Bunny Sigler – “Angel Eyes”

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I could very easily believe that this song was recorded in the 1930s or the 1940s. (There are reasons for that beyond the obvious. I’ll get to those shortly.) It seems like something one of the crooners would have done in the golden era of the crooners. I suppose Harry Connick, Jr. has plied a good amount of his musical trade within much of that same soundscape over the years since his debut. This sounds like something he might have created in a lot of ways. Of course, Connick always seemed to be deeply influenced by Frank Sinatra. He even played the Sinatra part in the remake of “Oceans 11.” It all comes into focus when you realize that Sinatra is actually one of the musicians who recorded this song over the years.

Regarding Sigler, he is a Philadelphia native discovered while performing at Atlantic City’s Ambassador Hotel and has earned multiple Grammy nominations while selling millions of records in the intervening years. His work with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff remain the high water mark of his commercial success and those releases went a long way towards earning him his nickname of “Mr. Emotion”. That penchant for heartfelt performances continues with his version of “Angel Eyes” – despite the differences in style, Sigler hailing from a soul/R&B tradition rather than the jazz ballad style this tune is cast in, he inhabits its words and arrangement like the song was written for him all along.

In fact, the song appears on Sinatra’s “Frank Sinatra Sings Only for the Lonely” album from 1958. Eight years later he released a live version on “Sinatra at the Sands.” The song feels like it was written for him, but it had actually been recorded by a number of other artists over the years starting with Herb Jeffries in 1947.

I don’t think that I’ve actually heard Bunny Sigler before. He’s been a force in the music business for over 40 years, though, so I’m not sure how I missed him. Maybe I’ve heard him in the past but didn’t realize it. Still, apparently Sigler’s career has been based in R&B music. I’ve never really been a big fan of that kind of stuff, so I guess it probably makes sense if this is the first time I’ve heard him. The mix of piano, voice, and string weaving this song into full life has a lush, inviting quality that will affect anyone who listens.

The music business has clearly changed since the time when this song was originally released. It’s changed a lot since Sigler’s debut. It seems that people aren’t all that interested in music with emotion and melody like they used to be. In a lot of ways, the beat is king these days. Even when listeners like music, they wind up streaming it instead of buying it. It will be interesting to see how this does. It would be a real breath of fresh air for Bunny Sigler’s cover of “Angel Eyes” to really sell in this era. This is a performance of rare distinction resounding with all the class and style you would expect, but also full of immense musical quality.

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Diane Hill