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Mark Stryker

Don Costa

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I must have two dozen vocal  records with arrangements by Don Costa and all of the charts just kind of lay there. They don’t sound bad — just professional and rather dull. I hear facile echoes of lots of other writers, but nothing distinctive. Does anyone know of any work by Costa that sounds truly inspired and individual? Maybe the best i know is “Sinatra & Strings” — but that would’ve been a better record with Gordon Jenkins. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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1 hour ago, Mark Stryker said:

Maybe the best i know is “Sinatra & Strings” — but that would’ve been a better record with Gordon Jenkins. 

Disagree there, love that record, wouldn't change a note of it, but that record is the high bar for the Costa charts I've heard. But I did hear some early-ish Edye Gorme thing that he arranged that hinted at more then the mundane dross I've come to think of in regard to him. And I really do not like his later work with Sinatra, of which there was far too much for my liking.

To be fair, though, this chart seems to be perfectly in sync with what everybody wanted/needed/paid for:

No matter, She Shot Me Down is an album worth having, and then keeping. And there you can have your Gordon Jenkins AND your Don Costa, from each according to his needs, to each the reward a paycheck according to the agreements made.

 

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

Disagree there, love that record, wouldn't change a note of it, but that record is the high bar for the Costa charts I've heard. But I did hear some early-ish Edye Gorme thing that he arranged that hinted at more then the mundane dross I've come to think of in regard to him. And I really do not like his later work with Sinatra, of which there was far too much for my liking.

To be fair, though, this chart seems to be perfectly in sync with what everybody wanted/needed/paid for:

No matter, She Shot Me Down is an album worth having, and then keeping. And there you can have your Gordon Jenkins AND your Don Costa, from each according to his needs, to each the reward a paycheck according to the agreements made.

 

Do we know if it was Sinatra or Costa’s idea to just use the verse of “Stardust”? THAT was inspired. 

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I don't see it being Costa's idea. And yes, inspired indeed!

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Mark, I agree with your description of "professional and dull."  I think that Costa did a lot of work for Steve & Eydie's records.  I think they would have been much better if Marty Paiche had done those arrangements.

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Much as I love Sinatra's original recording of Cahn-Van Heusen's "All My Tomorrows" with Riddle's arrangement,  I think Costa's arrangement on the remake inspired one of the greatest Frank Sinatra recordings of all time.

 

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The story on "Star Dust" is that Costa wanted to do a recording of it, but Sinatra demurred, saying he liked the Verse but didn't want to sing the more famous chorus, so Costa supposedly said something like "fine, then let's just do the verse," so that's what they did. It's lovely, though I wouldn't have minded hearing Frank do the chorus again!

 

 

 

gregmo

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15 hours ago, riddlemay said:

Much as I love Sinatra's original recording of Cahn-Van Heusen's "All My Tomorrows" with Riddle's arrangement,  I think Costa's arrangement on the remake inspired one of the greatest Frank Sinatra recordings of all time.

 

A more than fair point!

I think a lot of the indifference I have towards Costa is that he seems to show up on mostly the most mundane Sinatra selections of the late 60s/post-retirement period. He brings not a whole lot to the arrangements of some not-so-great songs, but he did have this nice transparency to his orchestration that gave Sinatra plenty of room, especially in the area of pitch, which around this time was becoming a not-insignificant consideration. Not a lot to bump in to in Costa's charts, and perhaps that's why they were so favored.

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

A more than fair point!

I think a lot of the indifference I have towards Costa is that he seems to show up on mostly the most mundane Sinatra selections of the late 60s/post-retirement period. He brings not a whole lot to the arrangements of some not-so-great songs, but he did have this nice transparency to his orchestration that gave Sinatra plenty of room, especially in the area of pitch, which around this time was becoming a not-insignificant consideration. Not a lot to bump in to in Costa's charts, and perhaps that's why they were so favored.

That's a good analysis, Jim. I think it captures how I feel about them as well. Adequate, ok, sometimes good, but always room for Sinatra to do his thing.

 

 

gregmo

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I had a Don Costa album on Verve, with a groovy cover, that must have been one of the worst Verve albums I ever owned.  It went right back to the thrift store. 

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23 hours ago, JSngry said:

A more than fair point!

I think a lot of the indifference I have towards Costa is that he seems to show up on mostly the most mundane Sinatra selections of the late 60s/post-retirement period. He brings not a whole lot to the arrangements of some not-so-great songs, but he did have this nice transparency to his orchestration that gave Sinatra plenty of room, especially in the area of pitch, which around this time was becoming a not-insignificant consideration. Not a lot to bump in to in Costa's charts, and perhaps that's why they were so favored.

Good points from both Jim and RiddleMay -- and that is a hell of a performance and chart on "All My Tomorrows." Thanks all around.

BTW -- the original 1958 version with Riddle is in the key of G, but by 1969, Sinatra and Costa take it down a step to F -- except for the climatic last A section, where the chart modulates back up to G and the clouds part and out comes the sun.  

Those motherfuckers were pros.

 

 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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