sábado, 25 de abril de 2009

Peggy Lee: I Like Men! - Sugar'N'Spice (1998)

This brilliant two-fer combines two classic albums Peggy Lee recorded for Capitol Records in 1959 and 1962, respectively: I Like Men and Sugar 'N' Spice. Arranged and conducted by Jack Marshall, I Like Men was based around the theme of men. The title track, which Peggy Lee co-wrote, is a very upbeat, entertaining song in which Peggy expresses her enthusiasm for men - even when her personal life suggests that she never found the right one. Perhaps the most famous song here are 'I'm Just Wild About Harry' and 'Best is Yet to Come', though Andrews sisters fans will also recognize 'Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!' Both are great up-tempo songs, as are 'I Love to Love' and the opening 'Charley My Boy'. Among the slower cuts, 'So in Love', 'Jim' and 'When a Woman Loves a Man' are possibly the best known. Sugar 'N' Spice is similar in style, although there is no obvious theme except love. Despite the tacky cover photographs and that terrible wig, the contents are pure and fine Peggy Lee at her best. Where some of Peggy's albums in the ‘60s included much forgettable contemporary material that hasn't stood the test of time too well, this album features a program of songs that range from contemporary show tunes (‘I Believe in You’ and ‘The Sweetest Sounds’), an excursion into the blues (‘See See Rider) and the great American song book (‘When the Sun Comes Out’ and ‘I've Got the World on a String’) plus a few lesser known numbers for good measure. The backings are by Benny Carter and feature a compact orchestra with an emphasis on brass. On both albums Peggy is in fine voice and brings her sweet feminine tones to her ballads and her salty, seductive sounds to the more uptempo material. All in all, this compilation give ample evidence of the lady at her best and should delight Peggy Lee’s fans as well as those who admire this legend to a lesser degree. http://www.amazon.com/
A haunting rendition of 'See See Rider' from Peggy Lee's famous gig at Basin Street East:

viernes, 24 de abril de 2009

Dionne Warwick: Presenting Dionne Warwick / Anyone Who Had a Heart (1995)

Two-on-one reissue comprised of Dionne Warwick's 1962 debut 'Presenting Dionne Warwick' and her sophomore album 'Anyone Who Had a Heart', from 1963. Dionne Warwick's first record for Scepter can be considered as the birth of a genius. The LP is the first full length collaboration between Warwick and the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and it easily bridges the worlds of soul, vocal, and pop with its unique sense of poise and class. Sung perfectly by Dionne throughout and arranged with orchestral brilliance by the young Burt, this classic includes ‘Don't Make Me Over’, ‘Wishin & Hopin’, ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’, ‘Make The Music Play’, ‘If You See Bill’, ‘It's Love That Really Counts’ and ‘This Empty Place’. 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' is only the second album in the career of Dionne Warwick, but she is already at the top of her game, singing with a sense of grace and poise that is simply tremendous and getting some equally great backing from a young Burt Bacharach, who himself co-wrote most of the tunes here with Hal David. There is a sense of completeness to the record that few other pop albums of the time could boast. A mature, thoughtful presentation of the material that certainly set a new standard for many artists to come. Titles include ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, ‘Don't Make Me Over’, ‘Getting Ready For The Heartbreak’ and ‘Put Yourself In My Place’. New York Uptown Soul can't get any better than this. ~ http://www.dustygroove.com/

Dionne Warwick performing 'Message to Michael' on Hullabaloo (1966):

viernes, 17 de abril de 2009

Ketty Lester: Love Letters (1962)

Ketty Lester began her singing career on completing a music course at San Francisco State College. A residency at the city's Purple Onion club was followed by a successful tour of Europe before she joined band leader Cab Calloway's revue. Later domiciled in New York, Lester's popular nightclub act engendered a recording contract, of which ‘Love Letters’ was the first fruit. The singer's cool-styled interpretation of this highly popular standard originally recorded by Dick Haymes, reached the Top 5 in both the USA and UK in 1962, eventually selling in excess of one million copies. Enhanced by a memorable piano figure in Lester’s rendition, the song has been covered many times, with notable successes for Elvis Presley and Alison Moyet. The follow-up single, a cover of George Gershwin's ‘But Not for Me’, from the musical Girl Crazy, peaked at number 41 pop during summer 1962, but Lester was sadly unable to repeat her first hit's accomplished balance between song, interpretation and arrangement. In the latter part her career, she abandoned singing in favour of a career as a film and television actress, with appearances in various series. She was later coaxed back into the studio, but only on her stipulation that it would be exclusively to perform sacred music. Ketty Lester's original Era Records 1962 album ‘Love Letters’, with arrangements courtesy of Lincoln Mayorga, was one of the most seductive recordings of the decade. It was no accident that Lena Horne and Peggy Lee gave their endorsements in the original liner notes. Aside from the title track, there are so many other songs on this album that warrant its praising as a masterpiece, like ‘Once Upon a Time’, ‘Where or When’, ‘Gloomy Sunday’ and the soul-crushing classic ‘I'm a Fool to Want You’, just to name a few. This is absolutely FIRST CLASS music. I hope you enjoy it. http://www.oldies.com/

