Quelle scandale! Ann Richards posed for Playboy in 1961, shocking the music world. Yet as beautiful as she was, Ann led a troubled life. She was underrated as a singer, her career sputtered here and there. And despite her marriage to jazz great Stan Kenton and giving birth to their two children, she died in 1982 at age 46 from a self-inflicted gun shot.
Right, so that's no fun, but her singing remains captivating. In this Oh, Ann, Cheerful Exclusive!, she cuts loose (and how) with the Bill Marx Trio in "Live...At the Losers," the "Losers" being the name of a now-shuttered club, one of the first in Hollywood to include topless entertainment (it was featured in the 1969 movie "Flareup" with Raquel Welch). It's a great jazz set, and not only because of Ann's sharply phrased vocals, but her bright, witty personality. When she performs "Come Rain Or Come Shine," there's no underlying desperation in her voice as you sometimes hear when it's sung by others (which is the obvious choice). With Ann, it's a bold dare in two tart minutes.
Speaking of bewitching, have you seen "Swimming Pool" with Ludivine Sagnier? That's her reclining poolside below.
And then there's Charlotte Rampling as the writer on retreat. Her life is about to go topsy-turvy because of the wily Ludivine. Look out, Charlotte!
Is it a mystery? A thriller? A drama? Kind of all three, and though it doesn't make much sense when all is said and done, it's a delight to watch (and a perfect end-of-summer rental). The music - by Phillippe Rombi, the corrupted, bastard son of Herrmann and Donaggio, and filmmaker Francois Ozon's favorite composer - is both seductive and thrilling. You needn't have seen the movie. It's a terrific listening experience all on its own, I promise.
In a more straight-dramatic vein, Rombi delivers a lushly romantic, yet heartbreaking, soundtrack for Ozon's underrated "5x2," the story of a married couple's dissolution told in reverse order, similar to Pinter's "Betrayal" (which I personally couldn't stomach) (those tick-tock pauses allegedly loaded with meaning drove me up the wall). It's one of Rombi's most emotionally rounded scores, and like "Swimming Pool," a great stand-alone experience, I promise (again!).
Oh, so many emotions, so many feelings! It's time to jazz things up a bit, don't you think (just nod, "yes") (you'll be happy you did). And, really, can you get any more life-affirming than Ma Rainey?
But wait! (or as the Chenbot says, "But first..."). Ma Rainey isn't the only jazz and blues star included in "Devil Got My Woman," a fabulous must-have compilation for fans of early blues classics. There's Willie Brown and Skip James and Leroy Carr and oodles and oodles more. Trust me, you want.
And yet, how can we even talk about jazz with mentioning Billie Holiday? Here's Billie backstage with her beloved dog Mister, who's happily snacking on one of her shoes (because her shoes are just that yummy) (of course).
Billie's top performances are collected in this wonderful 2-CD set. Yes, I know, there's tons of Billie compilations out there, and we all have a few, but this one stands out given its gorgeous restoration work - her voice seems to waft like smoke out of the speakers - and a fine selection of songs. You've never heard her "Foggy Day" sound this good before.
Brace yourself. Now it can be told. The Secret Song File had a child a few years ago. Did she give it away for adoption? No, but she doesn't really take care of the little crumb-catcher, either. Why should she? Who has time? She has a Back-Up Mommy, as the say - the one below, who's trying to yank that precious dumpling and carriage up a flight of stairs, the fool - which, in its own way, is kind of like having a Back-Up Singer.
You know, the ones who look good on stage and - shhh! - do a lot of the real singing in the recording studio. There was even a documentary made about them recently, and with it, this all-new soundtrack with prime cuts from the likes of Bowie, Lou Reed and lots more. Which got me to thinking, who knows who's singing what anymore? Or more to the point, is singing even real these days?
Are we even real anymore? Are you a hologram? If an existentialist dies in the woods, do the trees really care?
Share your loopy theoretical thoughts in the comments, if you like!