Between the Sheets
House of Hits 66748-77003-2 Soul / Pop
have a very good friend whose appreciation of popular culture rivals
our own. All we have to do is say, "You know, they're good
." And he'll immediately respond, "
they're gonna make it." We usually bust out laughing. This
little dialogue comes from If You're Not Back in Love By Monday,
the closing tune from Millie Jackson's historic recording, Feelin'
is no way Millie Jackson was unaware of how much campy fun she was.
From her sagely advice for the young kids to a rather strong threat
to her lover ("If you stop now, I'll kill 'ya!"), Millie
Jackson was what made the 1970s bearable. Unless you were there,
it's hard to imagine how completely wild and original an LP called
Feelin' Bitchy really was. In 1977, it was a refreshing alternative
to the Lynard Skinner, Jackson Brown and Grateful Dead songs that
were almost religious anthems to our fellow classmates. Earlier
in the '70s, as a long-haired leftwing hippie love-child, we loved
and understood the absurdity of our connection to Millie's plea
for tolerance, A Child of God (It's Hard to Believe). Our
favorite lyric was always: "I know a woman / Who steals
from her mother / And that same woman / She gets drunk from one
day to another / She kicks her kids out in the streets / Puts another
man under their father's sheets / And I find it hard / Oaoaoaow!
I find it hard to believe she's a child of God!" Right
a singer, Millie was fine. She sounded a lot like Gladys Knight's
nastier little sister who would do most anything for attention.
Once she realized what boys like, there was no stopping her. This
new collection of Millie's hits, Between the Sheets, downplays
the "royal rappin'" that Millie was famous for, presumably
to validate her as a classic R&B singer. Unfortunately, most
of her material was mediocre and it was the combination of sexual
innuendo, soul music and her chats that made her such a gas. The
raps are cut from some of the songs (as in If You're Not Back
in Love by Monday) and that's a shame. But her best and most
famous opus, All The Way Lover is here in all its glory.
Millie pleads with the women and the men to be all the way lovers,
touching on men's vanity ("He cutah than you!"), homosexuality
("I don't blame some of these men!") and personal hygeine
("He can't run his fingers through your hair
as it is!"). There should have been even more heart to hearts
with Millie to make this an essential collection. Still, there's
a lot to enjoy on Between the Sheets and we hope it re-ignites
an interest in Millie Jackson.
Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer
World Circuit / Nonesuch 79532-2 Cuba / Latin
would have thought the world would have gone so nuts for these wonderful
old-time Cuban musicians? We wonder why but in the end, who really
cares? What surprises us even more than the popularity of these
Buena Vista recordings is not that traditional Cuban music
started to catch on but that the country-flavored guaira
style beat out the much hotter Afro-Cuban dance tunes.
Ferrer is a great Cuban vocalists but the hype that he's the Cuban
Nat "King" Cole is bound to disappoint. Also disappointing
would be be to expect the same level of quality that the other Buena
Vista recordings have enjoyed. This is a production problem
rather than Señor Ferrer's. There's a general sloppiness
to the recording that we enjoy on some level, but given that Ferrer
has such a limited chance to record, it's a shame. The horns are
often out of tune and sloppy and Ry Cooder's continually lame (but
thankfully brief) guitar solos mar the event.
songs are what could be called the Great Cuban Songbook. From Arsenio
Rodriguez to Beny Moré, it's all here. And it's all been
done better before but it's more important that a great singer like
Ferrer be given a chance to be heard.
sum up, we like it but it should have been much better.
Sings the Heart & Soul of Hoagy Carmichael
Sings the Ellington Hot & Cool
RPM / Columbia Records CK 63668 Vocals
the modern consumer really is pretty stupid, ("Honey! Look!
Gershwin tribute. Equals good. Buy. Yes!"), but we really don't
understand the thinking behind most "tribute" albums.
Occasionally, these concepts work (like Carol Sloane's Ellington
tribute, the various Wynton Marsalis tributes, Streisand's first
Broadway album), but in general, these tributes seem arbitrary and
unnecessarily restricting. Perhaps Barry Manilow trying to recreate
Frank Sinatra's finest and most memorable moments is an effort to
erase any doubts that Manilow is his generation's Sinatra. We weren't
exactly on the fence about that one but we do admire Manilow's nerve.
seems that turning 100, whether dead or alive, is the best reason
of all to have a tribute album made in your honor. Lucky you, if
you're Noel Coward and get to have Twiggy sing your melodies! Duke
Ellington has been harassed, er, honored by almost everyone. Even
more disappointing than the performances are the incredibly boring
and obvious song selections.
were looking somewhat forward to Crystal Gayle's Hoagy Carmichael
tribute. Because the general public and record executives who decide
these things don't really have an idea of how important Carmichael
was, he hasn't been given the royal treatment. The problem with
honoring someone like Hoagy is that he himself was the total package.
He didn't have the chops but he had the personality and it more
than made up for his vocal limitations. There's very little one
could do to better him or even pay tribute. And even though he wrote
several great songs (Skylark, Stardust and Lazy River
among them), he didn't produce a huge body of great work like a
Harold Arlen or Cole Porter.
has a pleasant enough voice (she was a knockout on the soundtrack
to Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart) but she sounds
as if she's reading the songs from sheet music. She has a peculiar
way of chopping off the notes that is incredibly unpleasant and
we suspect it's because she doesn't know many of these songs well--
One Morning in May and Two Sleepy People in particular.
Even if she did connect on some level, she'd be fighting the pedestrian
arrangements that accompany each and every song. Gayle seems like
a very nice woman and we really wanted to like this. We don't.
the MTV Generation's endorsement, we haven't been much interested
in Tony Bennett since his The Art of Excellence CD many years
ago, long before the kids declared him "da' bomb." He,
like Rosemary Clooney, often just opens his mouth and expects his
same old singing to amaze and inspire when in fact it bores. Too
many perfectly capable albums with the perfectly capable Ralph Sharon
Trio made us stop buying Tony awhile back. It's all pleasant but
how many of these discs do you need?
given our dislike of tribute albums and our low expectations of
contemporary Tony Bennett, who would have thought this album would
give so much pleasure? Tony's voice is in great shape, the arrangements
are really swell, the recording is pristine without sounding sterile
and there's none of Tony's "artwork" adorning the CD jacket.
Who could ask for anything more?
be fair, this disc isn't perfect. There's a really brief riff of
A-Train that runs throughout the disc and is like a gnat
you want to swat. It's too short to mean anything and it's too long
to ignore. It fades in and out and adds nothing at all. The song
selection isn't exactly inspired but the arrangements are. Peppy
numbers run at ballad tempo and ballads, like Day Dream in
particular, are given the business.
almost as if Tony proved his point these last few years by claiming
his spot on top of the heap. Now he's there, there's no one in sight
to knock him off and it's time he had some fun. He does a few things
that are so fresh and over the top, longtime fans will be confused.
Hopefully they'll keep an open mind and this will be the first of
many fresh new takes on traditional pop from Tony Bennett