Feb 8, 2014

Kay On Stage, Esther Trips Out , Plus Roslyn's Nails, Ora's Blues And A Summer Month Secret Song!

More Kay Starr! Exclusively pour vous! Doesn't she look great wearing her something-or-other above? Is it a bathing suit? A kicky summer outfit for tooling around town? Whatever it is, she looks swell. Meanwhile, 1950's "Kay Starr On Stage" is yet another Kay release for all you Kay complete-ists out there (and I know I'm not the only one).

Fair warning, though, it's not an all-Starr LP; it starts with four terrific songs performed by Kay, including a buoyant "I Gotcha Honey" (which I believe she introduced), then concludes with four perfectly dreary tunes sung by Martha Tilton and Curt Massey, neither of whom I have any interest in at all. Oh, well. Even 1/2 a Kay LP is better than none. But don't say I didn't warn you about Tilton and Massey. Do not, I repeat, do not operate heavy machinery while listening to them. They're stronger than Ambien!

But wait! There's more! Even more exclusive Kay. This time a complete Kay - and her very last original LP for a major label, 1968's "When The Lights Go On Again." It's one of her best, I think, and includes her definitive version of "Sunny," as well as her gorgeous take "My Melancholy Baby." Once this LP was released, as you may know, Kay turned from jazz-pop to straight up jazz and never looked back (oh, and thanks Steve53, for pointing out the previous error in this post).

Is there a more improbable Hollywood star than swimming sensation Esther Williams? I'm convinced her directors were smoking the good shit partaking of fine herb while creating her eye-popping epics. Don't think so? Then kindly explain this:

Years ago, I did a handful of 'shrooms with some friends and went to see a spanking new Technicolor print of "Million Dollar Mermaid." It was sheer insanity. The entire theatre was shrieking with delight, especially during this hallucinatory finale conceived and staged by Busby Berkeley:

Now before you say, "Oh, you silly little noodle, everything is a shrieking delight on 'shrooms," please be advised that I've seen the movie sans cremini many times - and it never fails to thrill.

For years, I've been looking for a good Esther soundtrack to recapture the fun, because as devoted to Esther as I may be, even I'll admit that her movies are variably spectacular and dull. In other words, her production numbers are exciting, yes, but what surrounds them - leaden, antiquated romantic plots, with jokes so moldy you wait for the baggy pants to drop - is seldom more than (ahem) workmanlike. Or let's just say that her MGM scribes didn't run out of pencil eraser while scribbling her screenplays. Or maybe they wrote them in crayon.

Luckily, I've come upon the apparently rare "Esther Williams Original Soundtracks" and it does not disappoint. In addition to having most of the songs from "Dangerous When Wet," "Jupiter's Darling" and "Easy To Love," it has their complete overtures, too - with the super-luxe MGM orchestra. It also has Esther's marvelous husband Fernando Lamas (who'll teach you how to act in this), crooning as only a supah-smooth Latin Lover can (it made me sad to learn that Esther didn't like Billy Crystal's SNL parody of Fernando) (but let's cut her a break; she had this dimbo as a stepson).

Plus there's tunes with Marge & Gower Champion, Howard Keel, Tony Martin, and even Jo Ann Greer, who provided Esther's singing voice (and Rita Hayworth's and Kim Novak's and June Allyson's and many more). Intrigued? I knew you would be.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and - behold! - the manicure is always French, as in French manicure (of course) (just don't do this to them). Yes, I speak of Buttah and her little sis Roz. Again, I say, behold: Matching. French. Manicures.

Roz' 1969 LP "Give Me You" (a Nails, Darling, Nails Cheerful Exclusive!) is actually a good deal better than her previous LP. It sounds less assembled-by-committee, and more Roz! This is a blessing and a curse. When she goes for overkill, as she does in the opening title track, seizing specific words as if she were biting into a big, sloppy, Corned Beef hoagie - "All" comes out as "Ahhhh-luh!," "Less" as "Leessssssss-suh!" - she comes into her own. But when she goes for "The Softer Side of Roz," as I like to call it, as in "Who Am I," she gives fuel to detractors who call her a Buttuh wanna-be. Her real personality blooms when she goes big, baby, big, like Liza with sharper fangs. When she does, she's irresistible.

