Personnel: John Gary (vocals).
Arranger: Marty Gold.
John Gary was almost 31 years old when RCA Victor records released his major-label debut, Catch a Rising Star, its Top Ten success and year-plus in the charts making him an "overnight sensation." But though he might have seemed a little long in the tooth, he had actually been a child prodigy who had been knocking around the entertainment business since he played a singing newsboy in the James Cagney film The Time of Your Life in 1948. But by the time he was ready to make his mark as a pop singer in the mid-'50s, all the record companies wanted to sign was rock & roll acts, and he was only able to attract the attention of small independents until RCA finally decided the rock & roll fad was over -- just before the start of the British Invasion. Catch a Rising Star seemed designed to showcase Gary's multi-octave voice, with its soaring tenor that crossed over into falsetto without any break, rather than to give him a hit record, since the songs were mostly familiar. He covered material associated with Tony Bennett and Nat "King" Cole, presented his own versions of some '50s and '60s hits, and displayed considerable versatility going from country tunes like Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" to the Caribbean-style "Yellow Bird," which sounded like the sort of thing his labelmate Harry Belafonte was known for. In some respects, he resembled Johnny Ray, but without the hysterical overstatement. His individual approach was best appreciated on "Unchained Melody," which he began with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment and deliberately undersang, in contrast to the many over-the-top versions of the well-known song. Such performances set Gary apart from his competitors on the supper club circuit and seemed to bode an important new figure in sophisticated pop singing. ~ William Ruhlmann
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