Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Piaf at the Paris Olympia (335X 1330) (1960)

SAM_0398A dramatic and, one would have thought, off-puttingly cadaverous post-Impressionist style painting of the Sparrow adorns this morning’s Etchinghill Bootfair purchase.

Mrs Asbo is a fan, so for 20 pence, I can afford to be generous.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Linda Lewis – Lark (K 44208) (1972)


(Los Angeles, CA) – Warner-Reprise Records, in conjunction with Rhino Handmade Records, are set to reissue UK singer Linda Lewis’s landmark 1972 album Lark as a 10 CD/15 Lp box set. In addition to now-standard deluxe fare such as digital remastering, analog remastering, alternate takes, alternate mixes, demos, mono editions, extended studio chat as well as DVDs of Top of the Pops performances/rehearsals and a 2 hour+ making of documentary, the gargantuan treasure trove will feature a 14″ x 14″ thick cardboard box with a “tip on” mylar-coated sleeve, hand-covered in actual lark feathers. Also included is a book of stamps featuring the head of the five-octave session singer photoshopped onto the bodies of early 1970s Playboy centerfolds. People who buy the first edition of the Lark re-issue will receive a coupon redeemable for a provocative 2x life-size in-store stand-up of the image of the West Ham songwriter-producer born Linda Ann Fredericks from the 1977 Woman Overboard album. A 345-page, perfect-bound book of co-producer Jim Cregan’s session notes completes the package.

Rhino also plans to make available a “super deluxe version” containing all of the above material on unplayable 21 one-sided 10″ 78 rpm shellacs (each weighing 440 grams!) along with a sensory deprivation chamber that has been embossed with images from John Kosh’s original sleeve and then signed and numbered by the artist. “Actually ‘sensory deprivation chamber’ is a bit of a misnomer,” explained Manny Birnbaum, the Rhino executive who spearheaded the project. “In fact, while you lay suspended completely motionless in warm, odourless distilled water in complete darkness, your auditory senses will be vaguely stimulated by an MP3 loop of Lark played at subsonic volume.”

Fans of Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Minnie Ripperton will find much to unfavourably compare here. Likewise, the gentle, commercial nature of the music will appeal to those who find Laura Nyro too challenging. US music consumers will likely not have heard of Lark‘s sole UK Top 20 hit, the helium-voiced “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo”.

Birnbaum called the sets “in no way excessive” and “perfectly commensurate with the artistic merit of the masterpiece that is Lark“.

As extra incentive to early purchase, as if any were needed, the first 1,000 copies will come with a bonus disc of the 1987 CD edition on EG (EGKC 6) of King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongue In Aspic, copies of which currently lie unsold in a Warner’s warehouse in Burbank, California. By remarkable co-incidence, the King Crimson Lp originally saw release just one year after Lark.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal Soul Wimpy Ass 70s Folk Rock

Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry (63510) (1969)

Nyro WolfGod, Lucifer, New York City and someone known only as the Captain. These are the images, filtered through the  prism of Laura Nyro’s imagination, that crop up again and again on New York Tendaberry, the singer-songwriter’s third Lp, making it a concept album of sorts, but one so opaque as to defy clear description. It presages early Bruce Springsteen (et al.) in its obsession with The City as a romantic vehicle for character and dramatic (as well as personal) exploration.

As with Eli and the Thirteen Confession, one is jaw-dropped by the musical and lyrical audacity constantly on display. Therein lies a unique problem. So talented and creative, one gets the feeling that, with fewer histrionics/eccentricities, Nyro could have been a lot more popular than she was. Instead, she swoops and jives, the music slowing down and speeding up as the drama requires it, unconventionally alluding to R&B, Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, sometimes within the same song.

Even if Tendaberry is at times more stark (and piano led) than its immediate predecessor, this is not an easy listening record; I get self-conscious and can’t listen to this with other people around, it demands too much attention.

SAM_1445I got this record this morning at Age UK when I was running errands for the family in Folkestone. Well, I had to get something out of the trip.

Albums Classical File Under POPULAR: Female vocal File Under POPULAR: Male Vocal

The Swingle Singers – Anyone For Mozart? (BL 7656) (1964)

Swingles - it's just fun to sayWell, since it’s you, yes; but I don’t think this is as successful as the group’s Bach pieces whose contrapuntal bounciness seems more appropriate for the application of the Swingle formula. And don’t those quotation marks in the supertitle look ironic?

Yet another rekkid from Hythe.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Bette Midler (SD 7270) (1973)

Side one of Bette Mildler’s second Lp makes a strong case for the Divine Miss M’s pre-eminence as a torch singer nonpareil. Yet her approach, while reverent, is thoroughly modern. As a result, wrenching and beautiful piano-led (pianist: B. Manilow) takes on songs by Carmichael, Mercer, Brecht-Weill, etc. sound of a piece with those by contemporary singer-songwriters. (I wonder what the woman could have done with a set of Randy Newman covers?) Admirable diversity comes in the form of a funky “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and a soulful “I Shall Be Released”, demonstrating what Rolling Stone called her ability to find the “emotional center” of the song, even while the latter is marred by some too-jaunty piano fills and breathy over-emoting during the final third. The second side, however, trades in the parched nostalgia of an arch Ethel Merman that I, for one, can do without.

