Although Williams enjoyed success in the “classic” era of American Pop pre-1960, it wasn’t until that decade that he became a superstar, and thus is included in the “modern” category. But as we all know, Williams’ legacy transcends both.
Andy Williams had enjoyed significant pop singles success throughout the 1950s, first as part of the Williams Brothers and later on his own. He had solo hits with songs like “Canadian Sunset,” which hit the Top Ten in 1956, “Butterfly” (peaked at #1), and “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” “Are You Sincere,” “The Village of St. Bernadette,” and “Lonely Street” on the small Cadence record label.
By 1961 it was clear that Williams was simply too big for Cadence, and he moved on to Columbia. Williams’ first album effort for Columbia featured a hit cover version of “Danny Boy;” sales were strong. His second album for Columbia would become one of his best-selling and most enduring, called Moon River and other Great Movie Themes.
The album was released in 1962 to take advantage of a stunning performance Williams gave at the annual Academy Awards ceremony. Hitting each note perfectly, he added a richness that immediately put “Moon River” into the upper echelon of American pop standards. It would become an internationally-known theme song for Williams, and almost 50 years later remains remarkably fresh and listenable.
Entering the new century, Williams, by then well into his 70s, was tapped to perform the song live for an NBC-TV “anniversary” celebration. Held until the end, Williams was given an underwhelming introduction and it seemed almost as if the performance was an afterthought. At the beginning his voice showed its age, but only slightly, and the song rolled along. By the second stanza, the orchestra found its groove. Williams had been waiting. It finally clicked, and went from good to great to incredible. By the time it reached the finish, it was obvious to those in the audience — all the big TV stars of the day — that they were seeing a musical performance that simply transcended anything they could’ve expected.
Somehow, when Andy Williams took hold of a movie theme, he made it bigger than it was. In some cases, such as “Born Free,” his performance is more memorable than the film.
Back to 1962. After critical acclaim for his Academy Award show performance, Williams recorded a collection of movie theme songs for an album. Although a number of songs were in the can, the final line-up was this:
Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing
A Summer Place
Never On Sunday
As Time Goes By
The Exodus Song
The Second Time Around
Tender Is The Night
It Might As Well Be Spring
Three Coins In The Fountain
Some of the selections would turn out to be stronger than others; Williams keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through the set list until “The Second Time Around,” which allows you to catch your breath. Even so, it’s an outstanding respite from a series of performances that are almost too good to appreciate one after another. Even the quirky “It Might As Well Be Spring,” dating from 1945, gets a good arrangement. It’s simply an excellent compilation, it is quite rare that a single album almost 50 years old continues to sell well, even alongside the typical greatest hits packages.
Other than the “Greatest Hits” and “Most Requested Songs” albums by Andy Williams, the one to have is Moon River & Other Great Movie Themes, which is the record described in detail on this page.
And if you don’t already have it, 16 Most Requested Songs, includes “Moon River” of course, the classic “Born Free,” which believe it or not is a rather difficult song to find. The reason we provide these links to Amazon.com is because if for some reason you don’t like the product, they have an excellent return policy. Also, the price tends to be cheaper than the CD store at the mall, even when you add in the shipping charges. It saves a trip to the mall, and what CD store has Andy Williams these days? Good value here.