Carol Lawrence, the original "Maria" in Broadway's "West Side Story," is a strange brew. She's all butterflies and rainbows above, yet below, she's pure sass and ass.
But then, this is a gal whose greatest fame comes from being an Italian playing a Puerto Rican (and quite memorably, by all accounts). She's also one of the last-standing Broadway singers who surely wouldn't need amplification if she took to the stage today. This is another way of saying that her singing voice on 1962's "This Heart Of Mine" - an Al Dente Cheerful Exclusive! - isn't what you'd call traditionally pretty, but it is wonderfully striking, and, yes, a little innocent here, and little insolent there. Carol gives you the whole pot of goods.
No, those are not two, teensy chandeliers hanging from Dakota Staton's ears below, though I understand your confusion (if I had a mouse, I'd hang them in his teensy dining room).
Dakota, as you know, is a jazz and blues singer who wasn't appreciated as much as she should have been in her day; she's at least as distinctive as Dinah Washington, for example. But Dakota never threw in the towel. Her last LP, "Live At Milestones" - a Cheerful Exclusive! for you and yours - was released only one month before her death in 2007. She was 76, and make no mistake, she was still on fire.
Speaking of unappreciated, when will Ruth Olay get her due? This one-of-a-kind singer started out "passing" as a black singer - she wanted to work with a group of talented black musicians, and they were in on the carefully guarded secret - then years later, found moderate success after appearing on TV's "The Jack Parr Show."
In 1966, she released "Soul In The Night" - an Oh, Olay Cheerful Exclusive! - and it's thrilling, spooky and jaw-dropping all at the same time, or what I've decided to label the first "film-noir jazz vocal LP." Why film-noir? Because you can sense danger in each of the songs here, and raw, unhinged madness in her vocals - which can soar and whoosh in any direction at any given moment.
You'll know what you're in for from the first track, "Willow, Weep For Me," when she sings the opening lyric, "Oh, Lord, why did you send the darkness to me?" The drama's heightened to the nnth degree by her tremulous voice, which sounds as if she's shuddering on a street corner in the black of night. And that's just the first line of the first song.
Let's pause a moment to appreciate the glam-moor of 1970's-era Mitzi Gaynor:
You probably have some of the songs from the compilation below, but I'll bet you don't have all of them. There's Mitzi, of course, Dolores Grey, our old friend Jo Ann Greer, Gwen Verdon, and so many more in yet another Cheerful Exclusive!
It's just the album to play as you wait with baited breath for the Oscars tomorrow. Are you in an Oscar poll? Are you going to play spot-the-dealer during the red carpet arrivals (take three guesses)? Will you mistake Johnny Depp in his flouncy gear for a beautiful middle-aged lesbian? Will Lupita N'yongo once again look stunning? Will Ryan Seacrest do something stupid? The suspense is killing me!
The Secret Song File has been to the Oscars on many occasion. Okay, okay, as a seat warmer, but somebody has to do the job while Clooney's off balling some doll in the loo (it happens more than you think) (but he's such a gentleman about it!). It's times like these that the Secret Song yearns for a little subtlety, especially if it comes in the form of a new - and fanged (*cough*cough*) - indie crooner.
But seriously, this is a terrif new singer, and if the second half of the CD's better than the first half, at least it builds. Plus he's an eyeful to look at and that never hurts. Oh, and while we're on the subject of eyefuls (and subtlety), will this delicate flower be walking the red carpet this year? We can only hope and pray.
I voted for Lupita!
Leave your Oscar rants in the comments, if you like.