "The Godfather" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (# 34); Easy listening (#7) * Entered: 1970-04-08 (both charts)
Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather turned Mario Puzo's best-selling mafia novel into the highest grossing film of 1972, demonstrating that the early seventies cinematic penchant for downbeat themes had blockbuster potential. Critical success accompanied it too, with many of its scenes and performances turning into cultural touchstones. Among the era's preoccupations playing out on screen were the plight of the antihero, a fascination with family and tradition at a time when both underwent unprecedented redefinition, and a "going back" instinct that reached toward ethnicity and roots.
In spite of this, Andy Williams, one of pop music's WASP-iest singers, ended up with the biggest hit version of the theme song, but he was primed and ready, having charted the previous four times with similarly sophisticated and stormy minor-key offerings. Composed for the soundtrack by the classically-oriented Nino Rota, veteran lyricist Larry Kusik then turned the theme into the vocal-friendly "Speak Softly Love." As Andrew J. Edelstein and Kevin McDonough said about the film in their The Seventies: From Hot Pants to Hot Tubs (1990), the record came off as "high art disguised as pop entertainment."
Aside from Williams, who had his final Top 40 appearance with the song, the only other singer to chart with it (#80) would be Al Martino, who had played washed up pop star Johnny Fontaine in the film. Instrumental versions by Roger Williams (#116), Carlo Savina (#66, from the soundtrack album), and Ferrante and Teicher (easy listening #28) also made chart showings. Side B of "Speak Softly Love" contained the 45-only track "Home for Thee," written by Paul Parrish. (Final tangential tidbit: Lyricist Larry Kusik was the uncle of the musician and music writer Lenny Kaye, for whom Kusik had once written and produced a record called "Crazy Like a Fox," on which Kaye used the pseudonym "Link Cromwell.")
Side B: "Home for Thee"
"MacArthur Park" (1972)
Written by Jimmy Webb * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "MacArthur Park" / "Amazing Grace" * LP: Love Theme from "The Godfather" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#102) * Entered: 1972-08-05
Its high angst levels, epic length and "cake in the rain" lyrics have always invited critics to call it overbaked, but Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" nonetheless touched some sort of psychological nerve in its time. Between 1968 and 1972, the actor Richard Harris (in the voice and persona of a mad Renaissance courtier), Waylon Jennings (with Grammy-winning dourness), the Four Tops, and Andy Williams all showed up on various Billboard charts with their own personalized recipes for it. No one did as well as Harris, who'd reached #2, but of the four, Williams served up the most palatable entry.
With an intro that hints at Burt Bacharach's "Trains and Boats and Plains" or the Bee Gees' "Words," the Artie Butler arrangement for this version bumps the severe minor-key verse section to the end while allowing the major-key bridge—in which Williams shames Harris on the high notes—to take precedence. In 1978 Donna Summer would elevate "MacArthur Park" to pop heaven, with a 45 that managed to clock in under four minutes and still seem grandiose. (She'd make an eighteen-minute behemoth available for discotheques.) The flipside of Williams's single was his contribution to Jesus Rock—a version of "Amazing Grace." This had previously appeared on his Alone Again (Naturally) album with an Al Capps arrangement taking cues from Judy Collins's acapella hit from early 1971.
Side B: "Amazing Grace"
Written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody * Produced by Richard Perry * 45: "Solitaire" / "My Love" * LP: Solitaire * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#23) * Entered: 1973-10-06
With his Solitaire LP, Andy Williams shook things up by getting in the studio with producer Richard Perry, who had been on a hot streak with hit albums by Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr, among others. The song selection included deeper album tracks along with the usual hit covers, while Williams's vocal sound now popped with slapback echo. Neil Sedaka's original 1972 recording of the album's title track had included more card metaphors in the chorus, which Williams and Perry had altered to Sedaka's apparent chagrin (as reported in Williams's Moon River and Me). After the song reached #4 in the UK and then became a Top 40 hit for the Carpenters, Sedaka likely set his grievances aside. The closing section of "Solitaire" transported listeners directly to the closing section of Nilsson's "Without You," a #1 hit for Perry in 1972. The Solitaire version of Paul McCartney's "My Love," with an uncomfortable rendering of its "whoah whoahs," takes up the B side. Another song from the album—a satisfying interpretation of "Getting Over You" by the British singer-songwriter Tony Hazzard—rose to #35 in England.
Side B: "My Love"
UK chart bonus: "Getting Over You"
Andy Williams and Noelle
Written by Harry Nilsson * Produced by Richard Perry * 45: "Remember" / "Walk Right Back" (Andy Williams) * LP: Solitaire * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#30) * Entered: 1974-01-05
Seventies TV had a thing for variety shows, in which hosts would guide viewers through a bevy of skits and musical numbers. A standard Christmas device brought audiences into a celebrity's "home," as Andy Williams had done every year since 1962. Although his show had run its course by 1971, he was back on air in 1973 for a December 13 Christmas special, which treated viewers to songs by Andy, his own brothers, his teen idol nephews the Williams Brothers, and his then-wife Claudine Longet. In one segment, Williams sings Harry Nilsson's "Remember Christmas" to Noelle, his ten-year-old daughter. This prompted Columbia to release a 45 of the song—which had also appeared on his recently released Solitaire album—with added dialogue and a verse sung by Noelle. A product of the '73 Christmas season, the record made its first chart appearance in January 1974. (Neither the 45 nor the album version of the song use Nilsson's full title of "Remember Christmas.") The venerable British session man Nicky Hopkins handled the gorgeous piano part, as he had done on the original 1972 recording by Nilsson, while the ever-reliable Gene Page worked his magic on the string arrangement. An unembarrassing iteration of the Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back" from Solitaire, with tasteful Jimmy Calvert guitar lines, appears on the flipside.
