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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Doris Day
Golden Girl
Columbia / Legacy C2K 65505 Vocals

If you are of a certain age, your exposure to Doris Day might very well be limited to her films, most notably co-starring with Rock Hudson. You may have only heard her sing some pretty trite ditties like Que Sera Sera and Move Over Darling. You're not to be blamed; it's your generation. If your perspective is a bit wider, you'd know that Day was a very popular Big Band singer and later, a successful solo artist. She made many movies before she teamed up with Rock Hudson and in certain circles, there is no finer singer anywhere. We're out of these circles but we think Doris has a very pretty voice and when she's teamed with a great song and tasteful arranger, she can be great.

Unfortunately, this new compilation, Golden Girl, is not going to be your introduction to the great Doris Day. We're very confused who the market is for this kind of compilation. As the sticker on the CD proclaims: "Includes All the Hits!" Well, the hits are among Doris weakest material and they've been available on Columbia's 16 Most Requested Songs for years, and on the Encore companion disc. Someone who was after the "hits" could care less about the five previously unreleased (in the U.S) tracks. A Doris fanatic, who simply must have her rendition of Tacos, Enchiladas and Beans, would already have it on the German-label Bear Family's Doris box set. The album's sticker also proclaims: "With Rare/Unseen Photos and In-Depth Notes!" Well, there are two photos inside the booklet and neither is going to get anyone too excited. The notes are standard.

What's really off is that the really good Doris Day material isn't even on this disc. She recorded many long-playing albums of standards with tasteful arrangements, such as Day By Day, Day By Night, Day in Hollywood and Cuttin' Capers. This compilation almost ignores these albums and instead features less than stellar attempts at 1960s pop drivel.

Sony Records (owners of the Columbia catalogue) has been very remiss in not seriously issuing vintage Doris Day (or dozens of other entertainers, for that matter.) Luckily, Sony U.K. has many complete albums available on CD and for the hardcore Doris-freak, there are the Bear Family box sets. Shame on you Sony!

Chris Montez
A&M Digitally
Remastered Best
A&M (Japan) POCM-1572 Pop

Do you remember the paper sleeves that housed your records inside their covers? These sleeves were often filled with instructions on how to care for your LPs or explained the miracle of high fidelity sound. The best ones featured tiny little pictures of other discs available on the same label. Sometimes you'd see the same photos for years on the same label. Well, whether you were enjoying Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights, the Sandpiper's relaxing version of Guantanemera or even Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, you were sure to spot several covers of Chris Montez. His happy mug on the LP The More I See you was featured well into the 1970s. Having never heard him as a kid, we just assumed he was a classic pop crooner. Oops!

Our friend Sean, who runs Medium Rare Records in San Francisco, was playing this new Japanese compilation of Montez' A&M recordings from 1966 to 1968 very loudly, and we just knew this was going to be our "summer favorite". The arrangements are mostly classic 1960s-pop with the piano prominent and occasionally popping a boogaloo or bossa nova riff. The drums are leaden but enthusiastic. The backup singers surely inspired the Partridge Family. But the real treat is The Voice. Montez sounds like a pubescent girl imitating Brazil's Astrid Gilberto. When he's focused, he sounds surprisingly musical, if not a bit surreal. When he's day dreaming or singing material beyond his reach, he sounds as if he could possibly be Mrs. Miller's son.

There's just so much to take in when embarking on the Chris Montez experience. The first thing is to get over the absolute cheek of recording classics form the Great American Songbook like The More I See You, There Will Never Be Another You, Time After Time, I Didn't Know What Time It Was and Fly Me To the Moon. The peppy pop arrangements are one thing, but Montez' sweet and slightly stonato voice are just icing on the cake. What's even weirder is when you start tapping your toes in sympathetic rhythm. You will doubt and perhaps even laugh, but this is bar none the best version of Sunny available. It starts out rather tepid but builds to a swinging crescendo thanks to the driving piano and R&B-inspired horns.

For the sick and twisted, the best tracks are Foolin' Around and Girl Talk. Foolin' Around would be the perfect soundtrack to a montage sequence about teens in love from a 1960s film ("We won't do anything that shouldn't be done / Only the groovy things like having fun…"). Montez' voice is so weak and unfocused on Girl Talk that you may just want to scream (if you're not laughing.) When he reads the line: "But though we [men] joke we wouldn't trade you for a ton of gold", we fellows might just ask out loud, "What do you mean 'we'?"

We can't imagine anything better for summer fun than this disc.

Original Broadway Cast
Gypsy
Sony Classical / Columbia Legacy SK 60848 Broadway

Just in case you didn't know, the best show ever produced was not Rent, with its anemic rock and bland ballads, but Gypsy. Star Ethel Merman, composer Jule Styne, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and playwright Arthur Laurents were four huge meteors who collided at exactly the right time. Ethel Merman needed an edgy "important" vehicle to make her part of the new Broadway and still capitalize on her strengths, and Gypsy was just the thing to do it for her. The melodies are the catchiest ever and after years of listening to the songs, Sondheim's lyrics still sound fresh and clever.

This new release cleans up the bad sound available on CD previously, and adds four interesting bonus tracks. The author of the liner notes takes a rather nasty anti-Merman stance. He obviously sees this as Sondheim's shining hour. Sondheim, who referred to Merman as "the singing dog", should get down on his knees in thanks that Merman delivered such a performance. Ironically, one of the bonus tracks is Merman singing Little Lamb with just a piano. Little Lamb is sung by Sandra Church, as Gypsy, in the show and it's the biggest yawn of all. Sung by Merman, it sounds like a Sondheim song and it's great.

Bad liner notes aside, if you buy one cast recording in your life, it should be Gypsy.

Maria Muldaur
Meet Me Where They Play the Blues
Telarc CD-83460 Vocals / Blues

 

Before reading the liner notes, we listened to this disc and thought, This could be a Charles Brown album! So it's not surprising that the original concept for Meet Me Where They Play the Blues was to be a collaboration with Maria Muldaur and Charles Brown. Brown did get to record one song with Muldaur before passing away, Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You, but he's not in great voice and the song makes an odd duet. It's a shame the original plan didn't work out.

There's still much to recommend. We like Maria Muldaur's voice and jazzy blues is probably a smart direction for her to take. In the 1970s, she had several great albums and one hit, Meet Me at the Oasis. A rootsy and vintage approach to music (Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Captain Beefheart) was in vogue for awhile but the incessant bland beat of disco won out.

Muldaur is in no sense a traditional blues singer. She's bluesy, jazzy and even folkie, but she's not the blues. She has a distinct and beautiful voice but she can be affected and cloying. The phrase "Shut up and sing" entered our thoughts more than once. It's really on the track All to Myself Alone that Muldaur sounds 100 percent confident and herself and it's really more a well-crafted pop song than the blues. It's too bad that singers of Muldaur's caliber aren't being offered great new pop songs to sing.

The album is beautifully recorded and if you can get past Muldaur's affectations (we did after two or three listenings), Meet Me Where They Play the Blues is very good indeed.

 


 



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