Is the weather nice 'n' easy where you are? No more snow 'n' such? Oh, I hope so (we just had an earthquake here) (but it was small, so no biggie). Spring is skipping around the corner, which means it's the perfect time to listen to songs from the most cynical Hollywood movie musical ever made.
Just like "Network," MGM'S 1955 musical "It's Always Fair Weather" was way ahead of its time, skewering hard-sell ad men, shallow yuppie careerists and bogus reality TV - oh, and the main storyline's a cold little yarn about a group of war vets who reunite and discover they don't even like each other anymore. In addition to a dancing Gene Kelley, there's Cyd Charrise, Michael Kidd and, of course, Dolores Gray, whose performance as an ice-cold, condescending TV hostess is positively bloodcurdling (and I mean that as praise). Naturally, it was a b.o. bomb, all but ending the reign of big MGM musical blockbusters.
Regardless of your feelings about the movie (I think it's fun, if over-long), the music is terrific, and includes Miss Dolores' irresistible number, "Thanks, But No Thanks." This special edition also includes outtakes, alternate takes, demos - the whole kitten-kaboodle!
Do you like Bernard Herrmann? Of course you do. Do you like Philip Glass? I'll bet you do (in doses).
A few years back, me and my Cuban Luvuh went to see "A Single Man," the Tom Ford movie adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel. I liked it visually - the fashion-shoot glossiness added to the period atmosphere, I felt, instead of detracting, as many critics claimed at the time - yet it was symptomatic of a larger problem. The movie's emotions, like the visuals, were fastidiously arranged and sealed-off, as if under glass. Ultimately, it just didn't move me as much as I'd hoped it might.
The music's another matter. I stumbled onto the CD later and figured it would be one of those "Important Movie Soundtracks" full of chaste, tinkling piano music and thin, earnest, WASP-ish sounding violins (and I can't with those, I just can't). But I was wrong. Yes, it's restrained, but barely, instead flooding your senses with every gorgeous, conflicted emotion running through Isherwood's story (which, for some reason, Ford couldn't tap into on film) (and if it doesn't come from the script and the performances, even the most explicit movie music won't help).
The central composer is Abel Korzeniowski - a bastard child of Herrmann and Glass. The second, Shigeru Umebayashi, makes witty use of Herrmann on several tracks, such as "A Variation On Scotty," which uses strains from "Vertigo" as a jumping-off point. You'll love it, I promise.
Let's kick up the mood. Let's celebrate the coming spring with the one-and-only Diahann Carroll. Spread those wings, Diahann, spread 'em!
In "Best Beat Forward," Miss Diahann's lively 1958 LP - a Cheerful Almost-Spring Exclusive! just for you - she kicks that beat high, she kicks that beat low, and she all but slays "This Can't Be Love" and "I May Be Wrong," among many others. She has a silkier tone than you might remember, and an actress' ability to make each song a complete three-act experience. Plus this is the perfect LP to play when you're spring cleaning (and I mean that as highest praise) (because dusting 'n' cleaning 'n' such can be sooooo boring).
Have you ever heard of Bev Kelly? She was a nightclub jazz singer in the 50's and 60's who later gave up music to raise her son, then earned a doctorate in Psychology and became a psychotherapist. While I love hearing stories about people realizing multiple career paths, you may wish she hadn't given up on music entirely when you hear here on the compilation below.
Bev's just one of many singers - including Rosemary Clooney, Marilyn Monroe, Lena Horne, Jo Stafford - on this terrific compilation which, for some dumb reason, is called "Jazz Erotic." The better to sell it, I guess, though if there's a niche-market for role-playing fetishists who love jazz, it's new to me. How else to explain the slightly S&M cover art? Crack that whip, Rosemary! "I'll be your mistress tonight," says Lena. Yeah, I don't see it, either, but the CD's chock full of great tunes.
Given her vast experience on the stage, the Secret Song File does not "role play." You want a show? Then please provide a proscenium stage and 15% of the box-office revenue, thankyouverymuch. But she does enjoy a good show, especially if a certain anarchic troupe of puppets are involved.
Some of them are green, some of them are piggy (my favorite is this one). They all sing and giggle on this spanking new CD, along with several guest stars - the most notable being a certain actress who's positively loathed by a certain would-be politician. And that only adds to the enjoyment, don't you think?
Here a puppet, there a moppet, I say.
Let everyone know which one's your favorite in the comments, if you like!