Of course even if one does not know who Johnny Mercer is they most certainly are aware of his contribution as lyricist (and sometimes composer) to the Great American Songbook. "Moon River," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,"Blues in the Night," and "That Old Black Magic" are just a few of his many hit songs; not to mention his songs from such films as The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the less popular but by no means inferior score to You Can't Run Away From It, a musical version of It Happened One Night. In addition to being one of the co-founders of Capitol Records, Mercer occasionally entered the recording studio, always with a relaxed jazzy, tongue-in-cheek performance. Sepia Records captures Mercer at his best with some stereo recordings as well as rare studio demos (thanks to Michael Feinstein). Included are "Accentuate the Positive," "Blues in the Night," "St. Louis Blues," and "Spring, Spring, Spring" where he is joined by the Paul Smith trio for these stereo outings. Of particular interest for this writer are the nine demo songs Mercer composed with Hoagy Carmichael for The Keystone Girl, a cancelled film project that was to star Betty Hutton. It's Mercer on the vocals with Carmichael accompanying on piano. These recordings include the Oscar-winning "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" which was later made popular by Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman in the film Here Comes the Groom. It's a shame that a Betty Hutton cover was never recorded as it would have been a tremendous boost to her career in addition to having another Hutton record. On the other hand, hearing mercer sing this song is the highlight of this album. The other eight songs for the projected film are excellent as well. Finally, this CD includes four tracks that are demos from the Mercer / Andre Previn West End stage musical "The Good Companions" which starred Judi Dench in which Previn backs Mercer. I was pleased as punch when I received this CD as a gift but I realized what a treasure trove this album is after my first listening; it is a record you'll want to play again and again.
And if you like this recording, check out the Johnny Mercer/Bobby Darrin album, Two of a Kind; one of the greatest duet albums of all time. I own it on vinyl and CD>