2 LPs on 1 CD: HEY...LET YOURSELF GO (1957)/C'MON...GET HAPPY! (1958).
In the 1950s, Nelson Riddle was Capitol Records' top arranger and one of the most sought after talents in the West Coast music business, writing charts and running sessions for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, and many more. When he wasn't busy working with other people, Riddle cut several notable albums of his own, and two of them are paired up on this CD reissue from Collectables Records. While C'mon...Get Happy! has the more upbeat title, Hey...Let Yourself Go! is the more celebratory sounding LP, a collection of 12 classic standards given a buoyant treatment that's suitable for both dancing and carefree listening. C'mon...Get Happy! displays a greater willingness to dip into midtempo material and move into moodier directions, but despite the presence of relatively serious tracks like "Diga, Diga Doo" and "Time Was," it's still a swinging set of melodies and reveals more than enough joie de vivre to justify its title. In some respects, Riddle was the John Ford of easy listening -- so many of the stylistic techniques and ideas he pioneered are common enough to feel like clich‚s, but if these recordings don't sound especially innovative 50 years after they were first released, Riddle's expressive command of the orchestral style, his lush but lively sound, and the expert touch of his musicians is still a marvel to hear, especially given that most of these tracks were created without the benefit of overdubbing or editing. Hey...Let Yourself Go! and C'mon...Get Happy! were previously released on a single CD in 1993 under the title The Best of the Capitol Years, and if that title goes a bit far to make a point, there's little arguing that this music captured Riddle at the top of his form, and this is a fine place to begin exploring his solo recordings. ~ Mark Deming