La Dolce Vita / Giulietta degli Spiriti
CAM CSE 009 / CAM CSE 011
month's review of the fine Fellini/Rota tribute by the Czech Symphony
Orchestra (Silva SSD 1024) reignited our fuse for Nino Rota.
We went back through our collection of Lps and spent days
reveling in Felliniana. How did Rota write so many memorable
Dolce Vita is the soundtrack to the 1960 movie that most of
us remember for the scenes of the good life in Rome but in
fact it's a very dark film that both glamorizes and warns of
too much decadence. One of the final scenes has Marcello Mastroianni
pounding a wet and drunken lass with a feather pillow, applying
the feathers to her wet skin and then riding her while she's
on all fours. It may sound tame by today's standards of debauchery
but it's still a horrifying scene. You're never clear how far the
characters will go. The film rides a fine line and raises
more questions than it answers.
really good news is that this soundtrack release has much of the
music that's been cut from various re-issues over the last
few decades. We have at least three Lps that have a Dolce Vita
"suite" that's always sounded choppy, particularly after
the new Space Age Bachelor Pad anthem Cadillac. Hearing
the recordings in the original form, it's easy to see why
because this version segues right into a wonderfully cheesy version
of Arrivederci Roma. Other bits of what seemed only
incidental music before are fleshed out into full pieces and
it's fascinating to observe how Rota interweaves them and brings
them back to the main La Dolce Vita theme.
background music, certain cuts are perfect but as a whole, this
is a real film soundtrack and being basically a dark movie,
some of the more orchestral bits are beautiful but pretty
sad. Like all good Fellini/Rota collaborations, there's a bit of
circus music that can be jarring if you're not prepared. Like
the movie, emotions tend to be all over the map. One of the themes
is titled La Bella Malinconia (The Beautiful Melancholy)
and this just about sums up the entire La Dolce Vita
degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) was a much lighter film
and the music remains on a similar note throughout the soundtrack,
although there are the waltzes and circus themes as in La
Dolce Vita. Other than hearing the music in the film and the
main theme on compilation albums, we weren't that familiar
with the rest of the music. Like La Dolce Vita, themes
and riffs are expanded and revamped, always coming back to the main
melody. Few discs have helped us with the tedium of housework as
well as Giulietta degli Spiriti. It's basically light
and nutty. Bette Midler claims she played the soundtrack when she
got married in Las Vegas and we can see why.Giulieta degli
Spiriti has an occasional chorus of other-worldly voices that
help accentuate the spirit world protagonist Giulieta Masina
is dealing with but the effect is also very Space Age Pop,
a la Esquivel. Everybody wins! We can't imagine anyone not "getting"
Nino Rota. His music was quirky, accessible and inspired.
The fact that these melodies accompany first rate movies is an added
bonus because the music can stand on its own. Both CDs are
imports but easy enough to find and their relatively short length
(by toady's CD standards) shouldn't be too much of an obstacle.
appeared originally Winter 95/96
Scamp SCP 9702-2 Easy Listening / Exotica
knows about Martin Denny's wonderfully silly Tiki Lounge aesthetic
and there's a good chance you even own the Rhino Records Compilation,
Exotica! (Rhino R2 70774). Our reaction to the Rhino
collection was, "Yeah, that's cute" and that's selling
was really an album artist rather than having hit singles (although
we all know and love Quiet Village), so Afro-Desia
works as a whole much better than the Exotica! collection.
It's even nuttier and we have the surreal vocals by the Randy Van
Horne Singers to push us to even more exotic heights. The
songs are a mix of well-known standards (Lecuona's Siboney
and Jungle Drums, plus Baia and Temptation)
and originals, all with tight-knit percussion and arrangements.
The rhythms combine the South Pacific, Africa and Latin America
but the end result is pure lounge, in the best sense.
Lava Records (WEA) 92609-2 Pop
have friends who occasionally declare the need to go to McDonald's
for a Big Mac every month or so. While sounding perhaps like
a snob (is it so wrong?), we really don't understand this.
Just the smell of a McDonald's puts us off. Surely there are better
ways to appease the same craving without entering the golden
arches. A greasy spoon or diner of any caliber is sure to
provide a better made burger. Our own personal devils are deep
fried, cheese-stuffed jalapeño peppers and this album.
Suave is really the equivalent to musical junk food. There's
nothing important going on here but all of the riffs are catchy
and the slick production goes right after that special little
nook in our heart reserved for Euro-trash culture. A steady diet
of this would dull the senses and make us a slob but we like
the first B-Tribe disc, the few vocals are by non-descript Deborah
Blando who neither adds nor subtracts from the general effect.
