Mar 29, 2014

Bev's Coffee Jazz, A Fantastic Plastic Party With A Panther, Three Terrif Sisters, Plus a Big Ol' Yellow Brick Of A Secret Song!

Earthquake, earthquake! We had another shake-shake-shake here, but it was fairly mild compared to the last one (since we weren't near the epicenter), which means there was no need to clean up, no need to vacuum. But it did make me think of Jeanette MacDonald - and gosh, how brave she was in "San Francisco" - and the Golden Gate Bridge and beatnik coffee shops and the always delightful 1960s and 70s-era jazz chanteuse Bev Kelly, who recorded several LPs in good ol' Fog City (see how neatly that all fits together?). 

Though largely forgotten by mass-market jazz aficionados (and she really shouldn't be), Bev was playing classical piano at age five, and by the time she graduated college, she was already touring the nation's top jazz clubs and recording albums. She continued performing well into the 1970s, but her family soon took priority - and then (get this; you'll suddenly feel lazy), she somehow found time to earn her Phd. in Clinical Psychology, and to this day, enjoys a thriving private practice. 

Her live "Coffee Gallery" LP, likely recorded in the early 70s (a Call Me Dr. Bev Cheerful Exclusive!), reveals a jazz vocalist with a wonderful light touch - and a wisely contained vibrato which she deploys with skillful precision. Yet it's the overall sunniness of her sound which really sets her apart. When she performs, she seems unencumbered by the usual zonked-out heaviness, unconscious or not, which inflicts some jazz vocalists. Jazz frees something up for Bev; there's purest joy in her singing and it's infectious. 

By the way, if you're throwing a post-earthquake cocktail party today - and really, why wouldn't you want to? - you might want to invite a certain fuchsia-colored feline along.

Mancini isn't the only partygoer on hand at the "Pink Panther's Penthouse Party;" this kicky compilation is surprisingly well-curated, and joins Mancini with oodles of buoyant electro tunes from Pizzicato 5, the Fantastic Plastic Machine, Peggy Lee, Dimitri from Paris and scads more. And, okay, it starts out awkwardly - do we really need two "Pink Panther" mixes in a row? - but I swear it gets better and better as it goes along. Really. Kind of like an earthquake.

Clear the way! They're comin' through! Virginia, Mattye and Anne. That's right; three splendid sisters are. In. The. House.

Mind you, these are international sisters, for they found their greatest fame, along with many movie and TV roles, in Italy and France from the 1950s through the 70s. Could they have succeeded in the U.S.? Probably. But would they have starred in a string of giggly spaghetti westerns and pasta commercials? Probably not. The U.S. might have been their home, but it was Europe (especially Italy) which truly embraced them.

Their singing - a festive mix of blues, jazz and swing - may at first remind you of the Andrews Sisters, but given the time period, they're more self-aware, and so their performances have an added comedic charge. They performed with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, amongst many others, but in "The Terrific Peters Sisters" - a Just-Between-Us-Sisters Cheerful Exclusive! - they take center stage. And they're delicious.

Hold on, ya'll. It's an aftershock. And it's scary! Why, it's enough to turn the Secret Song File's brown eyes (phosphorescent) blue. Also shocking? The 4-CD anniversary edition of the Queen Mum's a certain Brit pop star's smash 1970s double LP. Sure, there's yellow bricks, but this ain't no Dorothy story (or maybe it is).

There's Jets, too, and Marilyn Monroe and even social diseases (eeow). If you know what this is already, you want this nicely restored version with a trunkful of extras, and if you don't, then you really ought to give it a spin (painted ladies everywhere will thank you). Oh, and remember, this is 4 CDs, so go make a coffee or pop a Xanax or take a nap and come back later because it'll take a while.

If the Big One hits, find your drugs first!

And, please, create a rumble in the comments, if you like.


KH said...

Cool stuff!

Glad I'm on FIOS this weekend…

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Oh, how I envy your FiOS.

James Sanford said...

Delighted to hear the special edition: The concert recordings are particularly entertaining -- and the original album holds up so well.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You said it, James. The music - live or original - still sounds vital and current. I don't know of a pop artist working today who could put together a double album that's this good from start to finish (though I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any) (just don't say Gaga, because while I like some of her stuff, I think she's run out of gas)..

David Federman said...

The Peters Sisters remind me more of the King Sisters than the Andrews ladies. Which is my way of praising them--and you, as always. Somewhere in these parts you advise to find drugs first if you think it's your last. I'm convinced your best postings are the result of frequent hallucinatory false alarms. By the way, I'm not usually a fan of compulsive vocalizing by jazz singers, but I've decided to let Bev Kelly get away with murder. Keep digging up forgotten riches and then mixing them as artfully as you do. Juxtaposition is what a great music blog is all about.

Faze said...

That Bev Kelly is some sweet kid. Phony "live" albums with canned applause are a pet peeve of mine, so it's pleasant to hear the occasional authenticating background cough during Bev's set. You can almost picture the smoke-filled room. The Peters Sisters clip would seem to have the ingredients of something I'd love, but the choppy mix of cultural currents coming together there leaves me a little seasick. Still, as Mr. Federman says above, it's the mix that makes the magic in this blog. Thanks as always.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thanks, David & Faze!

BTW, David, I'm loving the phrase "frequent hallucinatory false alarms" and have decided to adopt it. :D And Faze, I'm with you on canned "live" audiences. What's the point??

Ted said...

I'm still really enjoying you site and looking forward to your next post. In the meantime, could you please re-activate both Bev Kelly and the Peters Sisters?

Thanks much,


The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Hey, Ted, they're back up for you. Enjoy!