Jun 24, 2015

Bucket Of Sads: Movie Maestro Edition!

Hasn't John Denver taught us anything? One of the most prolific movie composers of our age is gone, and while he's being heralded for scores like "Titanic," his music for Natalie Wood's final screen appearance is still his best and most adventurous. 

Jun 14, 2015

Italian-Style With Katyna, Trouble With Barbara, Girl Talk With Joanie, Plus Pickpocket's Last Stand And An EDM Master Secret Song!

Celebrare, miei amici! Which hopefully translates to "Celebrate, my friends," because today I'm listening to Miss Katyna Ranieri, Italy's bella-bella movie queen and songstress who reigned in the boot-shaped country from the 1950s to the 60s. She's still popular with a few hipsters out there - one of her songs is on the soundtrack of "Drive," a portentous dirge of a movie made bearable by this - but I have a feeling your love for her is a whole lot stronger than that. In fact, I'm certain of it.

Did you know? She was the first Italian singer to perform at the Oscars (because she's that favoloso), though her career started well before that. She was first signed with the Italian arm of RCA when she was barely out of her teens, and quicker than you can say "spaghettini," she was off touring the world, delighting the crowds in Brazil, New York and Hollywood's Coconut Grove and Ciro's. "She was a hit in New York," noted the bitchy hard-to-please columnist Louella Parsons upon Katyna's arrival, "and should be in our town, too." Katyna sings magnificamente on her 1957 LP "I'm In The Mood For Amore" - a Cheerfully Italiano Esclusiva! - so pour a nice glass of Italian wine, kick back and let Miss Katyna take you away. Really, you deserve it!

Let's swing back to America, where we'll find one of the best white blues singers ever. No, this not a case of white trying to be black, but a genuine blues and jazz legend who's abilities are as "rare as a 20 karat diamond," according to no less that Louis Armstrong. Barbara Dane is the real deal.

A fervent battler against social injustice, Barbara's career took off when she moved to San Francisco in the late 1940s. There, she caught the eyes (and ears) (obviously) of blues devotees all round town (even Ebony was impressed). In the late 1960s, she'd become so successful that she opened "Sugar Hill," her own blues club, and continued her activism throughout the Vietnam War era. Yet what's most striking about her debut LP "Trouble In Mind" from 1957 - a Blues Baby Cheerful Exclusive! - is the battle-scarred conviction of her voice. It's as if she'd endured every single heartache in songs like "Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me" or "Mighty Rumbling Blues." Most likely because she had. She's that good and that exciting. Still.

Speaking of exciting, I just made the most delicious batch of peanut butter cookies (accept no substitutes)! But I digress. Or maybe I don't, because homespun charm and good-natured silliness is synonymous with Miss Joanie Sommers. How can't you not be cheered as she hip-swings past with a smile (and her kicky pearls)?

I think I've shared most everything Joanie's ever recorded on this blog (in its last incantation, at least), so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a fairly "new" Joanie collection. Yes, it's "Come Alive! - Complete Columbia Recordings" - a Just Joanie Cheerful Exclusive! - with all of the tracks newly collected, newly remastered. And quite a few of them have never been on CD before, like her version of "Never, Never," and in keeping in all things Italian, her Italian-language version of "You Take What Comes Along."

Earlier this week, Ron Moody, one of my favorite actors from one of my favorite movie musicals passed away. We won't see his likes again. A skilled actor, comedian, vaudevillian, dancer and singer, you had only to see him perform as "Fagin" in the musical number "You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two" to know that he was one-of-a-kind.

What's remarkable is that his performance was committed to film at all. Because he was so quick-witted, he was given to wild, audience-pleasing improvisations when he originally performed "Fagin" on stage. No single performance he gave was ever the same, much to the infamous ire of one of his co-stars Georgia Brown, who loudly objected to the higher-ups and the press. But no one intervened. The audience was too enraptured.

Maybe it's not too surprising that he's so alive on film, because he was guided by director Carol Reed, a master who could bring out the best in any actor (by the way, if you haven't seen his haunting "Odd Man Out" or the chilling "Night Train to Munich," they make for a great double feature). Oh, and if you've never watched "Oliver" before, what are you waiting for? With Ron Moody's indelible performance, John Box's hyper-real stage sets and Oona White's eye-popping choreography, it is, as Pauline Kael once remarked, "An imaginative version of the (Dickens) novel as a lyrical, macabre fable." The soundtrack below is a special treat for those who've heard it before. This is the "restored" CD, or the only version I know of that includes the complete versions of all of the movie's songs, which were severely truncated when the LP was first released in the late 1960s.

The Secret Song has just about had it with all these EDM twinks burping out one unlistenable thump-whiplash-thump track after another. Sure, if she was still doing ecstasy (or Molly, as the kids call it these days), they might actually sound good - but then any piece of garbage sounds good on ecstasy (one of many reasons not to take it). What to do, what to do?

Luckily, an Italian - yes, an Italian - has come to the rescue, or more specifically, an aging Italia maestro who knows a thing or two about blondies, summers and feelin' a what. Still don't know who it is? Take a walk through MacArthur Park and maybe you'll figure it out, or call me.

Just remember, no more tears, 'cause enough is enough.

Have a last dance in the comments, if you like!

