It Must Be Him / The Way of Today
EMI (UK) 724385454424 Pop Vocals
weather in San Francisco has been unusually wet this winter. Under
normal circumstances, our first tan of the season would have taken
place by April Fools Day. This year, we got rain, fog, a peek at
the sun and then more rain. Between showers, we did have a glorious
day, the kind we take for granted in normal years. Readers, we were
downright giddy. To celebrate, we hopped in the convertible with
the dog and headed north to the beautiful Napa Valley, taking long
meandering side roads, all the while we had Vikki Carr's new CD
re-issue blaring full blast. It was a complete gas, especially when
we sang along: Hello? Hello? / Oh dear God! / It must be him!
/ but it's not him / And then I die
we arrived at our friend's house in Napa, and told her of the merriment
of our journey, she advised that that very evening PBS would be
broadcasting a Vikki Carr special! This really was going to be a
perfect day. Unfortunately, the television special was a major snooze,
even with Vikki looking particularly well, if not a bit zaftig.
The theme was not classic Vikki Carr music but pop songs of Mexican
orgin. Don't get us wrong. You know we love Mexican music, but this
was so tepid and Kathie-Lee-Gifford-on-a-Carnival-cruise that our
heart sank. Our friend at one point turned to us and said, "You
know, this is the kind of music I hate the most."
couldn't bear to watch the rest of the show, especially when the
disco version of Perfida was performed. How we longed for
the days when we'd be home after school watching the Merv Griffin
Show and we'd scream to our mother in the kitchen, "Hey
Mom! That lady who can cry is about to come on!" In case you
don't remember or weren't there, along with a strong voice, Vikki
Carr was blessed with the ability to cry on cue and would often
enliven her performances with real tears. It was magic.
TV specials may fail us, we still have this great CD of two early
albums. The first 12 tracks are from the album It Must Be Him,
and along with this seminal title track, there's also plenty more
classic 1960s pop, ballads and somewhat Bossa Nova-inspired joy.
It's not hip, it's definitely camp and almost all the songs are
rest of the CD is from her Lp The Way of Today!, and while
it's good, it's not as much fun as the title would suggest. There
are a few nuggets, like Can I Trust You?, I Will Wait for You
and I Hear a Rhapsody, but we found ourselves reaching for
the forward button with her ballad versions of Nowhere Man
and My World is Empty Without You.
not a CD you'll want to hear every day. Ms Carr seems to have two
modes: on and even more on. She's a big tasteful belter. She's also
a lot of fun and when the mood hits, what could be better?
Se Solto "On the Loose"
Allegre SLPA8500 Latin
aficionados of Latin music have a strong disdain for the Boogaloo
movement of the late 1960s. As we've mentioned before, we just can't
stop dancing. One of the most popular figures during the era was
Ricardo Ray. Most of his dance recordings featured typical Boogaloo
numbers, usually with more clever than average ideas, and perhaps
a slightly sloppier execution. Almost all of his albums show hints
that Ray had a lot more on the ball than just Boogaloo. We keep
buying Ricardo Ray discs as they are re-issued because there's always
a surprise or two. Se Solto "On the Loose" shows
off Ray's extremes more than most. In addition to his silly but
infectious Boogaloo and Shing-a-Ling sound, there's straight-ahead
Salsa and unrelated jazz.
album starts out weakly with Danzon Boogaloo which is a valiant
attempt to merge the two genres but ends up sounding like a poor
Tijuana Brass track until he forgets the Danzon and does straight
Boogaloo. For dancing, it's hard to beat El Señor Embajador
and the Mambo-influenced Echando Candela. For camp, Lookie,
Lookie takes the cookie (Lookie, lookie, how I do the Boogaloo!)
Then, as if you're listening to a completely different disc, there's
a sweet George Shearing-style jazz number that has nothing to do
with Guaguanco, called Guaguanco in Jazz, and a better than
pleasant bop piece, Swedish Schnapps.
listeners who like things eclectic, this album is incredibly satisfying.
We wish more artists could mix the silly with the sublime as Ray
Verve 3145595382 Jazz
haven't listened to much of Abbey Lincoln's work for years. We've
found her voice rather metallic and her manner slightly pretentious,
but we've always respected her as a serious uncompromising artiste.
Her new album, Wholly Earth, is so pleasant that we wonder
what we might have missed over the recent years.
voice has mellowed considerably. It's a bit worn and tired, but
with the right songs and lyrics, it's much more affective than ever,
and always in control.
new album has a nice mellow acoustic Afro-Influ sound. Most of the
songs were written by Lincoln and while they have interesting lyrics,
the melodies can be very sing-songy and virtually all the tracks
go on for three or four minutes too long. It's not unbearable, by
any means, but with stronger melodies and tighter arrangements,
the album would have been better. Along with Lincoln's vocals, the
album works thanks to quirky arrangements, interesting instrumentation
like the marimba, and a general level of taste not found in most
opening track, And It's Supposed to Be Love, would be a hit
if it were sung by some young poet-Lolita like Jewel or Tori Amos.
