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I'm In The Mood For Love

This song is another which has deservedly become a standard.

It was one of seven songs written by Fields and McHugh for the 1935 film Every Night at Eight. The film starred George Raft, and (more significantly from the point of view of the songs) three singing actresses - Patsy Kelly, Alice Faye and Frances Langford - as three singing sisters on the radio.

Frances Langford introduced and recorded I'm in the Mood for Love, but the performer who had a big hit with it was Little Jack Little and his orchestra. Since then dozens of performers have recorded it (more than 120 versions are listed on record store websites).

Once again, there is a rarely heard introductory verse, but for once, I think it is better omitted. As you can see below, the first four lines of the verse are poetic in a rather creaking and overblown way, in direct contrast to what follows in the main part of the song:
Lovely interlude,
Most romantic mood,
And your attitude is right, dear.
You have me under a spell
Now my dream is real
That is why l feel
Such a strong appeal tonight
All my reason takes flight, dear.

When the main song starts we have classic Dorothy Fields at work, the use of simple, sweet language matching perfectly the rhythm of the music, and creating a picture of a blissful dreamy contentment.

The first, so well-known, quatrain is highly peculiar when you analyse it:
I'm in the mood for love
Simply because you're near me
Funny, but when you're near me
I'm in the mood for love

What we have there are no rhymes, but rather two identities "love" twice, and "near me" twice. Not only that but the matching lines are not the traditional first with third and second with fourth. This is untraditional verse-writing, but how close it is to the way a developing thought is expressed in speech, particularly any kind of logical conundrum. "It drives me mad when they don't tell me they're going to be late, but when they do tell me they're going to be late, that drives me mad too."

Then take the phrase Funny, but when you're near me. It's so colloquial and sounds so natural when a singer phrases it with a slight pause at the comma. Similarly later on with the delighted enthusiasm of Oh, is it any wonder.

A favourite moment of mine later on is the glorious phrase If it should rain, we'll let it. The amused insouciance of this expression is charming - it's the perfect verbal expression of a relaxed shrug of the shoulders.

Frances Langford's version of the song is fine, with a sweet extra note injected in "any" in Oh, is it any wonder. Her sombre performance of the last verse is at odds with the lyric though.

Bryan Ferry definitely succeeds in giving this song a totally new sound. I just don't like what he does without it. Percussion and violin are to the fore, and the mood is dreamy. However the dreaminess is that of drugged semi-consciousness, rather than a delicious joy in love. The drugged dream feel is reinforced by someone called Alice Retif murmuring a French poem in the background. The joy in the lyrics is nowhere in Ferry's dry performance.

Barbara Cook, naturally, does it right. She includes the verse, which as I've said is not a great addition, but her performance of the lyric is wonderful. This singer has such perfect phrasing; she drops slightly behind the melody in Funny, but when you're near me and Oh, is it any wonder and it's so effective. Beautiful.

I'm in the Mood for Love was the inspiration for another song, a jazz standard. Music critic Will Friedwald describes the original record involved as launching an entire new movement in jazz, "vocalese". Saxophonist James Moody recorded a jazz solo which used the chords of I'm in the Mood for Love as the basis of a new melody. Lyricist/singer Eddie Jefferson then set words to the new melody. The resulting song is Moody's Mood, and Fields/McHugh are often given credit in liner notes of recordings.

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