Jun 3, 2015

Bucket Of Sads: Jim Bailey

Only one man did so many women - to perfection. A classically trained vocalist, he arguably brought drag to the mainstream in the 1970s, performing at Carnegie Hall seven times, at the Super Bowl halftime show in 1978 and The Olympics Pre-Show Ceremony in 1984. And yes, there's more here.

May 31, 2015

Exclusive Strippers Strip, Triplets Whip It, Ray 'n' Julie 'n' Neile, Plus A Chippy Secret Song!

Ah, Miss Lily St. Cyr. There is no other. Some ladies know exactly how to take it off. In other words, she's taught you everything you know. Besides, since swimsuit season is upon us, we've all got to be ready to flaunt it, amirite? And what better way to get in shape then with a little wiggle here, a little wiggle there, and healthy dose of low-down stripper music? But, please, none of that nouveau burlesque electronica stuff. That modern stuff just doesn't go along with moves like this:

In the first of two Cheerful So-You-Think-You-Can-Strip Exclusives!, Ronnie Magri, a skilled drummer and producer currently based in New Orleans, brings you a mesmerizing collection of burlesque standards. Yes, this is a fairly new recording, but it's also nearly archeological, since Ronnie befriended and played with many New Orleans jazz greats (some of whom play here) and uses arrangements as they were first heard back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The attention to detail was worth it. From the first track onward, this CD feels slinky, bawdy and just a little bit exhausted, as if it were four in the morning and a hard-bitten burlesque babe was giving you everything she could at the end of a double shift. Yes, she's moving slow, but that only makes it better.

Nouveau stripper-burlesque hit the heights in the late 1990s, and while it's still going strong in a few quarters - some have even forged a career out of it - I've never been all that impressed. Yes, they're sexy to watch, but they're also heavily cosmeticized, even italicized, so you feel like you're watching a highly curated, cooled-out imitation. They're the Blade Runner replicants of strippers. They're not spontaneous, they're not loose or, God forbid, bawdy, and if the original burlesque dancers and strippers were anything, especially towards the end of their reign, they were bawdy.

Luckily, classic burlesque photos and even footage abounds. There's also a terrific documentary which charts burlesque's evolution from vintage vaudeville right to edge of its extinction. It's well worth checking out if you haven't seen it.

And lucky, also, that a lot of the original music still survives, some of which can be heard in this essential Sonny Lester CD. Sonny, as you might know, started out as a much-in-demand trumpeter before leading several Big Band groups and founding a record label. Not surprisingly, his music and riffs are heavily sampled by artists to this day (whether they admit it or not), but, again, there ain't nuttin' like the real thing.

Which all begs the question: what's the opposite of a bawdy stripper in Old Hollywood? Why, it's none other than that classy Miss Jean Simmons:

Pretty and poised, she was perfectly cast in "This Could Be The Night," a 1957 clunker in which she plays a super-uptight teacher who's hired to work as a receptionist at a raucous, mob-owned nightclub. Hijinks ensue (of course).

But the soundtrack? Yeeeowza! No, really. This is swingin' Big Band jazz that all but shoots fire out of your speakers, courtesy of Ray Anthony, the jazz band leader who hit the big-time during WWII, and later achieved even great fame for this little ditty. Joining in the fun are vocalists Julie Wilson and Neile Adams. Trust me, whether you're stripping or not, you want this.

Meanwhile, Mildred, Edith and Elena would like to sing you a song or two - and, no, they aren't going to take their clothes off. But they will put a smile on your face. Just look how happy Pee-wee Herman is to see them!

In the 1950s, the Del Rubio Triplets were a fairly popular group of singers - and they were actual triplets, by the way - who did the night club circuit and appeared on "The Bob Hope Show" a few times. After which they semi-retired. They might have been forgotten, but a funny thing happened thirty years later. They were "re-discovered" by a whole new generation in the 1980s and achieved even greater fame. Scooby-wha?

The gals achieved their newfound acclaim by wearing the exact same costumes they wore in their younger days and by singing songs like "Whip It!" by Devo as 1940s acoustic swing. I remember finding them so endearing, because they weren't just a camp curio,  but genuinely skilled and entertaining performers who knew exactly what they were doing and how best to serve it up. If you haven't heard them before, they're a delightful treat and perfect for summer poolside gatherings. Plus, they don't just do "Whip It," they also do the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." "Chain Of Fools," and my personal favorite, "Chica Chica Boom Chic."

The Secret Song File j'adores puzzles and word games, because what else is there to do while you're waiting for your private jet to refuel before whisking you off to Martinique? Of course, if you're with a companion, you can play Sounds Like. Let's play now. This fantastic new CD is by a certain British electro alterna group. Follow me so far? And the group has a two word name which sounds like...are you ready?

They sound like...Squat Dip. No? Still not sure? Okay, try this. They sound like...Snot Drip. Still confused? Alright, alright, but this is your final clue, so pay attention. They sound like...Yacht Strip. OMFG, really? You still don't know? Sheesh. Okay, okay, then lets just flat-out give it away and say that they're, like, rully-rully hawt - *cough*cough* - and a chip - *cough*cough* - off someone-or-others shoulder. And if you don't get it by now, then sorry, but there's no more room on the plane for you. Martinique? Ha! You're doomed going to the Jersey Shore. Buh. Bye.

Just remember, wear a bathing suit that hides your FUPA!

And, please, splash about in the comments, if you like.