Music like "One More Kiss, Dear"?
May 10, 2005 8:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for more music like the song "One More Kiss, Dear" from the Blade Runner soundtrack.

I'm looking for really old sounding stuff. Like a thin voice or recording, not one that's very full like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, or even Bing Crosby (which I think was from the same time period that I may want music from). Helen Forrest is a female singer in the style I'm looking for. Nice, relaxing music that just sounds nice.

What can I call this music, anyway? I just call it "Grandpa Music" now.
posted by redteam to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cabaret music. Popular in 1920's Berlin with singers like Marlena Dietrich, Michael Jary and Ilse Werner. There's an Eva... somebody who was also quite popular, but I can't recall right now.
posted by boo_radley at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2005

Try Rudy Vallee, like this CD's track "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" or "Making Whoopee". I think his is the sound you are looking for.
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:26 AM on May 10, 2005

Oh, Lordy. I'm just bursting at the seams here, wanting to share all sorts of information about American popular music, but I'll try to hold it in. I'm not any sort of musical scholar. I'm just a middle-aged man who happens to have a particular long-lasting obsession with early American popular music.

The music you're asking for is now often classified, incorrectly, as easy listening. (The stuff to which you refer is not cabaret. Cabaret is, in my mind, a very specific subset of music, well typified by Josephine Baker.)

"One More Kiss, Dear" was written by Vangelis and Don Percival for the film Blade Runner. Though much of the song is reminscent of popular music from the twenties (the melody, especially), the overall feel of the song (especially the instrumentation) is more typical of the early fifties, in my opinion. (If you want recent recordings of a similar nature, try Norah Jones or Harry Connick, Jr.)

Helen Forrest, on the other hand, sang with a number of popular big bands. (Benny Goodman's, in particular, if I recall correctly.)

Sinatra, Como, and Crosby were all popular at different times. Crosby enjoyed enormous success in the 1930s. Sinatra enjoyed similary popularity in the forties and, of course, retained a following until his death. I don't know much about Perry Como.

Here's a brief summary, in my own uneducated, fanboy words. (And, yes, in my mind this is all necessary to answer your question):

From 1900 to 1920, recording techniques were being developed. The performances that were preserved tended to be of loud, raucous music because the recording media was unable to provide nuance. There are some lovely ballads from the first twenty years of the last century, but they're the exception, not the rule. During these years, it was sheet music that was most popular (as it had been for many decades before), not cylinders or records. (Also, many popular songs of this era came directly from vaudeville.)

It's really during the Roaring Twenties that American popular music began to move away from sheet music to thick records. The advent of radio accelerated this process. Popular music was being churned out by the hacks of Tin Pan Alley. Most of these songs have faded into oblivion, and we're left with works from the true masters like George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, etc. Jazz, ostensibly first recorded in 1917, had a tremendous influence on popular music during the twenties and thirties. Most songs recorded during this time featured a lead singer (possibly two) and a small band of some sort. It was the band, however, that was popular. Popular artists of this period include Rudy Vallee, Paul Whiteman (and his orchestra), and Helen Kane (the Betty Boop girl).

The early- and mid- thirties saw a shift toward big bands, bands comprising a dozen or more members. The sound was richer, fuller. Some big band music, like say Pennsylvania 6-5000 was hot, featuring driving rhythms and fun melodies. This music is commonly called swing. Other big band music was cool, featuring lilting vocals and smooth sounds. I think you'd be more interested in the latter. Again, during this time, it was the band that was popular, not the singer. (With notable exceptions such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.)

The forties saw a shift away from big bands (or bands of any sort), so that the singers themselves took center stage. Now singers like Doris Day and Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra and The Andrews Sisters became more popular than the bands they fronted. The bands became secondary, almost forgotten. Other lesser singers began to emerge, singers I love such as Kay Starr and Margaret Whiting and Jo Stafford.

The rise of the pop singer dovetails nicely with the typical fifties sound (as heard in the Stand By Me soundtrack, for example) and the birth of rock and roll.

Really, there's a huge range of music out there that could be classified as similar to what you want. Though I suspect you're after post-Big Band type vocalists, your best bet is to download songs from various artists of the twenties, thirties, and forties to see what best suits your taste. You'll quickly learn what it is you're after.

If you like Sinatra and Crosby, but want a thinner voice, try working your way through a list of crooners to find if there's one you like. (Most have deep, full voices, though. Most people, including myself, prefer that.)

The wikipedia entry for traditional pop music offers a good list of artists to start you out. (The page also says: "There is no universally agreed-upon term for this genre of music.") I suggeset you try to find some compilations in order to sample singers. The soundtracks to L.A. Confidential and to The Aviator both contain music you may enjoy. There are a number of fantastic compilations available. The Smithsonian collection of American Popular Song is outstanding, and includes a thick book on the subject. (All of the Smithsonian collections are great: folk, country, blues, jazz — you can't go wrong.) Check your local library.

I'd give you more information, but surely I've already overwhelmed you. (And perhaps missed the mark completely.) If you want more info, e-mail me.
posted by jdroth at 9:34 AM on May 10, 2005 [3 favorites]

My head is so full of information, that I forgot some important points.