Side B: "Walk Right Back"
"Love's Theme" (1974)
Written by Aaron Schroeder and Barry White * Produced by Mike Curb * Arranged by Don Costa * 45: "Love's Theme" / "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" * LP: The Way We Were * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#16) * Entered: 1974-06-08
After Andy Williams's flirtation with contemporary album artistry on Solitaire, he appeared to drift back into easy listening assembly-line mode for his follow-up, The Way We Were. Every song but one—a Mike Curb-Alan Osmond variation on "O Holy Night" (listen to the bridge) called "If I Could Only Go Back Again"—paid tribute to established hits. Even so, Williams's vocal version of the Love Unlimited Orchestra's "Love's Theme" went down like a sweet disco ambrosia. Love Unlimited, the vocal trio on whose Under the Influence of Love album Barry White's instrumental first appeared, did their own vocalized take, also using Aaron Schroeder's lyrics, for their late 1974 In Heat album.
MGM mogul Mike Curb's involvement in the Columbia album as producer is a curiosity that perhaps had to do with some inter-label tit for tat. In 1966, MGM had released the soundtrack to the Columbia film Born Free, which may well have set the table for a deal like this. Williams's side-B easy listening performance of Jim Weatherly's "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (with an added "You're" in the title), demonstrates the song's crossover elasticity—Gladys Knight had recently topped the soul chart with it while Ray Price did the same thing on the country chart, and both records appeared on the Hot 100 (Gladys Knight #3, Ray Price #82).
Side B: "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"
Bonus: "If I Could Only Go Back Again"
"Another Lonely Song" (1974)
With country music going through such aggressive crossover experimentation in the early seventies, it wasn't any kind of stretch for Andy Williams to "go country" for one album. All he needed was some denim for the cover, a judicious steel guitarist, a Nashville producer, and a roundup of ten hits that already sounded like candidates for the easy listening charts. Tammy Wynette's 1973 chart-topping "Another Lonely Song" got the nod as the lead off single for Williams's You Lay So Easy on My Mind album, produced by countrypolitan king Billy Sherrill. An interpretation of acquired-taste vocalist Sonny James's 1973 country hit "A Mi Esposa con Amor (To My Wife with Love)" appears on side B.
Side B: "A Mi Esposa con Amor"
"Love Said Goodbye" (1974)
Written by Nino Rota and Larry Kusik * Produced and arranged by Marty and David Paich * 45: "Love Said Goodbye" / "One More Time" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#24) * Entered: 1975-01-11
The December 1974 release of the second acclaimed Godfather film, complete with a new theme song by Nino Rota, called for another Andy Williams rendition. "Love Said Goodbye" was a similar-sounding but less-memorable track with lyrics again provided by Larry Kusik, and it greeted the market late in the year as a non-album one-off. The record signaled early success for future Toto member David Paich, son of veteran arranger/producer Marty, who'd already won an Emmy with his father in May 1974 for a piece the two had composed for the Ironsides TV show. Side B of the Godfather Part II single included David's song "One More Time," which was unavailable on any albums until it showed up as a bonus track on the 2002 CD reissue of the 1976 Andy album.
Side B: "One More Time"
"Cry Softly" (1974)
Written by Buddy Killen, Billy Sherrill, and Glen Sutton * Produced by Billy Sherrill * 45: "Cry Softly" / "You Lay So Easy on My Mind" * LP: You Lay So Easy on My Mind * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#20) * Entered: 1975-04-12
In 1966, before the names Buddy Killen, Billy Sherrill, or Glen Sutton became such country industry fixtures, Nancy Ames crept into the Hot 100 (#95) with "Cry Softly"—a schlager welding-job the three men had done on the Franz Liszt melody "Liebestraum." Andy Williams's 1974 recording of the song gathered up enough momentum on MOR radio for it to see release as a single, which entered the Billboard easy listening chart in April 1975. Although Sherrill is listed as a songwriter on the label, he had only appeared as a co-producer on the 1966 Ames single for some reason.
One of the more memorable songs on the You Lay So Easy on My Mind album was the title track, which also served as the B-side of "Cry Softly." It took Bobby G. Rice's 1973 sexual revolution double entendre hit and traded its honky tonk gait and underwater guitar for crying lap steel and even more emphasis on the chorus's falsetto. Not released as a single in the US, it reached #32 in the UK. Only two more songs (in 1975 and 1976) would chart for Willliams in the US and UK until 1998, when TV commercials by Peugeot and Fiat would spark a UK revival.
Side B: "You Lay So Easy on My Mind"