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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Dead Ringer
Atomic Cocktail
Wowsville DR-1001
Lounge / Vocals

Dead RInger

(Distribution of this title may be spotty in some areas. You can contact All Music Servives,
 or Wowsville directly at Wowsville Music
P.O. Box 4352
Burbank, CA 91503-4352)


On the surface, it would seem that "Swing" has taken over for Lounge in current popular culture. Dig a little deeper and you'll find it's often all a big mixed stew of various forms of retro. Most of the Swing being performed today is really some sort of late ‘40s R&B or Jump, having little to do with Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw,  and Lounge can be anything from the 1950s to 1975, as long as there's something in a martini glass nearby and there's a fez on top. Little of it is great and the only improvement over the original recordings is the audio quality. Happily, it's still fun and the musicians, on the whole, do it out of love for the music. The saturation point is coming soon, however. Seeing Rufus Wainwright mumble his way through What Are You Doing New Years Eve on a televison commercial as a classic vocalist, rather than in his own style of folk-pop, is pretty horrifying. Open your mouth when you sing, son!

The L.A.-based group Dead Ringer seems to be riding the martini-Swing-Lounge wave and they're successful at it to a point. Where they really succeed is in making great music. Ignoring the quasi-retro cover art and Swing fever press release, you'll find a solid set of just plain great classic pop music, mostly thanks to vocalist Kathleen Frasca. She possesses a beautiful peppy voice that's somewhat husky. Her singing is stylized but it suits her voice and the melodies perfectly (unlike the aforementioned Mr. Wainwright who should stick to his own compositions to insure hitting all the notes.) We think she could sing just about anything but we're happy she's chosen a fine set of standards and novelty numbers like Give Me the Simple Life, Girl Talk and Thou Swell.

The piano-less back-up trio (guitar, drums, bass) is fine and when they go for a laid-back cocktail mood, everything works. Some of the upbeat numbers could use more interesting arrangements, particularly concerning the rhythm. The only real dud on the album is Why Don't You Do Right which is taken at an oddly peppy pace that adds nothing and just reminds you how well Peggy Lee and Lil Green did with the number.

Despite a few reservations, we think Atomic Cocktail is a swell disc and you'd be wise to follow the career of Kathleen Frasca. There's gold in them thar' hills!


Various Artists
Beat at Cinecittà
Crippled Wax Records 003 Lounge/Soundtrack

We learned the beautiful Italian language from Pop records and fotoromanze, the photo-story magazines laid out like comic strips, complete with dialogue bubbles.  We wish we had these cheesy movies to heighten the experience.

Beat at Cinecittá is a collection of musical tracks from 1960s and ‘70s Italian "erotica" that is this year's album to beat. The sounds go from rock to go-go to jazz and back, all with that wonderful Euro-cheese feeling that provides sensitive Yanks with the unsettling feeling that things really are different in Europe.

The films had titles like The Search of Pleasure, Insatiable Women, One on the Other and More Can Be Done with Seven Women. Most of the music is silly, but it's also clever, deviant and sometimes sexy. You'd need to take yourself very seriously or have a great sense of humor to actually use Beat at Cinecittà as make out music, but it's perfect for most everything else, from housecleaning to driving.

If you've been tempted to dip your toes in the post-lounge waters, this would be a great place to start. It's rare to find a collection so stupid, clever and enjoyable all at the same time.

(Review from Fall 1997)

Ferrante and Teicher
Blast Off!
Varèse Sarabande VSD-5791 Easy Listening/Lounge

Musical evolution is not limited to Rock. The evolution from Elvis to Iron Butterfly to James Taylor to punk to Green Day is well documented. Ferrante and Teicher, known to most of us through our grandparent's record collections, did their share of edgeless "beautiful music" on their dueling Steinway pianos, but they also took Easy Listening to new places that are as trippy and innovative as anything their counterparts in rock were doing.

Blast Off! is beyond weird, completely wonderful and still under the banner of Easy Listening. Their pianos were loaded with rubber wedges, paper, wood and various other accessories to simulate other instruments that result in a mixed acoustic and electronic sound, but the only electronic trick is a recording technique that extended the piano's range four octaves. It sounds both familiar and new at the same time. The best way to enjoy Blast Off! is with a pair of good headphones in the dark, giving the stereo separation and kooky effects your full attention.

We like the way they milk every nuance out of standards like Ain't Misbehavin', I Got Rhythm and Bye Bye Blues, but we really think their original numbers In the Rain and Busman's Holiday are top notch.

This is a really odd slice of musical history that isn't for everybody but we're nuts for it. We just don't know quite what to think.

(Review from Fall 1997)

Montefiori Cocktail
Raccolta No.1
Irma America 42847822 Pop

montefiori cocktail

The Italians miss the boat on so many aspects of popular culture but when they get it right, they hit the nail right on the head. Raccolta No. 1 is hopefully the first of many releases by Montefiori Cocktail, two Italian brothers who take the feeling of Lounge and update it, but not so much that it sounds mechanical or sterile.

We'd been working on a particularly heinous project, unrelated to MrLucky, that involved long days and nights on the computer, and we really don't know if we could have survived without this CD reminding us not to take our music or ourselves too seriously.

The album opens with Lazy Busy, which is a laid-back Boogaloo shuffle that's as infectious as The In-Crowd or Tequila.  Other highlights include a techno/Earl Bostic-style version of Ravel's Bolero, Tekila Bum Bum (inspired by Tequila) and So, What's New, a gentle bossa nova straight out of the shopping mall.

Occasionally the beats drift to more contemporary dance music and we have to wonder how much different things would have sounded with a real drummer rather than a computer. The sax and flute are quite real, however, and this makes Raccolta No.1 the perfect bridge between Lounge and "modern" music.

It's awfully nice to see the kids having such a good time!

(Review from Fall 1997)

Fatal Mambo
Fatal Mambo
Tinder Records 42848562 Salsa

If the Manhattan Transfer decided to play salsa and Latin American music in French, it would probably sound something like Fatal Mambo. The band is competent but there's not a lot of fire. It's always slick and very much under control but there's obviously a love of the music and a strong dose of humor which is completely lacking in contemporary Latin music.

The real danger is with the vocals on the call response part of the salsa numbers. If Celia Cruz is the queen of this improvisational vocalese, Fatal Mambo are the court jesters. It's just not an easy thing to do and Fatal Mambo either decide to camp it up (as in Lache-La) or fall flat on their faces (as in Malediccion).
(Review from Winter 97)



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