Summer is almost over. Balls, I say, balls! Fall arrives, back to school, back to work, the holidays, the traffic. Pretty soon, we'll all be very busy. But, hey, maybe by Christmas, Tom Cruise will have a new girlfriend. The new TV season will be starting, too. Which reminds me, when I was just a wee thing, I only knew Nancy Walker as "that lady in the paper towel commercials," and later, as Rhoda's mother, having no idea that she was a major force on Broadway (towards the end of her career, she also directed the movie "Can't Stop The Music") (but let's not go there).
In 1959, she starred in "My Square Laddie," a giggly send-up of "My Fair Lady" in which she played a tough, gum-smacking Brooklyn broad (what else?) who makes a bet with her girlfriend Zasu Pitts that she can turn a stuffy Englishman into a Brooklyn roughneck. "What makes a limey such a priss?" she asks Zasu. And yes, this is a Cheerful Exclusive! Yippee!
The LP unfolds like an old-fashioned radio play, with lots of snappy dialogue and bubbly underscore between the songs - this is a good thing in this case - and the songs? How can you go wrong with "My Fair Lady" send-ups like "I'm Kinda Partial To His Puss" and "I Could Have Boozed All Night?"
I swear I've become obsessed with Martha Raye in the past year or so. She's pictured below entertaining the troops in Vietnam, something she also did in WWII and the Korean War (she's the only civilian woman to earn the rank of Colonel, plus an honorary membership with the Green Berets, and the only woman to be buried with full military honors at Fort Bragg). I thought I had most of her releases, but lo-and-behold, I didn't.
For those who still remain unconvinced of how terrific she was as a singer - or can't get past the poor quality of some of her old scritchy-scratchy releases (and I understand that) - then you're in for a wonderful Cheerful Exclusive treat. Hooray! Here's a spanking-new release with gorgeously remastered tracks. I swear, she's never sounded better.
Speaking of never better and always fabulous, behold Miss Billie Holiday (in a rare color photo):
"I hate straight singing," she once said. "I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know." And that was enough. More than enough. Especially with "Lady Sings The Blues," reputedly her favorite LP, and it's not hard imagine why.
From the first title song - which will practically blast out of your speakers (in a good way) - this is jazz singing at its best and most soulful. Did she have the best voice? No. Could she interpret her songs better than practically any other jazz singer before or since? Oh my God, yes. And don't worry, "Strange Fruit" is here. I don't think this song will ever age or lose its heartbreaking power.
Tony Curtis. What a likable jackass. God only knows knows what he's doing in "Taras Bulba," an awful 1962 movie which is so dull it unfolds like molasses. It also stars Yul Brynner doing his usual, late-career, macho-gasbag thing that people somehow found virile. But whatever.
So why are we talking about this movie with an awful title based on a great book? Because, soundtrack-heads, it has a fantastic, unsung, super-rare score by Franz Waxman, one that Bernard Herrmann, a cranky sort who wasn't given to undeserved praise, called "the score of a lifetime."
This version includes the entire score in a new recording and it's almost impossibly grand and sweeping and romantic. If you've enjoyed Waxman's "Sunset Boulevard" or "Bride of Frankenstein," then trust me, this is so up your alley (and be patient, it's a 2-CD download) (fold some laundry or something while it's doing its thing and it'll be ready in no time).
The Secret Song File is feeling artistic-ish today, but don't worry, there ain't nothing Hipster going on here, m'k? Dreaded Hipsters, as you know, come from Brooklyn, but so do a lot of good things, like this Brooklyn-based group whose music has alternately been labeled Nu Disco, Dance Pop, Indie Electro and Chic Pop Lite (honestly, they must tie up some queen in a back room till he comes up with new genre labels these days) (all of which tell you nothing) (but I digress).
Labels aside, this supernew CD is just larkish fun - and a nice way to ride out the summer. Who are they? I can only give you one hint, and I swear it's all you'll need. Jennifer Aniston earned lasting fame by appearing on the sitcom (fill-in-the-blank). Okay? It's that easy. That's their name. For reals. I'm totally telling the truth.
Would I lie to you, honey? Oh, no, no, no!
And, hey, confabulate in the comments if the mood strikes.