For example: if you want to sample some music, try the Usenet newsgroups. They're a much better source for this stuff than traditional file-sharing networks. (How many kids are going to be sharing Bing Crosby?)

Try alt.binaries.sounds.1940s.mp3, alt.binaries.sounds.1950s.mp3, and alt.binaries.sounds.78rpm-era. There's some really esoteric stuff in those groups, but you'll hit a lot of the top artists, too. And remember the number one rule of the internet: google is your friend, especially when learning about subjects like this. (My new number two rule of the internet is: wikipedia is your friend, too.)
posted by jdroth at 9:39 AM on May 10, 2005

All I have to add to jdroth's comprehensive post is that the first band I thought of was The Ink Spots.
posted by Prospero at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2005

Cabaret is, in my mind...

Taxonomy killed the cabaret star.
posted by boo_radley at 10:10 AM on May 10, 2005

Wow, jdroth, that's just amazing. Thank you so much for putting all that info out there. It's not overwhelming at all, in fact, if you feel like it, just keep writing. I'm eating it up!

You're right, compilations are a good place to look, but they can be pretty tough to find on P2P. I found a Time-Life one on Soulseek the other day that had some nice music, but maybe not exactly what I wanted. Now, armed with some more keywords, I'll look on Amazon or Cheap-CDs for some sound samples.

I asked the question hoping for lists of names ... maybe even from some people out there who would respond like "OMG I love that song, too. Here's what I found:" It's kind of a shame to hear that that song is a pretty-sounding bastard son of sounds from different eras.

If I can't find anything with such sparse music in the background, then what I'm looking for is people with that wilting sounding voice. I don't know how else to describe it. Maybe an extreme of that kind of sound would be Max Raabe, which often sounds like a duck or goose. Yes, I know he's contemporary. He falls in that cabaret category, right? (thanks boo_radley!). Also, there's a singing-telegram sketch on the "Crank Yankers" TV show where the guy makes up little songs in that type of voice.

Oh, and for sheer comprehensiveness and effort, I'm going to give jdroth's comment a "best" mark, but I hope that doesn't stop people from posting more suggestions! Thanks, and keep them coming, everyone!
posted by redteam at 10:21 AM on May 10, 2005

Wow, JDRoth's answer is great. I can't possibly add any general thoughts to it, so instead, I'll just share some specific performers I like who have a subjectively similar sound to the song you mentioned...

The closest match I can think of is Katherine Whalen's Jazz Squad. If you like that (and I'm guessing you will), you might also check out Ms. Whalen's band The Squirrel Nut Zippers, which is more high energy and swinging than her solo album, but just as great.

I agree that compilations are a great place to start. The Ultimate Diva Collection is a good broad one. It will introduce you to Blossom Dearie, for one.

And, of course, there's Ella Fitzgerald. I almost didn't mention her because she's such an obvious choice, but just in case you haven't had the pleasure, she's one of the greatest vocalists of all time. My favorite Ella CD is Jazz Masters 6, but that might be more energetic and swingy than you want; The Best of the Songbooks might be more what you're looking for.

I'm not sure if this has exactly the "lilting" quality you're looking for, but somehow, I think you might like Bob Wills--check out Across The Alley from the Alamo (iTunes music store link). This is a really subjective instinct, and I couldn't even begin to tell you why "One More Kiss, Dear" reminded me of this, so I'm a little uncertain of this recommendation, but I figure it's worth a try.
posted by yankeefog at 10:56 AM on May 10, 2005

Redteam, I'll post some recommeded compilations when I get home from work (approx. 5pm Pacific).

I thought of another way to learn about this sort of music. Most major markets have some sort of "golden oldies" station. This station will play a large chunk of music popular prior to and contemporary with the advent of rock and roll. (It will also play a lot of Karen Carpenter and Celine Dion, but sometimees you have to take the bad with the good.) This can be a useful way to learn about this sort of music.
posted by jdroth at 12:49 PM on May 10, 2005

Thanks, jdroth! You know, I live in Los Angeles, which I reckon is pretty major, but our "oldies" only go as far back as the 50's, and then it's strictly songs about girls and boys, cars, and surfing. Shows how pathetic radio has gotten, right?

Anyway, one day, on a lovely Saturday afternoon, I tuned in to a radio show that was playing lots of nice music from the 30's and 40's. I don't know if it was nationally syndicated or what, but there it was. I was out of range by the time I got to hear what it was called. I think it was being broadcast by a public radio station North of the San Fernando Valley.

Anyone have any idea what this show could've been?
posted by redteam at 1:19 PM on May 10, 2005

Also, (his majesty) Lenny Kaye's latest book, You Call It Madness, has some great info and lore on this front.
posted by jonmc at 4:39 PM on May 10, 2005

You might try Al Bowlly (watch the spelling!) - there are even samples on Amazon.
posted by Zeedog at 6:32 PM on May 10, 2005

Redteam, I like that piece too. I have spent ages looking for other things that evoke that same feeling.

Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt's "Smoke Rings" is the best match I've found. And Guy Maddin soundtracks.

They make me think of bare lightbulbs in sad old hotels with yellow walls and the windows painted shut.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:26 PM on May 10, 2005

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