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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Peggy King
Oh, What a Memory We Made…Tonight
Jazz Classics CD-JZCL-6011 Pop

Various Artists
Four Gals Sing the Hits
Collectors' Choice Music A 28901 CCM-057-2 Pop

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There's nothing quite as nice as discovering a new artist that just sends you. No need to tell us about Frank, Ella, Peggy or Mel. We're up to date! What's really a gas is finding talented but neglected discs by people who are less than household names.

We recently purchased the CD Four Gals Sing the Hits on Collectors' Choice Music.  With 20 tracks by either Toni Arden, Peggy King, Jill Corey or Mindy Carson, we thought there was some potential. We'd never heard of any of them and judging from their photos on the cover, we thought we were in for some good camp, at the least. It turns out the disc goes from mediocre to bad, with the exception of Peggy King. The material is pretty corny but there was just a little something in her voice that made us curious to learn more. We mentioned this to Michael at All Music Services (who seems to receive almost all of our disposable income) and he immediately recommended Oh, What a Memory We Made…Tonight, a compilation of her two early 1980s LPs of mostly standards.

When we got the CD, we weren't expecting much. The music on Four Gals Sing the Hits only showed potential, and the cover of this new CD featured King with hip "new wave" hair and makeup. All this, plus the ‘80s recording dates didn't guarantee a good album. Well, we were wrong. The CD is great and has become one of our favorites of the last year. The arrangements are mostly classic "female vocalist" accompaniment without sounding stale. The recording is clean and, best of all, Peggy King is nothing short of great.

Her voice is somewhere between Jeri Southern's and Judy Garland's, but we prefer King's to either of the other ladies.  She immediately creates a sense of intimacy like Southern. When Jeri Southern sings, you can almost hear the sound of her pouring her next drink as she sings alone in a dark studio. There's no such sense of self-pity with Peggy King. She may be hopeful and wistful but the gal has cajones. Like Garland, King can be a belter and there's that little catch in her voice that makes strong men melt. The similarities end there as King has none of Garland's theatrics, and for us, this is a fine thing.

The first half of What a Memory We Made…Tonight is a clever selection of the Great American Songbook that avoids overdone standards.  The second half is a tribute to the great Jerome Kern. There are so many excellent numbers that picking highlights would be difficult. It's amazing that she can sing a song like Look for the Silver Lining in a contemporary setting without sounding like a member of Up With People, but that's part of her magic.

If you have even a vague interest in classic pop, we suggest you get your hands on this disc.

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Jump With Joey
Swingin' Ska Goes South of the Border
Will Records (WIL 33662) Pop

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Just the other day we were preparing CDs to take on a short but boring car trip. We looked over all our titles and decided we had nothing. We were depressed. We hated all our music and there was nothing much we wanted. Just as we were about to switch our obsession from music to beanie babies, our postman brought us the latest from Jump With Joey. After one turn in the CD play we think this group should now be called Jump With Joy.

Adding Ska to Latin American rhythms might sound a bit odd and in less-talented hands, it would be. Somehow, Jump With Joey creates a new hybrid sound with total respect for all genres involved while not taking anything too seriously. Some of the tracks are straight-ahead Ska, some remain strictly on the clave beat and the rest mix things up in a great new way. There's a definite "group-of-friends-jammimg-in-the-backyard" quality to the CD, but this isn't a bad thing. Summer is on the way and this CD seems the perfect invitation to start the barbecue.

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Slim and Slam
Complete Recordings 1938-1942
Affinity CD AFS 1034-3 JAZZ

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You might not have any idea how much Slim Gaillard has influenced the way we Americans speak but his hepcat nonsense laid the foundation for cool cats for years to come. By simply adding "a-roonie" to the end of a word, Gaillard's fun and nonsense makes perfect sense. The language he called "Vout" was peppered with Spanish, Italian, phonetic Chinese and even some English. The sound bounced off of Leroy "Slam" Stewart's bass and the rest is jive history.

Over the years we've always grabbed any vinyl Slim and Slam compilation we could lay our hands on and despite the bad condition of these second and third generation recordings we never stopped being amazed at how well these guys could swing, laugh and make great music. Most of the CDs we've seen have been expensive imports (which makes us question why other cultures appreciate our history and culture better than we do) and now we have a moderately priced high quality 3-CD set of the complete recordings from 1938 to 1942.