There's a lot less of the flamenco stuff and the synthesizer
is the star in this very commercial version of ambient music.
Jasmine JASCD 328 Vocals
esteem of Keely Smith is obviously high. We sing her praises at
every turn and have even braved contemporary Las Vegas in
order to hear her live. In fact, she's one of the few divas
we've begged for an autograph (which was given graciously).
output on CD is thankfully almost equal to her talent. We've mentioned
before that you must buy the Capitol collection of her solo
work and you can hardly go wrong with any of the Louis Prima
& Keely Smith collaborations. The Jasmine re-issues are basically
for collectors. Each of these discs contains some great tracks,
especially What Kind of Fool Am I and Cherokeely
Swings, but mostly the arrangements are soggy and sentimental.
Be My Love is the worst offender and Dearly Beloved
comes close except for the title track (from our favorite
film You Were Never Lovelier) and clever track called Close.
not that anything on Dearly Beloved is particularly bad,
it's just not that good, almost purposely background music,
even with the swelling orchestrations and chorus. The songs
aren't equal to Smith's talent and the bland arrangements don't
any luck, Reprise Records will re-issue Little Girl Blue/Little
Girl New that reunited her with Nelson Riddle and The
Intimate Keely Smith which was recorded in a gorgeously
lethargic quartet setting and contains the best version of Time
After Time that we know. It's a prime candidate for digital
remastering and CD release because the inevitable nicks and
pops of vinyl rarely coincide with the beat.
Friends of Dean Martinez
The Shadow of Your Smile
SubPop SP306b Pop
we first received this disc to review, we rolled our eyes to the
heavens and wondered, "Why!" So many genres that
we've held sacred are now being revamped by the young folks
and often not very well. The Friends of Dean Martinez perform a
kind of power pop somewhere between surf music, the Ventures
and Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western themes, with a touch
of Paris, Texas, thrown in for good measure. The idea didn't
appeal to us but after many trips to our CD player we have to admit
that we love this clever little disc.
respectful of its sources without being too derivative and the attention
to strong melody really pays off. The musicians are really
talented and arrangements are well-thought-out but still sound
natural enough to be a garage jam. Also, the lack of vocals is refreshing.
Mendes & Brasil 66
Fool on the Hill
A&M/Rebound 314 520 296-2 Brasil
dear Mater didn't have all that many records in the late 1960s.
The Broadway cast recording of My Fair Lady, Harry
Belafonte's Calypso, Herb Albert and the Tiajuana Brass'
Whipped Cream and Other Delights, an inexplicable Golden
Greats by the Grass Roots and The Second Barbra Streisand
Album were among her treasures. Today she wonders if these
old records are worth anything. Sorry, Mom! We have to wonder what
today's tikes will remember from their parents' collections: Enya,
Paul Simon's Graceland and the first Whitney Houston
of the most intriguing albums in her collection was always Fool
on the Hill by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66. As we adjusted
the rubber bands on our dental braces and cleaned our thick-lens
horn-rimmed glasses on a fun tan velour shirt, we thought that Brasil
'66 was the hippest and most exotic thing going. They wore
groovy tight clothes and sort of sang but not really. Their
version of Scarborough Fair made even less sense than
originators Simon and Garfunkel's, but the Brasil '66 Scarborough
Fair was a much more fun place to visit.
this disc again, now in all its digital glory, is a great trip back
in time. Too often we buy CDs of old Lps we thought we loved
and rarely give them more than a listen or two. It's hard
not to keep listening to Fool on the Hill over and over.
It's not quite Bossa Nova and it's not quite Brazilian pop.
It's somewhere in-between and it's a real hoot.
Maxine Sullivan Update
issues back we went on (and on) about the late great Maxine Sullivan
and her album Together in particular. Calls flooded
our switchboard here at Coconut Grove wondering about the
availability of the title. Well, it turns out it was out of print
and our local Tower Records had it by a fluke or a return
was restocked as a new disc. Was our face red! Especially
since we featured Maxine as our cover girl.
then we've done quite a little shopping and have come up with some
alternate titles that you might enjoy. Maxine Sullivan was
a real treasure and almost anything she did was worthwhile,
mostly because she sang in a direct honest way, with no vocal gimmicks.
That was incredibly refreshing after hearing countless lesser-talented
"song stylists" mangle the melody and ignore the
fact that sometimes a constant steady beat is preferable to a dirge,
no matter what the lyrics might suggest.
just acquired We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye (Audiophile ACD-128)
which is a two disc compilation of 1978 dates, We Just
Couldn't Say Goodbye and It Was Great Fun. Despite
Maxine's preference for quasi-Dixieland backup at times, these are
solid sets with few surprises but it's all topnotch. We like
it but the songs are pretty standard standards and the pulse
doesn't race much.
