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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Nat "King" Cole
Wild is Love
Capitol CDP 724382851127 Vocals

According to Nat's liner notes, he was looking for "something else" and he felt he had found it in this high concept collection of songs by Ray Rasch and Dotty Wayne. The credits and look of the cover art are meant to give the impression that this is the soundtrack to a movie never made.

Good thing it wasn't! The songs are very loosely related by inane and cliché laden commentary by Nat. The story is never fully realized so we're left bewildered as to what he's even talking about.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the performances by Nat and an orchestra led by Nelson Riddle are all topnotch and if you can ignore the between song narrative and several lyrics that are just plain dumb, you'll discover a pretty great CD. There's an occasional chorus that sounds like a parody but their appearances are so few they provide some humor and don't get in the way.

Numbers like Hundreds of Thousands Of Girls and Pick-Up are such great studies of early 1960s clichés that you'll want to jot the lyrics down and liberally pepper your conversations with them. The title song (also nicely covered by Shirley Horn on her Lp Loads of Love) is a peppy bongo'ed jaunt that we find ourselves singing along with.

Our biggest complaint about Nat has been his trouble keeping up with a big band. He  usually sounds lost and confused. He seems more at ease with the ballads, especially later in his career. This isn't the case on Wild Is Love. He sounds relaxed and upbeat at the same time. We can't just attribute this to the very talented Nelson Riddle because we had problems on their previous flag waver, Just One Of Those Things.

The sound is absolutely gorgeous and you'll be amazed that this album was recorded over 30 years ago.

 

 Eddie Torres & his Mambo Kings
Dance City
E&E Entertainment (no cat. number) Latin

This disc has been getting a lot of airplay on salsa programs and the buzz in the clubs is that this is a winner. We can't figure out why. It's fair but each of the tracks has a mild easy beat that hardly excites one to take to the dance floor. The band never really lets loose except on perhaps La Mulata Rumbera and Eres Mi Coco, and even then the horn arrangements are rather uninspired.

The other thing that bugs us is the use of the word mambo. Ninety percent of this is  lackluster New York salsa and the other 10 percent is Latin Jazz, which is closer to what we think mambo would be but the mambo greats during the golden era of the Palladium had powerful and intricate arrangements. These tracks have a "head" arrangement played at the start and then each of the players taking solos. In truth, we think these are closer to a descarga than a mambo.

 

 Peggy Lee
Black Coffee and Other Delights
MCA/Decca MCAD 211122 Vocals

 


We've come to the conclusion that Peggy Lee is one weird bird. We grew up listening to her old recordings with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and her later Capitol recordings from the 1960s and 1970s. We remember her singing Memories on a Kodak commercial and we also remember her recreating her big dramatic moments from the movie Pete Kelly's Blues on the Carol Burnett Show. Our dear Pater would lament that she was losing her voice but she had such a great sound and sense of intimacy it didn't matter much.

We confess that we were unable to finish reading her autobiography because her memory  was dim when it came to anything interesting but she remembers looking out several windows on several birds singing and she took these sightings as "signs". She also remembers several of her gowns. There wasn't much for music fans and even less for those searching for good juicy gossip.

Black Coffee and Other Delights is a two disc collection of her Decca years. This is the period in the 1950s sandwiched between her long running Capitol gigs. It has many nice numbers and quite a few dogs. On the whole, if you're not "Peggy People", this is not a good place to start. There are many off numbers where Lee must be experimenting with new ideas but they just don't gel. Here are the first glimpses of that Valium voice that was to later become effective but here sounds like, well, Valium talking. It's occasionally funny, but not all that satisfying. Instead Lee sounds like a loon and you imagine the room where she recorded the tracks was equipped with nice men in white jackets and rubber walls.

There are some straightforward standards for those of us who have trouble with Peg's  version of exotique, but she's either recorded them better before or after or someone else has. You've Got To See Mama Every Night (Or You Won't See Mama At All) sounds contrived and unconvincing compared to gutsy Kay Starr's version. A simpler version of Sugar (That Sugar Baby of Mine) works much better on the Capitol Collector's Series disc. The same is true of I Don't Know Enough About You.They Can't Take That Away From Me is done with a big band that adds nothing.

Black Coffee and Other Delights isn't all that bad but we don't think it will find its way onto our player very often.


 

 Sextetto Aché
Cuba
A.S.P.I.C. X55517 Latin / Cuba
 

We must have done something very good indeed to be treated to such a great new  disc.

The recent recordings out of Cuba have been a mixed bag and the Salsa scene stateside hasn't had a real gutsy release for some time. All we can say is if the wait  yielded Sextetto Ache, it was worth it.

Primarily a collection of Cuban son, this band has listened to enough jazz and pop to infuse a new energy into this great style. While not sounding particularly folklorico, there's a real guairo (country) feeling with lots of tres and trumpet. The best of Celina and Reutilio comes to mind and our initial reaction was to throw a huge barbecue. You can almost hear the splat of the lime-marinated pork loins hitting the grill. You can feel a slight "ice headache" as you down another Mojito cocktail a wee bit too fast and you also get that great trance-like feeling dancing to this music, earning your nickname of "Snakehips". To top all of this off you have Gabriel and his funky trumpet inviting you just a bit higher.

