Angel eyes, that old devil sent
February 16, 2014 10:31 AM   Subscribe

"Angel Eyes" is a 1946 popular song composed by Matt Dennis, with lyrics by Earl Brent. It was introduced in the 1953 film, Jennifer. Because of its colourful harmonic changes "Angel Eyes" has become a popular jazz standard. When Sinatra held what he intended to be his farewell concert in 1971, he closed with "Angel Eyes". Some notable recordings include: Frank Sinatra 1958 (interpreted as a heartbroken drunk) , Bob Thompson & His Orchestra 1958, Anita O´Day 1960, Ella Fitzgerald 1960, Chet Baker 1975, Roberta Flack 1993, Sting 1995, Bruce Springsteen 1995 (at Sinatra's 80th birthday tribute), Aleka Kanellidou 2000, Fiona Apple 2007


I try to think that love's not around
But (still) it's uncomfortably near
My old heart ain't gaining no ground
Because my angel eyes ain't here

Angel eyes, that old devil sent
They glow unbearably bright
Need I say that my love's mispent
Mispent with angel eyes tonight

So drink up all you people
Order anything you see
Have fun you happy people
The drink and the laughs on me

Pardon me but I got to run
The fact's uncommonly clear
Got to find who's now number one
And why my angel eyes ain't here

Excuse me while I disappear
posted by Lanark (9 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Quite simply, one of the best pop songs ever written. The fact that Springsteen, Fiona Apple and Sting could still pull it off some forty, fifty years later proves that. "My Foolish Heart" is another one like that. Timeless.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:36 AM on February 16, 2014

Before Frank Sinatra died, Sarah Vowell correctly predicted on This American Life that every broadcast news obituary would play "My Way," but "Angel Eyes" was her first suggestion for a more appropriate tribute.

Why not play "Angel Eyes" for its subtle reference to the singer's Mediterranean windows to the soul, for its knowing, jaunty adieu.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:51 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Frank gets my vote...
posted by jim in austin at 2:44 PM on February 16, 2014

Lovely song, n'est-ce pas? Ella's my favourite on this, but I'll happily work my way through this post.
posted by ersatz at 3:50 PM on February 16, 2014

Springsteen's introductory tribute speech there left me close to tears. Life, poetry, love.
posted by Ahab at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2014

Frank Sinatra's Angel Eyes was one of those songs when I was a teenager that made me feel like life was going to be excruciating and also long for it to start. Nobody knows how to treat a song like that man did.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:22 PM on February 16, 2014

Actually, Little Jimmy Scott's version of Angel Eyes is the be all and end all. I wish I could find a recording online. But if you ever grab his album "All The Way"...Track 3.
posted by jeanmari at 8:27 PM on February 16, 2014

I love the words, but the harmony is what makes this tune. In fact, it's so great I'm going to theory geek out for a second.

There's just so much going on. There's the potential for a pedal in the A section (almost all the chords have C in them), and the ones that don't make for some cool suspensions or anticipations. The changes are just slightly different on the second time through that opening phrase, bars 1-4 basically stays in c minor, 5-8 starts the same, but at the end of bar 6 there's a tritone sub so the chords walk down by half steps, so the color notes of the chords aren't diatonic.

Then for the B section you're suddenly in the relative major key harmonically, BUT the melody is still centered around the tonic of the minor key from the opening, so it's a bitter sweet sort of major. What's really cool is that instead of just staying there, like in the A section, the second four bars are harmonically and melodically a half step down, so the over all harmony is of the V of the original key, so it leads right back into the A section. There's also the cool little details within that, like a great chromatic walk up between bars 18 and 19, and that tritone sub that creates another chromatic walk up to a ii V leading to the A section.

It's not just a pretty song, it's a pretty song that's interesting to play.

Some notable instrumental versions: Pat Metheny and Ulf Wakenius I don't know why this one works, but it does.
Wynton Marsalis He starts with a nice allusion to "All the Things You Are" then when he does the half step down and it sounds like it needs to resolve back, but the piano comes in and suddenly you hear that the step down WAS the resolution, that's good, and man that cadenza.
The Modern Jazz Quartet It's just nice, and then when the vibes go double time at about 2:17, the bass and drums start to bounce a very little, but not so much that there isn't a subtle tension between their feel and what the vibes are doing. Plus it ends on the Jazz Mystery Chord.
The J.J. Johnson Quintet The feel on the head is straight and dirge like on the A, and turns into a sweet ballad on the B, which really shows off the difference in the harmony between the two.
Tommy Flanagan I love the suspensions and anticipations in the inner parts of piano voicings on the head, also the call and response between the bass and piano at about 4:03 is tasty.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh crap, that Wynton track was with the Jazz Messengers, sorry for omitting that.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:05 PM on February 18, 2014

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