Mar 13, 2014

Anita's Finest, Sheila's Confirmin', Plus Bette's Best And A Tiny Diva Secret Song!

Peace out, yo, from Anita to you (don't you feel better now?)  (I do). As you may know, I've highlighted a lot of Anita LPs here from her later years (because they're the hardest to find and every Anita fan should have them), but I got to thinking the other day, what if there are readers out there who only know Anita from the this blog? It's certainly possible, and that would be a shame, since early and mid-career Anita is just flat-out fantastic.

Below, you'll find what I think is the best-evuh compilation of classic Anita.
If her take on "Let Me Out Uptown" or "Tea For Two" or "Peal Me A Grape" doesn't convince you that she's an irresistible, one-of-a-kind jazz master, then I'll throw in the towel and cry, "Uncle! Uncle! More Parks Sausages, Mom! Ple-e-e-ase?!" Really. I mean it. The cuts here are that good.

Speaking of one-of-a-kind, let's move on to Sheila, who waited almost a decade to record her second LP, 1975's "Confirmation."

Maybe "waited" isn't the right way to put it, since she hasn't found the commercial success of her fellow jazz peeps, but that obviously hasn't kept her down, or compromised her vocal abilities. The epic track "By Myself" proves that in spades. Who else could pull this off with such joyful ease?

"Conformation" starts out with Sheila announcing that a portion of the LP is dedicated to "children" - and before you run away fearing something sticky, trust me, you've never heard "Inch Worm" or "My Favorite Things" sung with such haunting simplicity. She cracks these songs open to their primal core, her voice conjuring up a childhood we can all remember; happy, yes, but also eerie and wonderfully enigmatic.

Prepare yourself. Bette Davis. She's smoking a cig and knocking back shots of bourbon. Because she can, and she will, and you can't stop her.

Below is Bette in her salad days, but don't be fooled. The cig and bourbon are surely just out of the camera range.

Do you have Bette's "Classic Film Scores" in your collection? If you don't, do yourself the favor - this is terrific Hollywood scoring that transcends time - and if you do, treat yourself to this restored 1989 version, which brings out every orchestral sweep anew. "Jezebel" never sounded so good, I promise.

"Now, Voyager" has Max Steiner's best score, I think, and it's definitely one of my favorite Bette Davis movies. And by the way, for those who only know Bette from clips that merely highlight her occasional bombast, watch the scene below to see how subtly she shifts from certainty to confusion to mortified shame in the presence of her domineering mother, and how Steiner's melancholy opening prefigures the inevitable.


Unfortunately, I've yet to find a complete soundtrack for "Now Voyager," but I do have the next best thing. Years ago, when certain people thought that you just had to have a laser disc player (I wasn't one of them; who's laughing now?), Warners put out a laser disc of "Now Voyager" which included a collection of scoring tracks pulled from the film. They're gathered here, and while it doesn't have everything, it's a great selection. It also has Steiner and his minions barking orders to the orchestra on some of the tracks' openers, which only adds to the fun.

Did you know that a certain Aussie pop diva stands only 5'2"? Or that she had thirteen number one hits in a row in the UK (a record that still stands)? Or that the Secret Song File isn't the least bit jealous of her success? How can that be? Simple. By all accounts, this pop dynamo is a genuinely nice person. And she's in show-biz! The mind reels.

Her latest CD is chock full of breezy summer pop hits-to-be, though a warning. Played straight through, the CD can overwhelm, so it's best to hit pause for a second or so between each tune. This isn't a knock so much as a sign of the times (or over-anxious record companies who shave down the breathers between tunes to almost nothing). But really, nothing can keep this diva down. Not breast cancer, her age relative to current pop stars, or even that awful Frenchie who cheated on her while she was in chemo. Va te faire foute, you stinker!

If only he'd been Canadian or Belgian; they're so much nicer.

Express your geographical leanings, or whatever you like, in the comments.


Faze said...

Outside of your ongoing promotion, I mainly knew Anita from "Jazz on a Summer Afternoon". You've enlarged my appreciation. But your Bette clip only reaffirms my already huge admiration for her - and the studio system that worked these great artists hard and got the best out of them again and again (even if it came close to killing some of them).

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I'm with you on Davis, Faze; her work seems to get more impressive every passing year.

Corto Maltese said...

Hie , the first Bette Davis link is dead ...
Thanks !!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Bette's first is back!