Perhaps we'd better get some air.

The Afro-Guairo mix is perfect and we've yet to find a listener who is not taken with  this set. The voice of Joel Padron is youthful and the recording clean.

This CD has not left our player.

Bobby Darin
That's All
Atlantic 826272 Vocals

Our memory tricked us with this CD that we raved about last month. That's All is a fine album of Bobby Darin's Sinatraesque work and it includes the two essential Darin cuts, Mack The Knife and Beyond the Sea. It's also kind of weird with strange "arty" arrangements, overwrought ballads and an odd recording technique of separating the vocals to one channel instead of the center.

Despite these annoyances, any Darin fan will welcome this re-issue featuring Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, I'll Remember April and Some Of These Days, which are not on the Greatest Hits compilation, Mack The Knife: The Best Of Bobby Darin Vol. Two.

What almost ruins the whole show is the closing track, That's All. What was poor Bobby thinking? A sweet simple ballad is turned into a bongo-laden mess with meaningless lyrics and perhaps the most embarrasing attempt at scat singing we've heard. It's this kind of abuse that sent a generation running to rock.

 Chocolate Armenteros y su Conjunto Estrellas de Chocolate
Guaguanco a Todos los Barrios
Antilla CD 15 Salsa / Cuba
 

Looking at our growing collection of compact discs and platters of Latin origin, we realize  that Guaguanco A Todos Los Barrios was one of the titles we latched onto early in the game. At first we were disappointed because it wasn't fiery and urgent enough, like the Salsa we were listening to at the time. Slowly, its charm started to overtake us and we now would have to list it as one of our favorites.

There are nice arrangements with horns and a conjunto but the sound is relaxed and more like a bunch of friends hanging around seeing how well they can play. As usual, we prefer the zippier numbers to the boleros but even the rhythm numbers are bouncy rather than manic.

The clever trumpet playing of Chocolate is very bright and he uses it almost as an answer to the call of the other soloist instead of taking center stage.

 Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine Update

We've heard a lot of enthusiasm for our Billy Eckstine review in the last issue. Good! Until recently the works in print have been dismal. We've just found two new gems to add to your collection. Basie/Eckstine Incorporated (Roulette CDP 7243.8.28636.2.5) has beautiful clean sound and typical Basie arrangements on this 1959 date. The song selection is generally good and Billy gives lots of room for the Basie Band to blow. Even better, but less in a jazz vein is Verve's Jazz 'Round Midnight (Verve 314.521.652.2). This is a selection of songs from the same period as the Everything I Have Is Yours years (reviewed in the last issue) but less framiliar songs which is always a good thing for MrLucky readers.

I've Never Been In Love Before seems to be the only duplicate (and it might be a different take) and that's such a nice performance, who cares? A real stand out is You Leave Me Breathless and a big "Wow!" comes from It Can't Be Wrong from Bette Davis' film Now, Voyager. The melody and Eckstine's performance are so beautiful that you'll forgive the world famous Herman McCoy Singers who do their best to muck up the number.

Our only real complaint is about the cover of the CD. Why is there a grainy photo of a stupid yuppie couple with the fellow biting the strap of the lady's Maidenform? We realize that this release is part of a series called Jazz 'Round Midnight but why? Billy Eckstine was considered a dreamboat in his day and photos prove this to be true. Why not show him off?

 Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco
Celia & Johnny
Vaya VS-31 Salsa


Celia Cruz

Are you interested in building a substantial library of Latin Muisc? Let this disc be part of the foundation. Everything worked in these sesions and one of the finest records of contemporary Salsa was produced. There's so much going on at any given time that it's easy to lost and just enjoy the general "feeling". This is fine but you'll miss all of the real treats. What Celia does with her voice on the first track Quimbara is nothing short of impossible. How does she make all of those syllables come out so fast? What do they mean? Just try repeating the phrases.

Most of the other tracks are equally as strong. The recording is good (better than even the more recent Tributo a Ismael Rivera) and you'll find yourself wondering what other Celia Cruz albums you've missed.

The really "Right On!" cover is an added bonus.



 Lucky Peterson
Beyond Cool
Verve Blues 31454211472 Blues

Before we go any further we have to state that Lucky Peterson fans are very excited about his work. We must also state that in general, soaring electric guitar solos are not our bag. On hearing Lucky Peterson for the first time we were very surprised to find this categorized as blues. It is superior rock by an earnest musician with a pretty great voice and loads of electric guitar riffs. We're stating all of this so that you can put Peterson in context. We like it and you may love it. How's that for diplomacy?

The general energy level is in overdrive. Several numbers stand out like the instrumental title track, That's The Way It Ought To Be and a cover of Stevie Wonder's You Haven't Done Nothin'. Apparently Peterson puts on a great live show and perhaps it's there that his blues roots shine.

We like his first name an awful lot.