Ketty Lester on a retracked clip of her hit 'Love Letters':

Here, performing 'I'll Be Looking Back' (1965):

Ann Sexton: Anthology (2004)

Ann Sexton is one of the great unsung female soul singers of all time. She was born in South Carolina and began singing gospel until 1971 when she spotted by Songwriter/producer Dave Lee. Her first album 'Loving You Loving Me' was released on John Richbourg's 77 label from Nashville. It includes the in demand funky 'You’re Losing Me' and the Northern Soul favourite 'You've Been Gone Too Long' along with some great Southern Soul gems. Her second and last album 'In The Beginning' was recorded in Muscle Shoals and released on Sound Stage 7 in 1977. Both these albums are now extremely hard to find, 'Loving You Loving Me' fetching about £300, if you can find one. This Anthology puts together for the first time all the tracks from these two albums plus a seven inch only modern/crossover track 'You Got to Use What You Got'. Hopefully Ann Sexton will get the credit she deserves this time round, for recording some of the best music of Southern Soul ever put on wax or disc. ~ http://www.soulbrother.com/

martes, 14 de abril de 2009

Camille Howard: Rock Me Daddy / X-Temporaneous Boogie (1947-52)

Piano-tinkling chanteuses were quite the rage during the war years. But Camille Howard's two-fisted thundering boogie style, much like her contemporary Hadda Brooks, was undoubtedly the equivalent of any 88s ace, male or female. Howard was part of the great migration from Texas to the West Coast. She was installed as pianist with drummer Roy Milton & the Solid Senders sometime during World War II, playing on all their early hits for Art Rupe's Juke Box and Specialty labels. Sensing her potential following the success of Milton's 1947 hit ‘Thrill Me’ (with Howard's vocal), Rupe began recording her as a featured artist at the end of the year. Legend has it that Howard's biggest hit, the roaring instrumental ‘X-Temporaneous Boogie,’ was improvised at the tail end of her first date as a leader (its flip, the torch ballad ‘You Don't Love Me,’ was a hit in its own right). Howard's vocal abilities were pretty potent too. Her ‘Fiesta in Old Mexico’ was a hit in 1949, while ‘Money Blues, credited to Camille Howard & Her Boyfriends, registered strong coin in 1951. Howard cranked out storming boogies and sultry ballads for Specialty through 1953, then jumped from Federal to Vee-Jay before landing in Los Angeles for good. Howard's strong religious ties put a stop to her secular music career. This 2-volume collection gathers 50 of her 1947-52 Specialty cuts, more than half previously unreleased. Divided between instrumentals and pop-influenced vocal numbers, Howard proves herself the master of boogie and jump blues piano styles, sometimes slowing things down into a jazzier mode. In addition to the storehouse of vault material, this compilation also includes the top ten R&B hits, ‘Thrill Me’ and ‘X-Temporaneous Boogie.’ Howard was nonetheless an important, and nowadays overlooked, star of the transitional era between jump blues and R&B. http://www.allmusic.com/

domingo, 12 de abril de 2009

Mavis Staples: Mavis Staples / Only for the Lonely (1993)