It's the most accessible thing on the disc and its pop sensibility
would fit right at home with the new troubadours. Along with her
original pieces, Lincoln does Midnight Sun quite well. She
also tackles If I Only Had a Brain, but it really suffers
from lasting too long. Most of the songs have thoughtful, somewhat
spiritual lyrics that are a bit new-agey, but never too sweet or
not a rave, we can say spending an hour or so with Abbey Lincoln
on this new disc is a very pleasant thing to do.
Six Degrees 6570361010-2 Brazil/Pop
Nova and Samba revivals have been brewing for years. The "real
thing" has been with us all along but a lot of DJs have taken
the basic Brazilian beats and added them to various dance tracks.
Compilations like Bossa Brava and Mambo Inn have succeeded
to various degrees and the Japanese group United Future Organization
has been toying with the Brazilian sound all along. What's common
among all these non-Brazilian musicians is that they take the beat
and accentuate it, often making it a bit edgier.
comes the first reconstruction from Brazil. They've taken some classic
and obscure original tracks and rather than beef up the Brazilian
beat, they get rid of it altogether and add various hip-hop drum
machine beats. Expecting flashes of brilliance, we have to admit
we were very disappointed at first. The whole spirit of Bossa Nova
is the gentle stripped-down Samba beat. That spirit is gone. Instead
the result is not great but it's interesting and sometimes fun.
Some songs work better than others. Os Cariocas' version of Berimbau
is a hoot, as is Chris Delanno's Se Todos Fossem (Someone
to Light Up My Life.) Others are just plain mediocre.
you're looking for gentle music to sway like the palms or intense
drumming to practice for Carnival, forget it. If you're after pleasant
Pop music with better-then-average melodies, and you can put aside
all notions of what Brazilian music is, you'll probably enjoy this
We Dig Ethel Merman
often have tried to remember the first time we encountered Ethel
Merman, but it seems as if she's always been there. Whether it was
on That Girl or as Lola Lasagne on Batman, we have
to admit that the Merm has always held a strange fascination for
us. At first, the appeal was strictly camp. When she would guest
star on TV variety shows in the 1970s, she seemd so out of place
next to the mellow James Taylors or the soulful Arethas of the time.
huge warbling voice, the grand this-is-me-take-it-or-leave-it attitude
and her larger-than-life presence were like no one else. There wasn't
a lot of subtlety in her voice. It was a direct hit, in the same
manner as Billy Eckstine or Celia Cruz. It was also eager to please,
and this is probably the defining difference between pre- and post-1970s
music. Once youth culture had thouroughly taken over, it wasn't
particularly cool to act as if you were there to please the crowd.
But as we've learned from after-school TV specials, the coolest
thing of all is to be yourself. On these terms, Ethel was the coolest.
voice was always big, but in her earliest recordings, it's easy
to see why Cole Porter declared her his singer of choice. The warble
isn't there but the volume and swing are. By the end of her career,
the warble was as much a part of her personality as the volume.
can't get beyond the vibrato and big personality, but our suggestion
is that you purchase a good compilation, like There's No Business
Like Show Business (Razor & Tie RE2144-2) or the original
cast album to Gypsy (Columbia CK 32607), and just enjoy the
power. At worst, with the compilation, you'll have a funny new camp
record to add to your collection. With Gypsy, you'll own
a piece of American Musical history. At best, just maybe, you'll
"get" the Ethel Merman experience.
admit that on some of the slower ballads, things aren't always the
roller coaster ride of Everything's Coming Up Roses or I
Got Rhythm, but once in a while, she nails it, like on Small
World from Gypsy. There's an odd collection, Mighty
Merman (Pearls 3036100032), that features Ethel singing Ukelele
Lady in an entirely sweet voice that she rarely used and it's
nothing short of charming. This is especially odd considering the
us, the ultimate appeal of Ethel Merman is the idea of a short little
powerhouse of a woman standing on a stage, belting 'em out as she
sees fit, with no bull and no frills, and no concern for contemporary
trends. She'd make exactly the same statement with elaborate scenery,
full orchestra and a cast of thousands as she would with just a
piano on a bare stage. Since she seems to be almost totally unaware
that the humor in her presentation might take her on some level
to the realm of kitcsh. After you've been listening to the Merm
for awhile, you get the feeling that not "getting" her
is your problem, not hers.