 The Czech Symphony Orchestra
The Symphonic Fellini/Rota
Silva SSD 1024

We wouldn't be very clever or original advising you that no one captures the romanticized  version of Italy, and Rome in particular, better than film maker Federico Fellini and that it's unimaginable what his films would have been like without the music of Nino Rota as their soul. This is a given. Visions of Anita Ekburg taking a midnight dip in the Fontana di Trevi, Marcello Mastroianni cruising the streets of modern Roma in a convertible with a pair of cynical good natured prostitutes and a band of local boys urging the grotesque Serafina to do her dance on the beach are all part of our collective consciousness of an idealized absurd Italian fantasy.

We've spent many hours wandering around Rome with a Walkman playing the music of Nino Rota, trying to recapture the circus atmosphere, but it was unnecessary. Even without the Walkman, you still hear the music, thanks to Nino Rota. This collection is great mostly because of the improved fidelity but it also features great arrangements of and La Strada, among others. The orchestral arrangements are nearly perfect while the jazzier bits, like the suite from La Dolce Vita fall short of the original recordings. What's needed is really a jazz group to do it justice. This version of Amarcord is flawless. It uses several themes from the film and intertwines them into a medley that progresses naturally.

 Peggy Lee
Spotlight On ...Peggy Lee
Capitol CDP 724382853329 Vocals
 

You can't imagine how much flack we took from the fans of Peggy Lee when we reported  our ultimate boredom and frustration with the Decca collection Black Coffee and Other Delights. In our opinion, these just weren't good times for Peg. "Peggy People" don't agree, but then they also think Olè a la Lee is Latin music, not indulgent camp.

Luckily, we all can agree that Capitol's new reissue Spotlight On...Peggy Lee is first rate all the way. The songs, the arrangements, the sound quality and of course, the singer, all make for one of the few Peggy Lee albums you must buy to understand classic American pop singing.

While her Collector's Series compilation focused on the early years with hubby Dave Barbour, this set takes the best snippets from her long playing records from the late 1950s and early sixties. Like Spotlight On...Keely Smith in the same Great Ladies of Song series, these really are the best or essential tracks from these albums. Unlike Keely Smith, Lee's output on Capitol was huge and the decisions must have been much more difficult. The only real crime is that this  CD wasn't released years earlier.

Almost all of the tracks are highlights but we've always been partial to When a Woman Loves a Man from I Like Men. This original Lp also had a killer Good for Nothin' Joe that will hopefully will see the light of day soon. This release features the definitive renditions of Too Close For Comfort, Close Your Eyes and The Best is Yet to Come. We all know and love Fever but shouldn't we stop for a minute and think how unbearably hip it was to take this R&B number and bare it down to bass and drums in 1958, let alone today. Shouldn't we also wonder what pop icon Madonna thought she was doing when she sang her silly version a few years ago?

Peggy Lee had several ways of singing. Sometimes, when she's not swinging, it sounds as if she's either on downers or in a loony bin. There's always been much made about Peggy's "Valium Voice". Some love it, many hate it, and others tolerate it. We understand all three sentiments. It permeates her album The Man I Love, with orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra. We will now duck and dodge the stones as we say it's probably an overrated disc with some fine moments. Its tracks here are among the album's weakest with the exception of her other worldly rendition of Jerome Kern's fine The Folks Who Live on the Hill. Appropriately Lee has cited this as one of her  best works and it's the perfect ending to a near perfect album.



 Aru Ketu
Bom Demais
Columbia 850237/247468
Aru Ketu
Seven Gates SGDL0001
Aru Ketu de Periperi
EMI 8280272
 

Just when we think the Bahia sound has spent its last musical penny, we discover something else great to like about the music known as samba-reggae. The moniker makes sense when you hear the distinct beat but it's neither samba nor reggae. As played by Aru Ketu it's a gutsy pop music that's not as inventive as fellow Bahians, Timbalada, but more consistently wonderful.

Now MrLucky isn't the type that would don a thong on a tropical beach and dance to  samba-reggae under the glorious Brazilian sun, but alone in the Coconut Grove compound, dancing around to Aru Ketu, we imagine that we almost could do just that. The songwriting is pretty good on all three discs and the performances are surprisingly  consistent. We tend to play Bom Demais more than the others but we can't explain why. Each disc has two or three essential tracks and several of those wonderful breaks where the music stops and the sound of pulsating drums takes over. It's infectious and highly recommended.


 Robert Mitchum
Calypso- Is Like So...
Scamp SCP 9701 Vocals
 

The beauty of this re-issue is that it's exactly what you'd expect- film star Robert Mitchum  singing calypso music. It's also a best case scenario. The humor is in the concept, not the  execution. The orchestrations are definitely Hollywood fifties but they're well done. "Bob" is in fine voice and his traces of a Creole accent are respectful rather than mocking. The song selection is textbook calypso-cliché but it's really a fine romp and you should buy it now in case it goes out of circulation again.

As a bonus there are also two non-calypso numbers but the smart money is on the  Caribbean.

There is also a Bear Family release out of Germany that includes the entire Calypso - Is Like So... album plus everything else he recorded, mostly being country-rock. If you're a Robert Mitchum fanatic, you'll want the complete recordings. The rest of us will be more than happy with this domestic (U.S.) release.

 


 



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