Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hey Mister Dj Put A Record On


In my ongoing fascination with and study of the I'm-an-aging-pop/rock-star-and-now-that-I'm-over-fifty-and-too-old-to-rock-out-so-I'm-going-to-sing-old-standards phenomenon I picked up copies of some new cds this last week. These are cds I have been aware of but simply have not had the time or money to invest in; but which I got a chance to pick up at a discounted price and so, finally (and happily), have added them to my collection.
I remember the first record that I bought in this genre--and, yes, it was a RECORD ALBUM. It was in 1981 and it was a Carly Simon album called TORCH on which the great pop/folk singer songwriter tackled extraordinary works of musical art like I'LL BE AROUND, I GOT IT BAD AND THAT AIN'T GOOD, BODY AND SOUL, HURT, the Broadway tune NOT A DAY GOES BY and my personal favourite from the album I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL (I am a die hard Hoagy Carmichael fan and a die hard Carly Simon fan--to say nothing of Mr. Sondheim, so this album was a must have for me). The record TORCH remains one of my favourite purchases in my music collection, even as Miss Simon's subsequent albums of standards MY ROMANCE and FILM NOIR do not quite live up to the standard set by the first one. Don't...DON'T get me wrong. I love the other two albums--MY ROMANCE is extremely lush and FILM NOIR is (dare I say it?) wonderfully dark. When I listen to them, though, I program the cd player to skip certain tracks. When I turn on TORCH, I listen to it from start to finish. In recent years, The Great Carly released MOONLIGHT SERENADE, which I have played (from start to finish) over and over and over. The point I am trying to make is that Carly Simon made the transition well, with ease and with great success.

Over the years I have picked up records and cds by stars stepping out of their comfort zone. It has always been the way with Hollywood. Once you are famous, cut a record album and see if you can become a hit in another arena of the business. Who among us can forget that Bruce Willis recorded THE RETURN OF BRUNO to disastrous effect? Richard Harris, on the other hand, had quite a recording career--one that gave the world the original MACARTHUR PARK. As a teenager I spotted the Lynda Carter album PORTRAIT in the record store and, foolishly, did not buy it. I still search for it..anywhere I can. I did, though, buy BOTH of the albums recorded by Cheryl Ladd--THINK IT OVER and DANCE FOREVER and I still listen to them. I love them, as I love her. I own a WONDERFUL cd by Linda Purl, aJoey Lawrence cd and a Jennifer Love Hewitt cd. I also own, and listen to, several Cybill Shepherd cds--but not the album CYBILL DOES IT....TO COLE PORTER, which is a travesty. Cybill Shepherd is, in fact, a singer and a damn fine one. I saw her club act and absolutely enjoyed her. I listen to her on the MOONLIGHTING soundtrack, on VANILLA, TALK MEMPHIS TO ME and SOMEWHERE DOWN THE ROAD and love her vocals. I don't like CYBILL DOES IT... except for her ANYTHING GOES. Among the albums I have by actors, you will find mistakes by Scott Baio, Jeff Conaway, Don Johnson, John Travolta .. and a terrible album of standards and showtunes by my personal diva, Cher. Boo Hoo. There are a couple of nice albums by Keith Carradine and Sissy Spacek and a wonderfully bad disco album by Ann-Margret called LOVE RUSH and I STILL listen to it! Out of respect for one of the greatest actors of all time, I won't criticize ALBERT FINNEY'S ALBUM and I don't own any of Leonard Nimoy's recordings, though Pat and I are IN LOVE with William Shatner's new cd HAS BEEN--it is extraordinary. The search and seizure of recordings by people stepping out of their comfort zone has been one of the great joys of my life.