The artwork below from the Nathan Hale Harlem Renaissance Project is as close as we're going to get to imagining what blues legend Ora Alexander might have looked like, since no pictures of her exist, and little is known about her life.

Born in Chicago (probably in the early 1900's), she was reportedly a popular presence in black juke joints and Prohibition-era speakeasies. In the early 1930's, she traveled twice to New York City and began recording for Columbia Records, making a name for herself as a bawdy "barrelhouse" blues singer. After that, she falls off the map.

Only eight songs survive from her Columbia recording days - who knows if she recorded more, or for other labels - and they're all included on "Female Blues Singers, Vol. 1 (A)" (part of an indispensable series I'll post more of if there's interest). Though the first track is poor quality, the rest sound fantastic given their age, and highlight a truly great blues singer. Yet when you listen to "I Crave Your Lovin' Every Day," for example, you don't just hear how skilled she is, you feel the almost giddy pleasure she gets from performing. Ora's early life couldn't have been easy - that's not really much of a stretch - and yet she made it. Fame is fleeting, but in her case, we're still talking about her. And all it took was eight songs.

Gunslinger Gilda, The Secret Song File's BFF, isn't looking for fame. Just a carton or two of Misty Lights, a new AK-47 (to replace the one she's hiding under her pillow), and some chill tunes.

She's in luck. The Secret Song File has turned her on to a Boston-based soprano's seventh album, in which she explores "Victorian, American Gothic themes." Some call her a combo of Patti Smith and Kate Bush, which sounds about right to Gilda. And combos are a good thing: cheddar cheese and crackers; teens and flash mobs; shotguns and rifles; chainsaws and body parts. You get the drift, don't you?

Just nod "yes;" Gilda doesn't like dissent. 

Agree or argue in the comments, if you like!


oscarjaffe said...

The Esther Williams file seems not to be working properly. I've tried downloading it (on Firefox) using several different links and it's never worked.



The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hy OscarJ, I just randomly tried Rapidshare, Freakshare, Megashare and 180Upload and they are working properly. Maybe try using a different browser?

Steve53 said...

Hi cheerful,
Just letting you know that I downloaded the Kay Starr and got a completely different Kay album ! Really nice though so thanks.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Oh, no! Thanks for pointing that out, Steve. I'll add the right LP to the post in the morning. *sigh* Sometimes these thing happen.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hey Anon In Seattle,

I hope you don't mind, but I deleted your post for your own safety because you included your email address - and I don't want you to get spammed or hacked or kerfuffled or anything horrible like that. If there's any question I can answer for you, feel free to ask me here! :)

boppinbob said...

Thanks for the double whammy of Kay Starr. Much appreciated. Returning to the Treasure Trove of Music Blogs have a quick peek at this gem:

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Ooo, cool site. Thanks, Bob!

Esther Williams Fan said...

I've just found your blog and am utterly delighted. You have exceptional taste and are quite the gracious host.

Unfortunately, the Esther Williams CD links are dead, and the disc costs an arm and a leg on Amazon.

Would it be possible to repost it, in any format you like?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Another Esther Williams fan! Welcome aboard! :D

And, yes, I still have Esther and she's happily re-upped (Esther should never be dead!). By the way, I just checked for it on Amazon...and yikes...you were right. A new one for $930.00? Oh, hahahahaha. Sure, I'll take two.

Esther Williams Fan said...

Brilliant! I can't thank you enough.

It's so tough to find lesser-known vocal pop, showtunes & jazz online. And often when you do find it, it's usually ripped at 128 kbps or lower!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome! I try to only post lossless or at least mp4 300ish.

Mill around a little, I'm sure you'll find other stuff to your liking. And, as always, if you have a prob, just let me know. Have a good Sunday!

Anonymous said...

Hi there and thanks as always for your work! I can't seem to get the Roslyn Kind link to work. Any luck on your end? Thanks!!!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Voila! Roslyn's ready for you!

John Mahan said...

Could you please re-up the Kay Starr and "Ambien" LP? Thanks, I love your blog, I've spent almost all my free time the past week on it listening and reading!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hi, John, should be ok now.