Oh, What a Memory We Made…Tonight
Jazz Classics CD-JZCL-6011 Pop
Four Gals Sing the Hits
Collectors' Choice Music A 28901 CCM-057-2 Pop
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.
Jump With Joey
Swingin' Ska Goes South of the Border
Will Records (WIL 33662) Pop
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.
Slim and Slam
Complete Recordings 1938-1942
Affinity CD AFS 1034-3 JAZZ
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.
Back to Broadway
Columbia (CK 44189) Pop
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.