What I am talking about here, though, are musicians..people who sing for a living, changing their paths. Carly singing torch songs, Helen Reddy singing show tunes, Rod Stewart singing the American songbook. And all with success ranging from don't-do-that-again to Bravo!! And by the way, I know that The Beatles sang TIL THERE WAS YOU and The Mamas and The Papas sang GLAD TO BE UNHAPPY but I am delighted to say this: among the first to re-invent their careers by recording standards were Pia Zadora (PIA AND PHIL--actually a very good record--and I AM WHAT I AM--less good but fun) and one of my personal favourites, Toni Tennille, whose first album of standards, MORE THAN YOU KNOW, is really wonderful and was such a success it caused her to record ALL OF ME, THINGS ARE SWINGIN, INCURRABLY ROMANTIC and some other great records. I think Tennille is one of the great voices. She has some freakin instrument. And speaking of freakin instruments, that pop balladeer, that troubadour, that feminist leader, Helen Reddy, transitioned from Delta Dawn and Angie Baby to a cd of showtunes in which she proves her fifty-ish year old voice is as strong and powerful and as interpretive and expression laden as it was when she sang I AM WOMAN. CENTERSTAGE is one of the albums that proves that a singer CAN go out and change what they do.

The queen of change, though, is the one and only Linda Ronstadt, who sang rock, pop, country, opera, standard, cantatas...the woman, the ARTIST, can sing anything, has sung everything and will continue to amaze me and the rest of the world until she has sung her last note.

This week, though, I picked up Rita Coolidge's AND SO IS LOVE. Now. Rita Coolidge was one of those lovely, lilting, poetic voices of the seventies that just seemed to get lost in the screaming and belting that was the eighties. I seemed to lose track of Rita in the eighties; and I missed her. I always listened to her records. Sometimes they were covers of other people's songs but now and then she had a hit that was all her own. Now, still beautiful on the cover of the cd, she has this cd where she croons (speaking of crooning, Ann Murray has a gorgeous album called CROONIN..it's this type of music and her voice is so well suited to it--though I find an odd lack of emotional content; something that I didn't find when I listened to her country music in the 70s and 80s) smoky renditions of CRY ME A RIVER, DON'T SMOKE IN BED, I DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT YOU, THE MASQUERADE IS OVER and my favourite of her old hits, the Boz Scaggs song WE'RE ALL ALONE. Very happy by this acquisition was I. I found it to be a satisfying listen.

Now... I cannot say that I like, entirely, Barry Manilow's recordings of old hits and it is what he has been doing a lot, lately. His album of big band music is good but I don't like the Sinatra recordings. Melissa Manchester did a lovely job on TRIBUTE, in which she pays homage to the women who inspired her as a child (including Piaf, Garland and Streisand)--I like this album. Bette Midler has done bang up recordings that salute Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee; but even when The Divine Miss M was screaching her way through FIRE DOWN BELOW and STAY WITH ME BABY, she would move concert goers with AM I BLUE? and THE BOOGIE WOOGIE BUGLE BOY. This music is not new to the lady with a voice like French Silk chocolate icing on a Hazlenut butter cake. This is second nature for her.

Singing her tributes to Lena Horne, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson and Lady Day, Gladys Knight hits a home run, though not out of the park. You see, for me, Gladys Knight is one of the greatest voices of all time and that voice is completely undiminished by the passage of time (much like the one and only Shirley Bassey who sounds exactly the same today as she did when she started). And Miss Knight's cd BEFORE ME is a work of purest art. I love it, love it, love it. But. And this is a big but... there are times that I was listening to the cd and found myself thinking 'I wish she hadn't ad libbed those additional lyrics' or 'I wish she hadn't gone for the vocalizing acrobatics and opted for pure, simple, honest emotion.' Now....this is me being EXTREMELY nitpicky because, at the end of the day, I love this woman so much and I could listen to her sing songs I don't like. So I am very happy to have this cd in my collection -- but I wouldn't be true to my nature if I didn't say all that I felt.

And saying all that I feel is going to get me in trouble, now....

Speaking of great vocalists, great musicians, one of a kind voices... I'd like to say a few words about Linda Eder's cd BY MYSELF; her tribute to Judy Garland. I know that I am straying from the topic, which is aging rock stars singing standards and show tunes; but I picked up the Eder cd this week and played it on the same day I played the others and my immediate reaction was "alRIGHT!!" She opens the cd with the song BY MYSELF--which Judy Garland recorded more than once. One of her recordings is bright and peppy; but the one I love is from the film I COULD GO ON SINGING and in the moments that she is singing it, she is angry and bitter. Eder has done the RIGHT thing by taking the arrangement RIGHT OUT of the film and singing the song exactly the way Judy did it. It is the more dramatic choice and it shows off her extraordinary voice and her interpretive skills in the best possible way. I am thrilled by the cut, through and through. It starts the cd off perfectly. Then she follows it up with the famous ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE/THIS CAN'T BE LOVE medley from the Carnegie Hall concert. Note for note, exactly the same. Pretty. Nice. But... Hmmm.... Is every cut going to be just like Judy's version? Cause I can just go put on a Judy Garland cd.