Mavis Staples began her career with her family group in 1950. With Mavis' earthy contralto voice and Pops' songs, singing, and guitar playing, the Staple Singers evolved from enormously popular gospel singers to become the most spectacular and influential spiritually-based group in USA. The group signed to Stax Records in 1968 and hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, joining their gospel harmonies and deep faith with musical accompaniment from members of Booker T. and the MGs. Mavis also recorded two solo albums for Stax Records. The first one, ‘Mavis Staples’, released in 1969, was a fine collection of pop standards like Dionne Warwick's ‘A House Is Not a Home,’ Sam Cooke's ‘You Send Me’ and a pair of Otis Redding songs. The follow-up, 1970's ‘Only for the Lonely’, was even better, yielding the heartbreaking R&B hit ‘I Have Learned to Do Without You,’ the exquisite slow blues ‘How Many Times’, the best version ever recorded of the classic ‘Since I Fell For You’ and the finger-snapping Memphis soul of ‘It Makes Me Wanna Cry.’ The 20 tracks from those two albums were combined on this 1993 CD entitled ‘Only for the Lonely’ and supplemented with ‘That's the Way Love Is,’ a duet with Johnny Taylor from Boy Meets Girl, a Stax collection of male-female duets. I added myself five more songs from the 1988 compilation ‘Don’t Change Me Now’, which makes a total of 26 tracks. This is an invaluable glimpse at the first solo steps by one of the best - and one of my favourite- soul singers.
Mavis Staples singing with The Staple Singers 'I'll Take You There' (1972):

lunes, 6 de abril de 2009

Lulu: Love Loves to Love Lulu (1967) ... plus

Most Americans first heard of Lulu when she soared to the top of the charts with the beautiful ballad ‘To Sir with Love,’ the theme to the film of the same name, in 1967. Actually, the Scottish singer had been a star in Britain since 1964, when she hit the Top Ten with a raucous version of ‘Shout.’ Lulu's mid-'60s recordings were often surprisingly rowdy and R&B-influenced and she was even close to blue-eyed soul on some of her late-'60s best efforts. Recording intermittently ever since, she raised a few eyebrows by traveling to Muscle Shoals studios to record her 1970 classic album New Routes, and releasing a double-sided single of David Bowie tunes, which Bowie also played on and co-produced, in 1973. Love Loves to Love Lulu was Lulu's second album and the first under the direction of legendary producer Mickie Most. The release gathered together her three British 1967 singles, ‘The Boat That I Row,’ ‘Let's Pretend,’ and ‘Love Loves to Love Love’ together with ‘To Sir With Love’, a song which, despite the singer's protests, was relegated to a B-side in the U.K. This album was a slight affair with only 11 tracks, yet this cuts down on the amount of filler so prevalent on many mid-'60s albums. Highlights include covers of Gladys Knight & the Pips' ‘Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me,’ the Beatles' ‘Day Tripper,’ and the Bee Gees' ‘To Love Somebody.’ Long deleted, Love Loves to Love Lulu serves as an excellent retrospective of the singer's output in 1967. As for me, this is one of the best albums ever recorded by one of my all-time favorite '60s Brit Girls. I added 8 bonus tracks to the original release, including the UK Top Ten hits ‘I’m a Tiger’ and ‘Me, the Peaceful Heart’, the UK Top Twenty hit ‘Boy’, the B-sides 'Sad Memories', 'Lookout' ‘Dreary Days and Nights’ and ‘Without Him’, plus 'This Time' (Bistro), taken from the 1968 MGM film 'Hot Millions'.

Lulu singing 'To Sir With Love' on a rare clip of a Canadian TV Show (1967):

A dynamic performance of 'The Boat That I Row' on Beat-Club (1967):

And, finally, 'Love Loves To Love', performed on Top of the Pops (1967):

miércoles, 1 de abril de 2009

Ruby Andrews: Just Loving You. The Zodiac Sessions (1967-1973)

Ruby Andrews' two albums on Zodiac in the late '60s are easily some of the best, strong-armed soul recorded by any woman in the era. Both are pricey showpieces, though 'Black Ruby' tends to sell even higher than 'Everybody Saw You'. Mississippi-born but Chicago-identified, Andrews had her share of hits though she never achieved marquee status. Andrews was part of the Detroit-based Brothers of Soul (one of several female leads they worked with in the late '60s). The Brothers were also the team behind Zodiac and, they also recorded under the name, The Creations. In any case, the Brothers are responsible for the sound behind Andrews' 'Black Ruby' and 'Everybody Saw You' LPs and thus, deserve part of the credit for lacing her with some fantastic production: a rousing, energetic mix of mid-60s funk and soul that's a nice fit with Andrews' powerful vocals. 'Whatever It Takes To Please You' showcases all those elements, combined with a thick sound that draws powers off the horn and string sections but most of all, that driving bass that anchors the whole song. 'You Made A Believer Out of Me' was actually off of 'Everybody Saw You' originally but they ended up using it twice. This fantastic Andrews/Zodiac comp includes both albums. ~ http://soul-sides.com/