An interesting illustration of the contrasting American and British approaches to art in general can be gleaned by comparing Bette Midler with Bryan Ferry’s no-less-camp first solo album, “These Foolish Things”, which came out the same year. Both albums contain tunes from the Tin Pan Alley-era songbook, some soul covers, teen angst and a Dylan. Yet, conceptualised in a way born of decadence and a tremulous, limited singing ability, Ferry brutally (and often hilariously) recasts his covers program with a high degree of personality and perversity; whereas Midler, hampered by a reverence and technical finesse beyond Ferry, renders her version of the oldies artifice stale, at least on side two. Put another way: Americans use technique to arrive at a style and the British follow the precise opposite route, delighting in an aesthetic frivolity opposed to exacting and sentimental recreation. Why this is broadly (though, obviously, not always) so probably has something to do with the conditions of our respective empires, i.e. faded (UK) and just peaked (US), but that’s for another article.

While it has been argued that Ferry’s approach serves to diminish “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “These Foolish Things” to the level of “It’s My Party” (rather than Midler’s converse but likewise bold elevation of “Da Doo Run Run” to the status of “I Shall Be Released” and “Skylark”), I still know which album I’ll be listening to more often.

Spotted at Lord Whiskey in Rhodes Minnis yesterday as I cycled back from dropping off the car for servicing in Elham, I was moved, for the second time in three days, to buy based on the presence of Arif Mardin behind the producer’s desk.

80s Albums Compilations Dance Disco File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Madonna – The Immaculate Collection (1990)

No retail shopping for me on Record Store Day, just cheapo chazzing. In fact, I already had Immaculate Collection on CD*, but couldn’t resist this early singles double Lp helping of the pop martinet whose musical and visual image mongering takes David Bowie’s similar chameleonality to absurdly cynical lengths and whose glamorisation (leading ultimately, and ironically, to normalisation) of sexual fetishism has virtually defined all solo female pop singing subsequent.

The liner notes offer a remarkable balance of slavering and intellectual pretension. Oh, Madonna, you so bad!

More Herb Ritts action on the inner sleeves.

*I will likely Music Magpie the compact disc version.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal Jazz Outernational

The Astrud Gilberto Album (VLP 9087) (1965)

“Astrud Gilberto is no longer just The Girl From Ipanema.”  Or so say Jack Maher’s notes on Gilberto’s solo début Lp from the following year. He’s not fooling anybody and goes on to allude to the world-beating hit a further six times. Gilberto is not a technically great vocalist, but producer Creed Taylor has the measure of her abilities and, though surrounded by heavyweights (husband João, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bud Shank, João Donato, arranger Marty Paich, etc.), provides a pillow-light musical support, some gentle, insistent swing and the wistful melodies (all but two by Jobim) that don’t overwhelm Astrud’s artless, muted trumpet soto voce singing. Her phrasing is far more interesting and lively on the four Portuguese-sung numbers, English exposing a vulnerability verging on tentativeness.

A few years ago, a Gilberto compilation CD on Verve (part of the budget series with the generic ugly tan covers) provided the background to a dinner party I attended in Streatham–I was impressed then how good it was and so snapped up the present pop Bossa album for a pound in Hythe without much ado.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Dusty Springfield – Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty (Phillips RBL 1002) (1965)

This is more like it. Effortlessly good second Dusty solo Lp which asks only, “Am I filed under pop, soul or Richie Valens-related?”

Ah, she’s white: so, pop it is.They musta broke the Phillips 1965 album packaging bank with this one: eye-catching photography for a classy gatefold sleeve and stapled-in colour booklet, hype-y and vaguely poetic liner notes, glued-in top load album sleeve. The works, basically.Just a pound a couple weeks ago from Hythe. Huzzah.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

The New Petula Clark Album (Pye NPL 18118) (1965)

Pet is no Dionne let alone Dusty, her phrasing can be pretty four-square and her tone can lean towards the pinched. A patently spurious title for a disc over 45 years old, the record under consideration (purchased today on the green in Hythe for 50p), is proficient, likeable enough and contains a couple kernels of goodness, e.g. “Heart”, but this is basically goosed-up crooner music designed to make an older generation comfortable with rock ‘n’ roll and I simply can’t get worked up about it.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal Jazz

Judy Garland – Judy At Carnegie Hall – Vols 1 & 2

Let me make this clear: despite my thorough enjoyment of this double Lp of show tunes (particularly the arrangements, which are models of the art of scoring), I am not, nor have I ever been, a mate of the singer born Frances Ethel Gumm. Sure, I’d be flattered by her attention and maybe even a little curious to know what she was like, but we never met. Of course, we only shared the planet for three years, and no doubt people would have found it a bit outrageous if not downright queer, the sight of a gay little toddler becoming buddies with a middle-aged woman. But to be honest, I’m not sure we would’ve gotten along, as she was a bit of a drama queen and could be bitchy. So, to repeat, I’m not personally acquainted with the woman who famously played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

Speaking of that role, someone who does claim to be a “Friend of Dorothy”‘s (as he calls her, adopting an overly familiar nickname, IMO), is Rufus Wainwright. He even staged a recreation of the Judy At Carnegie Hall Lp utilising the same arrangements, set list and everything. How sweet, I thought, a tribute to his late friend. And yet research has revealed that the Loudon Wainwright III scion is no more a friend of so-called Dorothy’s than I.

He was born four years after her passing. The whole thing was just an outrageous show biz ploy.