Rare Gems & Hidden Treasures
Peggy Lee! The age of the compact disc has not been very kind to
her body of work. When CDs first came out in the early 1980s, she
was one of the last great singers to be featured on the new medium.
And when she finally was, it seemed that the same Greatest Hits
package was released again and again with very few variations. From
the 1940s up until the early 1970s, with one break for Decca Records,
Lee recorded a mountain of seminal material for Capitol Records,
but you'd think Fever was the only thing worth remembering
based on her CDs. This is especially odd when you consider how many
people really love Peggy Lee. We've never met anyone who doesn't
like her. It's instead always admiration of varying degrees.
slowly, the situation is changing. This collection, Rare Gems
and Hidden Treasures, is a step in the right direction but when
you consider all the material under Capitol's control, is this really
the best we can do? The programming sounds as if it were done by
a chimp in proximity of a dartboard with the names of all her songs
on it. The sequencing is all over the map. The tunes range form
the most beautiful of standards (While We're Young) to the
most inane of novelty numbers (Blum, Blum, I Wonder Who I Am).
Before we start pulling out these "gems and treasures"
like the hokey psuedo-gospel of Light of Love or the overt
camp of the Babalu-inspired Simalau, why don't we
try releasing some of the great Peggy Lee music that hasn't been
put on CD yet? And why on earth is there no information on the individual
sessions, let alone the recording dates?
with its flaws, Rare Gems has lots to recommend. The previously
mentioned While We're Young is a classic. Ain't Doin Bad
Doin' Nothin' and Eight, Nine and Ten both gently swing
like mad and Baby Come Home is a sweet nostalgic heartwarmer
in the P.S. I Love You vein, apparently written by Peggy
and her guitarist-hubby Dave Barbour. Farewell to Arms has
a beautiful melody but it's not the anti-war song you might think.
Peggy sings about the arms that used to hold her. This made us wince
with its flaws, this is a fun disc. What really should happen is
that Capitol should release her entire ouput on CD. It's the least
they could so for one of their most important artists.
Nonesuch 79464-2 Classical
don't know a hell of a lot about Classical music. We like it. We
know the difference between classical, romantic and post-modern.
We have a lot of it in our collection. But for us to provide an
intelligent, insightful review is as silly as broadcasting an inane
quiz show during prime time and expecting America to watch. Oh wait,
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is a hit. Therefore, we humbly
suggest you get a hold of Humoresque by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
is Dvorák's instantly recognizable salon masterpiece.
It was also a film starring John Garfield and Joan Crawford, made
in a time, long before the Sing-a-Long Messiah was introduced,
when classical music was "important". This disc features
the music in the film and it's so clever that it's hard not to love
it. Almost every piece is a violin tour de force, often with
a full orchestra and sometimes with just a piano. It's slightly
camp, a bit piss-elegant and always entertaining.
will recognize, along with Humoresque, the Carmen Fantasie,
The Flight of the Bumblebee and probably the Tristan and
Isolde Fantasie. We actually like Carmen and Tristan
compressed down from the original operas to these long medley formats.
From the Great American Songbook are You Do Something to Me,
Embraceable You and What Is This Thing Called Love. Embraceable
You is completely over the top. You can imagine soloist Nadja
Salerno-Sonnenberg in a full strapless evening gown playing her
heart out, milking every nuance out of the melody and breaking down
and crying after her performance. The two Cole Porter numbers are
fine except they have bland, modern vocals by Judy Blazer and her
voice is a real mood killer.
listening to Humoresque, your world becomes black and white.
The coldwater flat you call home becomes a posh apartment on Central
Park West. You no longer roam the halls in your baggy sweats from
Walmart. You don the smartest of evening clothes. Your every utterance
is loaded with insight and meaning. The beauty of "serious"
music obsesses your soul, and yet you remain tortured because your
fingers can't produce the exact same sounds that haunt your dreams.
A cup of coffee is a nickel.
wiser, and more mature, will have to tell us if Salerno-Sonnenberg
is as good as we perceive her to be. Her solos are thrilling, and
judging from the whole concept of this album, she has a good sense
I Am Shelby Lynne
Island 314546177-2 Pop
Lynne is an obviously talented country singer who has been trying
to figure out her place in the sun. Years ago, we reviewed and enjoyed
her Temptation album. It was a nice Big Band Country Swing
affaire and while we haven't been tempted to play it again,
we left with the firm impression that Ms Lynne was going somewhere.
a lot of people in the business felt that way. Her various albums
have had a bit of this and a bit of that but nothing so far as caught
much fire. This new album, I Am Shelby Lynne, should have
done the trick. Mixing Country and R&B is nothing new but it's
an idea that hasn't worked well since Ray Charles' Modern Sounds
in Country and Western Music. The problem with I Am Shelby
Lynne is that despite the trappings of R&B, there's very
little of it here. There are horns and beats and chorus' that you
can sing along with, but it's not soul. The lyrics are trite and
the melodies non-existant. One track, Where I'm From, starts
out as if it's going to be a winner, but by the chorus, Lynne loses
steam and the chorus is just a chant, in bad French no less. It's
more like a Lynn is trying to join the the popular troup of modern
chick troubadors like Jewel, Tori Amos, Alanis Morrisette, et al,
when she should be channelling Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin or even
Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete
Vince and Bola
Fantasy FCD 24756-2 Jazz
Guaraldi was an adequate and occasionally very good jazz pianist.
Then he, like so many others in the late 1950s and early '60s, went
Latin. But rather than just add a bongo or two, Guaraldi developed
a beautiful new style that embraced the minimalism of the Bossa
Nova while retaining a pop sensibility. His big hit was Cast
Your Fate to the Wind, an infectious pop instrumental with just
a touch of jazz but his standard fare was light, interesting jazz
with a touch of pop. A few years later, he'd score big again as
the composer of the Charlie Brown TV specials, but to our
ears, it's his Latin phase that is such a winner.
this period, he teamed with guitarist Bola Sete and recorded three
very good albums, From All Sides, And Friends and Live
at El Matador. The latter two are on this new collection from
Fantasy. It's "easy listening" in the best sense. There's
nothing too taxing and boiling point is rarely reached, but it's
incredibly pleasant without being insipid. The two share solos without
stepping on each other's feet and it's obvious that everyone is
having a good time.
Guaraldi is one of our heroes and this would be an excellent way
to discover him.