Clap Hands! Here Comes Rosie!
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney
Fancy Meeting You Here
Taragon TARCD 1060 Vocals
feel obligated to say some nice things about Rosemary Clooney after
we were particularly ruthless about her boring new book, Girl
Singer. We still think, on the whole, she's not one of the
greats, but she has made some great records. And now two of her
finest are together on one CD and it's time to celebrate.
Clap Hands! Here Comes Rosie! Is a collection of peppy numbers
with a full orchestra a chorus. The bright arrangements are by Bob
Thompson and while the song selection isn't inventive or clever,
it's not tired either. The chorus threatens to become a gloopy mess
but they're just jazzy enough to be relevant and just campy enough
to be enjoyable. The only thing we dislike is Makin' Whoopee
but we wouldn't like this number by anyone at this point.
pleasant and enjoyable as Clap Hands! is, it's Fancy Meeting
You Here that earns this CD its five martini rating. Arranged
by Billy May, it's a great concept album that actually works. It's
a travelogue that goes all over the globe, with extensive stops
in Latin America, and ends up being complete entertainment.
her book, Clooney seems to be trying to hitch her star to Sinatra
while downplaying her relationship with Crosby. She's a fool! He
brings out the best in her and she does likewise. By 1958, both
Crosby and Clooney were a little out of step with the times but
each were at the top of their game. They're almost setting out to
prove that their style of music was still relevant, fun and musical
and yet they're such seasoned pros, they don't have anything to
song is a duet, usually with Bing playing the aggressor or heel
and Clooney the lovesome lass. It's loaded with what we now call
"special material", there's not a song they sing straight.
Luckily, the lyrics are clever and conductor Billy May is up to
the task of milking everything he can out of a melody. Because each
song is a novelty number, it may prove irritating to play this in
the background. It needs and deserves your full attention.
we must comment on the beautiful sound quality of the CD. Tarragon
must have found a pristine source and they did an excellent job
transferring the music to CD.
LaVerne Baker Sings Bessie Smith
Baker followed Ruth Brown as one of Atlantic Records divas of rhythm
and Blues in the late 1950s. She had a superior voice and had hits
like Tweedle Dee and Soul on Fire. In 1958 she was
given the unusual task of recording a tribute to Blues legend Bessie
Smith. This may sound comparable to Mariah Carey singing the Stephen
Sondheim Songbook. It's not. Baker, and the other blues shouters
of her time, didn't emerge out of a vacuum and this album helps
trace these roots. And it's good!
the surface, a certain type of shouter or belter has two modes:
on and off. Along with Bessie Smith, we could add Broadway belter
Ethel Merman and Cuban songstress Celia Cruz. These loud, direct
voices cut through all subtleties and get to the point. A good belter
has several shades of nuance that might not be apparent with a casual
listen but all of these ladies, to varying degrees are masters of
Baker didn't have quite the goods the other belters had but she's
great nonetheless. What's even more interesting is the instrumental
backing she gets on LaVerne Baker Sings Bessie Smith. While
After You've Gone gets a modern, almost jazz treatment, most
of the tunes have different shades of burlesque. At moments you
can almost feel the tassles of Baker's pasties brush your face.
Smith recorded mostly with just a piano and it would have been nice
to have a cut or two with Baker doing the same, but it's a small
In a Grand Style
a Grand Style is a collection of ten songs featuring Charles
Brown and his piano. It sounds pretty clear these ten tracks were
alternate takes left over from his four albums on the Bullseye Blues
label. A few of the tracks sound a little rough or sloppy but on
it's a treat to hear Charles Brown with just his piano. But then
again, it's always a treat to hear Charles Brown.
association with guitarist Danny Caron was almost as essential to
his later sound as his earlier work was indebted to Johnny Moore.
Caron's intelligent solos and musical direction helped balance Brown's
sometimes fussy piano playing. Still, this album allows you to hear
what was going on in Charles Brown's head as he performed these
songs. If you're new to Charles Brown this isn't the best place
to start, but if you're a fan, you'll enjoy every minute.
some reason his song The Message (which was a minor hit and
an obvious attempt to emulate Percy Mayfield's Please Send Me
Somebody to Love) is listed here as Wouldn't It Be Grand.
Anyone else singing this would sound a little silly but one gets
the impression that in addition to being a fine vocalist, Brown
was about the sweetest guy on earth and this plea for peace and
understanding comes off as sincere and sweet, just like Brown.
by David Margolick
Forward by Hilton Als
small volume was one of the most enjoyable reads we've had for a
long time. It's first the story
of the song, Strange Fruit, that Time stupidly has declared
"The Best Song of the Century". It's also a rare insight
into Billie Holiday, early civil rights and the making of legends.
song started as a simple reaction to a photograph of a lynching
and from there grew into an institution. The story of Holiday's
recording, folk singer Josh White's competing version (in Holiday's
mind) and the uproar it all caused make fascinating reading.
book ends with notes on contemporary versions by Dee Dee Bridgewater,
Cassandra Wilson and oddly enough, Tori Amos. Holiday created a
masterpiece that should be left in its time capsule. However sincere,
what's the point?