Nellie Lutcher: Kiss Me Sweet
Kiss Me Sweet
Nellie Lutcher (piano, vocals)
Nellie Lutcher And Her Rhythm (Bear Family)
Nellie Lutcher (piano, vocals),
John Collins (guitar), Benny Booker (bass), Earl Hyde (drums).
Composed by Milton Drake.
Recorded: Los Angeles, April 27, 1949
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
My personal favorite Nellie Lutcher track is not one of her originals, nor a blues, but a contemporary pop novelty that was more likely Capitol's idea rather than hers. "Kiss Me Sweet" was a 1949 hit for sweet bandleader Sammy Kaye (of Swing and Sway fame), written by Milton Drake, most of whose hits were of the novelty nature; I first heard it sung in a Warner Bros. cartoon by Tweety Bird (of Tweety & Sylvester fame). Mel Blanc, supplying the bird's voice, chirped it in a high-pitched caricature of a child's way of speaking, overflowing with infantile impediments ("Kiss me tweet"), but he sounds positively restrained compared to Lutcher. Her performance is by far the most compelling, firstly because she accentuates the right parts of the beat and cuts off the right notes in the right places, to make the piece really swing; the best the song's other interpreters can manage is to get it to bounce. (She further makes it more musically interesting by adding a key change into the bridge.)
Her recording boasts an attractive wordless episode, wherein Lutcher exchanges phrases, both from the keyboard and scatting, with guitarist John Collins (later with Nat Cole for many years). But it's what she does with the song's plain vanilla lyric that's really remarkable. As written, "Kiss Me Sweet" (which begins "Kiss me sweet, kiss me simple / Kiss me on my little dimple"), has a nursery rhyme-inspired simplicity, so much so that a five-year-old might find it banal. The song is just "kiss me this" and "kiss me that" over and over again, but Lutcher brilliantly animates the text by making its relentless repetition into a virtue: when she sings "kiss me slow, kiss me dreamy / kiss me every time you see me," she elongates the first adjective and makes the second sound wistful; on "kiss me plain, kiss me fancy," she makes those words sound so plain and so fancy, she could be singing in ancient Aramaic and you still would know what she meant. (She later quoted "Kiss Me Sweet" on her 1956 treatment of "Blue Skies.")
Reviewer: Will Friedwald