I'm a closet Eydie Gorme fan. Not a wall-to-wall collector, just your garden variety lover of her sassy, confident, mid-1960s belting sound. I tend to favor Gorme albums and tracks that unleash the singer's inner wham-bam. And there were many. My favorite album is Don't Go to Strangers for Columbia, on which she sang I Wanna Be Around backed by a scorching big band and Don Costa arrangement.
Gorme came on the scene with husband Steve Lawrence in the mid-1950s, positioned first as an ethnic pop alternative to another set of married entertainers, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral. Unlike Jackie and Roy, Steve and Eydie also recorded as solo artists. But in the early 1960s, Gorme had the misfortune to be ascending just when Barbra Streisand rushed through and swept up all the chips.
That didn't stop Gorme. Instead, she was positioned as a brassier, hipper Streisand. In the mid-1960s, her pipes were just as strong as Streisand's even if her vibrato had more of a chrome-like edge. Frankly, it's a shame the two never sang together.
By now, I'm sure you're checking the URL in your browser to be sure you're at JazzWax. Or you're wondering why I'm going on and on about Eydie Gorme. Two reasons: First, when Gorme was turned loose at the height of her vocal powers, she could kick down the door—and some—just like any great jazz singer. Second, I have a video clip to prove it. Before we turn to the clip, I just want to add that Don't Go to Strangers (1966) has been teamed with Softy as I Leave You (1967) on a CD here.
Sitting down? Here's Gorme in 1966 on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson singing a rousing version of I Wanna Be Around. I warn you, it's impossible to watch this thing once. Dig Gorme get into a swinging groove before singing. And catch her ahead of the beat several times to shove the band forward. And how about that moment where she enters early on the buildup, sustains the note and launches her voice on the crescendo, only to let it break to make the lyric's point. Wow, just beautiful...