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Ruth Brown
Here's That Rainy Day
DCC Classics GRZ027 Vocals / Blues

How on earth does a record like this slip by without a parade or a national holiday to celebrate its release?

Ruth Brown is known mostly as a very fine R&B singer and this is unfair to her talents. Throughout her career she's been showing off her diversity but her listening public seems to want to peg her as a Blues gal.

Here's That Rainy Day features Brown in a very sophisticated set of 12 numbers with Barbra Streisand's best arranger, Peter Matz. Like Streisand's better early work, there's a swinging urgency mixed with an urban sophistication that is hard to resist. Brown more than holds her own. Her reading of I Know Why (And So Do You) is both sweet and romantic. Her Porgy is one of the best. We're not sure what to make of her slowed-down Good Ship Lollipop except that this type of arrangement worked better for Streisand with Happy Days Are Here Again. Hands down, our favorite number is the swinging He's a Real Gone Guy that owes more to Streisand's Lover, Come Back to Me than composer Nellie Lutcher's version.

Originally released as Ruth Brown '65 on Mainstream Records, this is the album's second incarnation as a CD. The first time out it was called Help a Good Girl Go Bad, retaining the original track order. This new release changes the title yet again and inexplicably changes the order of the songs. Why mess with near perfection? What really needed work was the second generation sound quality. It's not horrible but a recording this important deserves better.

Susana Baca
Eco de Sombras (Echo of Shadows)
Luaka Bop 72438-48912-2-0 Latin / Peru / Afro-Peru

Susana Baca is one of the rare artists whose music sounds sweet and soothing as background music in an aromatherapy store, yet she's completely compelling as the sole object of your attention. She really deserves a fire, a good drink and speakers at full volume. We would rank Cesaria Evora in the same league, but Evora's melodies are often very similar and you really don't need to collect a lot of her work. Baca, on the other hand, confidently dabbles in a more Afro sound here and a more folk sound there. Her best work mixes the two. Her folk numbers never veer too far away from her African roots and the more Afro numbers bear an undeniable European stamp.

Eco de Sombras was recorded in New York with Baca's core musicians and some local New York guests. But this is Baca's show, not an All-Star mess. The sound quality is excellent and the English translations of the lyrics are handy. A few of the melodies are a little sing-songy but on the whole, this disc is a real keeper.

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