Bobby Troup's one of those cats who kinda sorta got somewhat lost in the shuffle in that talent-n-luck circus calling itself 'Hollywood'—not terribly dis-served, mind you, but never quite recognized for his most shining virtue: some very good song writing. He was a quite the exponent of West Coast Cool, and no one forgets the immortal (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, the theme to the television series (1960-1964), but didja know it was first made a hit by Nat King Cole in 1946? Yep, few realize it, but the track was 14 years old by the time the show appeared. More, that's his The Girl Can't Help It you hear Little Richard singing in the 50s rock & roll film of the same name. But Troup was also an actor portraying, among other roles, Dr. Joe Early opposite his second wife, actress / torch singer Julie London, in the TV series Emergency. Then, when you again catch The Gene Krupa Story, pay attention to the Tommy Dorsey character—that's Troup. 'Member Robert Altman's MASH movie? 'Member that guy wandering through the film uttering just that one line "Goddam Army!"? That's Bobby as well.
But Hollywood and the entire media swamp can be fickle bitches, and Troup never saw commercial musical success under his own aegis despite releasing a dozen LPs from 1955 to 1959 through various labels, afterwards never issuing material though he lived another four decades. Thus, Deborah Shulman and Ted Howe decided it was high time the man's work was put back into circulation. A trio format became the ideal choice, bringing out the martini / nightclub / swinging / literate hipster vibe most vividly. Shulman modulates everything to be more on the side of theater-cool and reflective than boppy—though there's plenty of that as well—as though Get Your Kicks were a review travelling back and forth between off-Broadway and your living room.
The charting Girl Talk is here made a good deal more serious, more wistful, mistier. Julie London covered it in her vampy wonderful way but Shulman's version is almost Romance academic, a philosophical approach, darker, more realistic. Well, you know how those beatniks were—into existentialism, Sartre, that sort of thing. The singer balances between the popularized version and a latterday Byronic pensée, Howe's piano perfectly underwriting both attitudes, a bit glacial, some sunlight here, shadows and fog there, even the edges of atonal neurosis. So, hm, yeah, you may have thought Troup was an adjunct of the media machine, but there was a lot more there than surface readings indicate. Lemon Twist repeats the Girl Talk double entendre, advocating alcoholism via spurious scientific health advice via "the habit of lemon twist", code for martinis and cocktails.
In that Madison Avenue pitch, Shulman and crew bop along in a Mad Men two-step, but is it a joy peripatetic or parody? February Brings the Rain follows after and speaks of "winter's icy chains" and "gay champagne" in a deep grey funk. "The world was yours and mine" quotha Troup, but Shulman brings that lie out, quite as the writer had intended, in no uncertain terms. Have a quaalude or two handy when you listen to it. Repair, I say, to The Three Bears if you want light finger-snapping entertainment, but beware some of the rest. The pristine period arrangements and Deb's melodious encantations are seductive, rightly so, that's part of the game, but in hip breezy asides is where some of the most sly material resides. It's highly likely you'll, more than once, hear a cut and shout "Man, that is sooooo cool!", then, a minute later, mutter "Hey…wait a minute……!".
Songwriting credits not specifically spelled out track for track, but it appears Troup wrote them all with occasional help from cats like Neil Hefti. If that's in error, contact the label. I do my job, they sometimes need to do theirs a bit better than they do.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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