"A Portrait Of Arthur Prysock" by Arthur Prysock (1963)

Lo and behold, here is the voice that surpasses even mighty Billy Eckstine in sheer majesty, expressivity and imposingly deep, sonorous baritone. For as long as I can remember, Eckstine was number one in my book as pinnacle of Afro-American baritones in American Songbook and I still think he was excellent but this guy is a revelation. Of course, Eckstine was not the only one, there were others before and after him, notably Harlan Latimore who back in the early 1930s came extremely close to Crosby in those early Neanderthal days of recordings, when singers had literary two minutes of "vocal refrain" before the orchestra bulldozed them away. 

I first heard Prysock on the album recorded together with Count Basie who had his share of collaborations with greatest vocalists in the business (he also recorded with Eckstine) and vividly remember how impressed I was with that voice. On this particular 1963. album Prysock shines even more - if that's possible - since the concept is built around heartbreaking ballads, encompassing everything from depression to suicide and back. Its mature voice that reflects disappointments and knowledge that comes from lifetime of experiences. God knows what exactly made him such artist but boy was he great and no amount of cheesy strings, harps and angelic choirs can diminish the total effect, which is not unlike Lady Day on "Lady in Satin" but from man's perspective. Strange how certain voices actually magnify their effect when surrounded with such silk & satin cushions - arrangements and orchestrations are very much the product of its time but just listen to Prysock slowly burning trough "Stella by Starlight" or "I'll Be Around" and marvel at the sheer stately beauty of that massive voice. The album opens with "Ebb Tide" and its perfect opener because Prysock comes along like a tide or slowly moving iceberg, he is a force of nature and has total control of the sound - just to show that he knows very well what he is doing, from time to time there is a sensual crack in that voice, kind of saying "this hurts me too much" - with all those famous standards, its great to discover inclusion of old Jewish ballad "Wo ahin soll ich geh'n" (recorded here as "Where can I go" but I knew it as "I Love You Much Too Much" by Alberta Hunter) - it is a perfect late-night listening, what a voice,  never thought I would come to say this but Eckstine sounds like a little pageboy in comparison. 

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