Normally we understand issuing "complete" works but secretly go wacky hearing three or four takes of the same song. There are exceptions but once the novelty wears off of hearing the road taken to reach the final cut, it can be irritating. There are only a few examples of overkill here. This time it really is valid to hear the creative process, most notably on Bassology.

Moderns may indeed be offended by songs celebrating the arrival of a welfare check to play the numbers and the really base sing-song Chinese on Chinatown, My Chinatown but hopefully we can put it in the context of the times.

Hearing this music is like hearing Fats Waller before you got so sick of Ain't Misbehavin' by every two bit cabaret singer. It would be hard to fake this good humor and our hunch is that the fellows really were having a fine time. Like Fats Waller, the music swings because of the bass, not the drums. The misunderstood Latin and African rhythms make a new sound altogether. Does it sound like we're gushing? We are.

While we hope more people take the opportunity to rediscover this great music, let's just hope that we don't get some dire cabaret tribute along the lines of Ain't Misbehavin for Fats Waller or Five Guys Named Moe for Louis Jordan. A well-intentioned musical revue is unnecessary to appreciate Slim and Slam when we have these wonderful recordings.

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Barbra Streisand
Back to Broadway
Columbia (CK 44189) Pop

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Editor´s Note: We noticed that most of the reviews in this edition of MrLucky were much too happy and peppy so we dug through our archives from the defunct print version and found this rather nasty piece. To put things in context, this was printed during the Second Coming of Babs, when she was riding high with her massive tour, friendship with President Clinton and otherwise critical reviewers, who´d ignored her during her best years, were going ga-ga over this new release.

We have to confess that growing up, we'd been a huge fan of Babs.  It was a cruel cold day not too long ago when it dawned on us that she's made very few worthwhile recordings in the last 20 years and that her success with songs like Evergreen and My Heart Belongs to Me is inexplicable.  There were many nice moments on 1985's The Broadway Album and the first thought was that perhaps she was back on the right track.  Back to Broadway confirms that we were dead wrong.  Streisand has become utterly humorless and not the least bit clever.  As an example of her wit, her back is turned to the camera and the album is called Back to Broadway.  Ho Ho, but my, she is funny!  What's with this fake smirk on the cover photo?  Worse than all the exciting visual treats is the fact that she no longer has a pleasant voice.  Even those that have always hated her have to admit "that gal can sing."  The joke's on us. Although it is indeed a very loud voice, it's often very ugly.

The opener is a fine case in point.  Some Enchanted Evening is a perfectly fine song that she admits in the liner notes she's never really liked.  In the past she's made a name for changing lyrics.  This time out she changes the melody.  In the second half of the song she wails like a poor man's Aretha.  The wailing has nothing to do with Oscar Hammersteins's lyrics and it's years away from Richard Rodgers' melody.  Is it musical, interesting or good?  No.

The rest of the album rides the same wave.  Speak Low is hailed by Streisand as a new twist on an old favorite, but Cal Tjader and Carmen McCrae updated and Latin-ized this chestnut years ago, and with more style.  The duets with both  Michael Crawford and Johnny Mathis are unlistenable.  She screeches like a banshee while the fellows do their best to sound sincere.  The liner notes describe Streisand's crush on Mathis when she saw him on The Ed Sullivan Show when she was just 13, trying to appear as if she's from a completely different generation.  Nice try, Babs!  The Man I Love  starts out well enough until she decides to "correct" the Gershwin melody.  The songs from Sunset Boulevard are innocuous and forgettable. If you think her synthesized version of Luck Be a Lady Tonight is good, you are probably reading the wrong publication.

You might be wondering why we sound a bit bitter. Why are we wasting so much breath on such a bad album? We can only guess that we find Streisand, and the public's current acceptance of her, very frustrating. She once produced over-dramatic but sound records. Now, she insists on singing unworthy material out of her voice's range.

The one nice moment on the album is Frank Loesser's I've Never Been in Love Before.  It's the only song where she doesn't push her voice past its limits and she shows a nice respect for the composer.  Perhaps the reason this album is such a letdown is the knowledge that she could probably pull it off if she wanted to, but it doesn't look likely any time soon. If the current definition of "diva" includes Gloria Estafan and Mariah Carey, it's no wonder this album is so popular.

December 1993
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