Queen, Volume 5: Something to Remember Her By (Kenneth
CKS 3406) is an expensive Swedish import that is strictly
for collectors. The band is second-rate and the recording
very sloppy. Maxine sounds a bit tired, too.
Spanish label Fresh Sounds has released Maxine Sullivan
Sings 1955-56 (Fresh Sounds FSR-CD178). It's just great
and shows a nice bridge period in her singing style where
she grows from just another good "girl singer" to a real
Sullivan 1944 to 1948 (Legend CD 6004) shows a younger
Sullivan in good voice and with some interesting backup musicians,
including a harp. It contains her big hit of the easy swinging
Loch Lomand and our favorite version of Legalize My Name
from Harold Arlen's St. Louis Woman.
best disc we found is unfortunately in the same situation as Together:
out of print. The Great Songs From the Cotton Club
(Mobile Fidelity MFCD 836) is a great collection with first-class
backup and glorious sound. The program is a strong mix of the familiar
and the neglected, all written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
from the early days of Harlem's Cotton Club. It's no wonder
that Sullivan continued to sing Arlen's song throughout her
career. They're a perfect match.
follow up another time with her Concord Jazz recordings. We have
Singin' Sweet (Concord Jazz CCD-4351) with the Scott
Hamilton Quintet, which is a live recording from Japan in
1986 that is nice but we prefer a more intimate setting.
out of print recordings can be frustrating but not futile. Music
search services like MrLucky advertisers All Music Services
(415.864.8222) can be a big help and scouring the bins at
used shops often turns up big finds.
For You My Love
Capitol Jazz CDP 7234382897927 Vocals
came of age when Lou Rawls was riding high singing songs like
Lady Love and You'll Never Find, basically causing
us to lose our lunch. We were still smarting from the realization
that the Partridge Family were not real musicians and trying to
embrace the tail end of the counter culture revolution.
wasn't until the late 1980s Low Rawls renaissance with albums like
At Last and It's Supposed to Be Fun (both on
Blue Note) that we realized we had misjudged Rawls and that
he in fact had a pretty dreamy voice and when he sang top-notch
material, he was great. Digging back through the Lou Rawls
catalogue, we find a lot of mediocre material and lots of
silly narrative "jive storytelling" that more often than
not fizzled out. For You My Love, however, is a real
gem that's worthy of your consideration. Arranged and conducted
by jazz greats Benny Carter and Benny Golson, For You My
Love is a solid collection of R&B and vocal standards that
swing consistently. All of the tracks have a breezy Route
66 type of feeling. We would have liked a few slower ballads
on some of these tracks, without all the brass but, the album is
consistent. We really are nuts for I Love You Yes I Do.
Mango 539 589-2 Salsa / Puerto Rico
of the thrill of being MrLucky is that we are not bound by time.
Sure, we love to discover the latest new releases but quality
is really all we are concerned with, so we know you'll indulge
us a peek into our music library and impart some dated advice. Yomo
Toro is probably Latin music's finest example of the quatro, a particular
Caribbean style of guitar very similar to Cuba's tres. It
has a more "stringy" effect than a traditional guitar
and its fuller sound is perfect for Afro-Latin rhythms. In addition
to three discs that we know of, Toro often plays as a sideman
on all-star dates. He's more than worthy of his reputation.
albums on the whole are a mixed bag. Not possessing Latin-lover
good looks nor a particularly effective singing voice, we
imagine the record companies don't know quite what to do with
him. The best moments on these discs are when Toro is showcased
on traditional or straightforward numbers. When all the right
elements are in place, Toro is nothing short of sublime.
from 1990, is his strongest set. Escuela de la Vida is a
great example of when everything works. It's a simple son
with a catchy chorus and good vocals by Dalia Silva, who appears
on all three discs. Toro gets to solo, as does Louis Khan on violin.
It bounces all the way through and has become one of our favorites.
Also strong are Gracias, Amor AmorAmor and Atrevete.
are two hoped for but never attained "crossover" attempts.
Se Acabo is fair but Stop Playing With My Heart
is a mess and we can't believe this was Toro's idea of a good song.
The nice thing about Gracias is there's much for heavy
duty salseros and lovers of Afro- Caribbean music in general to
admire while those fond of Ottmar Leibert's brand of insipid
pseudo-Flamenco rock will enjoy the disc in the background and might
even get a hankering for some of the real thing.
released is Toro's latest, Golden Hands (TWI Records, TWI
1001), which is well- meaning but not very exciting. Better to stick
with Gracias or the 1988 release, Funky Jibaro
(Antilles New Directions 7 90693-2).