Various Artists: Pan Am – Music From and Inspired by the Original Series

Swinging collection of ‘60s jet-age pop marred by contemporary covers

The vintage picks on this fourteen-track set nicely conjure the ring-a-ding-ding jet-age culture of television’s Pan Am. Unfortunately, the inclusion of two contemporary cover versions reeks of marketing opportunism, and interrupts the vintage vibe of an otherwise finely programmed collection. Grace Potter and Nikki Jean’s fans may enjoy their renditions of, respectively, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” but the modernity of their vocal styles sticks out among the company they’re keeping here.

The set opens with the underappreciated Buddy Greco swinging “Around the World” as if he’s got Rat Pack-era Las Vegas on a string. He sports the energy of Louis Prima and the cool of a young Bobby Darin. Darin himself brings the program back on track with a terrific version of “Call Me Irresponsible.” The collection includes international space-age bachelor pad chestnuts “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Mais Que Nada,” and “Quando Quando Quando” and serves up several lesser-known, but no less superb items. Ella Fitzgerald scats brilliantly through Rodgers & Hart’s “Blue Skies” and Peggy Lee opens “New York City Blues” as a smoky ballad before bursting into joyous celebration of all things Big Apple.

Shirley Horn provides a master class in jazz vocals with “The Best is Yet to Come,” a tune famously recorded by Sinatra and Basie in ‘64. Basie’s band adds its own notes of sophistication with the horn chart for Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and Brenda Lee’s “Break it to Me Gently” will break listeners’ hearts with its gut-wrenching vocal. Nikki Jean has the bad fortune to follow Lee’s tour de force, sounding cute, but inconsequential in comparison. The set ends with Dinah Washington’s superb “Destination Moon,” closing a fine set of jet-age artifacts from and inspired by the television show. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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