Dietrich. No one delivers the look of I-have-absolutely-
no-fucks-not-a-damn-to-give better than her. Behold: the eyebrows arched in permanent whatever; the half-lidded eyes that look you up and down and say, "Meh;" the cigarette barely balanced in her gloved hands - because she just doesn't care if it drops and burns you. She. Just. Doesn't. Care. And yet we still love her, don't we? I know I do.
In this first of three Cheerful Exclusives!, Le Dietrich performs live in Brazil, land of the permanent suntan, cheap plastic surgery and various Brazilian bombshells. The year was 1959, and the audience was more than appreciative. Who wouldn't be? She performed all her big hits - "The Boys In The Backroom," "Makin' Whoopee!" amongst others - and she was in fine voice. And by that I mean she sounds just as you want her to sound. Like Dietrich.
I love hearing great performers live, because even though there's always a few imperfections here or there, you get a deeper feel for what their songs really mean to them - and how they work up their audiences as they put them across. Some seduce you with crackling sophistication, like Anita O'Day, others wear their hearts on their sleeves, like Judy Garland. Ernestine Anderson? She throws thunderbolts.
In 1957, Ernestine pretty much laid them all flat when she performed this live set. It's not just a good performance, it's a great one. For modern ears, she's probably the most accessible classic jazz singer out there, but that doesn't take away from what she's doing here. By making simple, emotionally direct vocal choices, then boldly magnifying them, she speaks to everyone. That's a style that's virtually out-of-style - every singer these days seems to overcompensate with distracting honks and wails (it's like you're being ambushed by a flock of hellish birds) - so when you hear it done right, as Ernestine does here, it can sound like the freshest thing you've ever heard.
I've come to like Burt Reynolds over the years. As a child, I just didn't get him, probably because every time I saw him he was on a talk show (I wasn't old enough to get into most of his movies) (no, really). Whether chatting with Merv or Johnny, he was all greasy show-biz self-assurance and I instinctively recoiled (I get the same vibe nowadays from Ben Affleck; all that bland megalomania). But after I was old enough to rent his movies, and separate the "personality" from the performer, it was like meeting someone new. "Deliverance," "The Longest Yard," "Hustle," "Semi-Tough" - they're all classics.
"Sharky's Machine" holds up well, too, and its 1981 soundtrack, recently reissued, sounds terrific. This isn't a typical soundtrack for the early 80's; the song tracks aren't modern, but instead reflects the era's flashy downward spiral in Atlanta, the movie's setting. That means you get some terrific jazz tunes from Peggy Lee, Randy Crawford, Doc Severinsen and Chet Baker. It's a lot of fun, and just a bit sleazy, too. In other words, it's perfect.
A lot of fun. Just a bit sleazy. Is someone calling her name? The Secret Song File is here for your amusement, and today, she's feeling a little innocent (I know, I know, let's all just humor her).
To set the mood, she's playing a spanking new CD from a certain Academy Awards show-performing R&B singer (and yes, he finally got rid of that silly hat) (which I kind of liked). It might sound strange to call his CD "innocent" - you can add an "ish" to the end of it, if you like - but it's definitely upbeat. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a single cynical note in the whole thing. Shocking, I know, but let's all just go with it.
'Fun 'n' Sleazy!' should be the name of a band, don't you think?
Have all the fun you want in the comments!