Originally issued on Cadence Records in 1961, Under Paris Skies is a sumptuous package, full of beautiful arrangements that perfectly frame Williams' pop croonings. With four of the songs - including the title cut - bearing "Paris" in the title, the emphasis is on romance, romance, romance with love - longed for and lost - sandwiched in. Highlights include a nice reading of "Let It Be Me," "I Wish You Love" and the jaunty "Comme Ci, Comme Ca." With Quincy Jones conducting the orchestra, this is one of the most lush-sounding Andy Williams albums in his vast catalog.
- Cub Koda (All Music Guide)
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It's a long way from the small town of Wall Lake, Iowa, where Andy Williams was born in 1930, to France's eternally bewitching City of Light, hut the singer had managed to make the transition in June of 1960 when he arrived at Barclay Studios on Avenue Hoche to record Under Paris Skies, his final original album- length collection for the Cadence label. It was a project that captured a quartet of budding talents at a moment in time when each was on the threshold of fulfilling his tremendous promise. Williams, already ail established hit - maker, was on the verge of switching to Columbia Records, where lie would find the greatest commercial success of his career. He'd brought along his accompanist, pianist Dave Grusin, who would later turn out Oscar-nominated film scores and co-found the CKP Records label. In Paris, these men rendezvoused with a young trumpet-playing bandleader and arranger named Quincy Jones, who had worked as a sideman (or Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, but had yet to embark on the prolific producing career that would make him one of the most respected figures in the entertainment industry. Jones commissioned several charts from arranger Billy Byers, who later wrote memorably for Sinatra, and also orchestrated the 1991 Tony Award-winning musical The Will Rogers Follies. With this much talent ill oue studio, a classic album was almost inevitable.
Unlike his previous Cadence efforts, which were meticulously supervised by label owner Archie Bleyer, Under Pan's Skies was a pet project for which Williams assumed the producer's responsibilities. He recruited a contingent of American musicians, drawn from the ranks of an all-star band that Quincy Jones had recently led through Europe, and added a complement of French players, including an all-French string section. "They have a unique sound," Williams recalled recently. "It's very soft and airy, like Debussy." The French musicians were paid on the honor system. Unfamiliar with local routine, Andy simply hauled a suitcase of francs into the studio and invited each man to take his fair share! Indeed, the entire proceeding got off to an informal start when Jones suggested to Williams that he secure a local jazz spot called The Mars Club as a rehearsal hall. Andy approached the proprietor three times, requesting a set of keys in his best schoolboy's French. He was twice greeted by a slammed door, and the third time the enraged owner kicked him in the shins! "Oil, I forgot to tell you," said Jones back in their hotel. "He's planning a special event tonight, and probably won't want to be bothered."
Once the recording session got underway, the assembled musicians turned their attention to a delightful program of twelve compositions, selected by Williams, that proved an engaging mixture of genuine French popular songs and American-penned emulations. Although the United States lacks a French community comparable to the large number of Italian immigrants who have turned so many Neapolitan-flavored ballads into pop hits in America, the Gallic charm of songs like / Love Paris and Mam'selle lias proved sufficiently irresistible to transform them into standards. Other numbers of genuine French origin, such as two items here from the pen of legendary singer and songwriter Charles Trenet, are of such quality that they lose nothing in the translation. Boom won Trenet die prestigious Grand Prix du Disque in 1938, while / Wish You Love, which began as Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours in 1946, lias gone on to be recorded dozens of times by an international array of artists. The moods captured on this multi-faceted collection range from the finger-snapping jauntiness of the opening title cut to the profound longing of Let It Be Me (though popularized by Andy's Cadence label-mates, The Everly Brothers, it was originally a French ballad entitled Je t'appartiens). Of particular interest is the beautiful La Valse des Lilas, which Williams sings entirely in French, lie was coached in this pursuit by the popular French entertainer Sascha Distel. As the album concludes, we would do well to remember that I lie true meaning oi an revoir is closer to "until we meet again" than good-bye. Thanks to ill is wonderful recording, one of Andy Williams' finest efforts, the magic that is Paris remains yours for the asking.
Josef F. Laredo (1997)