What follows is a series of lovely songs like ME AND MY SHADOW and I'D LIKE TO HATE MYSELF IN THE MORNING, medleys of ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART/THE TROLLEY SONG and THE BOY NEXT DOOR/YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (an odd combination, I felt)--all of which seem to have no real emotional content. Amazing technique, no emotion. Uh oh. Judy Garland was THE most emotional singer this side of Billie Holiday--in fact, I think she may have carried more emotion than Lady Day because Judy could do happy, too. Delighted by a tribute song called THE RAINBOW'S END and by ROCK A BYE YOUR BABY in which the great Eder hits it out of the park but totall bummed by a lackluster and stone cold IT NEVER WAS YOU, I was finding the album to be a roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys. Then I got to the final track. It started with the orchestra playing strains of OVER THE RAINBOW but then Eder sang (cleverly, I thought) I'M ALWAYS CHASING RAINBOWS. Brava! Oops. Not over. The song sequed into OVER THE RAINBOW.

This is where I turned the cd off. I love Linda Eder. I respect Linda Eder. I think she is one of our great artists and great stars. I appreciate wanting to pay a tribute to an artist who has affected your life. In spite of shortcomings that I find in this cd, I will listen to it and enjoy it, just as I have every single cd she has ever recorded (GOLD is my favourite). I do want to say this, though, to every singer out there who wants to sing OVER THE RAINBOW.

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

Am I being quite clear here? This song has been sung. It has been sung to death. It has been sung, definitively. There is nothing..NOTHING..that anyone can bring to this song that we, the audience, cannot get by picking up our copy of the cd THE WIZARD OF OZ and listening to Judy Garland. I regret having to be so harsh about this and it is, after all, just my opinion. But...

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

Don't sing OVER THE RAINBOW. Please. Everyone. Just. Stop.

I am into music and I cherish the singers that bring the music to us. I listen to everyone from Lady Day to Madonna and, always, with joy and respect. It was fun getting to listen to new music and I love these artists who are on a path to grow artistically, to explore the classics and to honour their idols. I am looking forward to the next day that I can spend a little money, a little time and some energy exploring their work and their emotional commitment to the music that moves them. I've recently been made aware of a new Olivia Newton John cd called INDIGO, the opening cut of which is LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME and the final cut, the fabulous ALFIE.

I can't wait!

3 Comments:

Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ste,

I couldn't agree with you more on Carly Simon (LOVE HER!!!), Linda Ronstadt and Toni Tennille (whatever became of her??). Each of these women are enormously talented with distinguished, beautiful voices.

Not sure I'll buy the William Shatner CD, and I personally don't mind hearing others singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," but I agree it's hard to beat the vulnerably innocent delivery offered by Judy Garland -- at the very least, I'd say, let's allow both Liza and Lorna sing it.

Cheers!

6:14 PM  
Blogger Tony Dale said...

I adore Cybill's "Talk Memphis to Me" cd. I only wish I had seen her at Rainbow & Stars (I did see David Campbell there), but there's hope - she's being considered for Carlotta in FOLLIES at Encores. . .

9:10 PM  
Blogger jungle dream pagoda said...

Linda Ronstadts ,Nelson Riddle albums yum ,perfection ,could listen to them over and over.
Ann-Margrets Love Rush ...forget about it.
William Shatner has a new CD ? I know what the hubs gettin for x-mas!
Linda EDer... Linda EDer... yes I love the voice...but did you ever see th Bravo concert with her and Cindy LauperandJamie lynSigler.? Yeesh! Linda did Don't rain on my parade,every nuance ripped off from the movie recording ,yuck such a pity.
Have you ever heard Pat???? cant remember his last name,his daughter sang You light up my life... have you ever heard his In a metal mood? fun!




PS I will NEVER stop singing "Over the rainbow"!

1:59 AM  

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