In the late 90's, I was all over Pizzicato 5 - or P5, for those in the know - a gleefully screwy Japanese group that was labeled, in America, at least, as "electro," though I liked the label I once heard a DJ give them, "electro fizzy-pop," because I thought it best described their freakishly happy music.
I didn't get them at first, not until a friend told me to think of them as the musical equivalent of Godard gone loopy (and without the politics). That sounds pretentious, I know, but it's really not, because in a similar vein to Godard, Pizzicato 5 grabs at every bouncy, disreputable element of pop music, and turns them into something glittery and new - and way beyond camp or mere satire. That's there, of course, yet it's their breathless sense of fun-fun-fun at any cost that really makes listening to them such a blast.
Whether or not they have anything else to say beyond fun-fun-fun, I'm not sure, because I don't understand Japanese, but I'll wager the lyrics are just as giggly-glittery as the music given song titles like "Weekend!" and "Rolls Royce." Their few American-released CDs were thrown-together compilations, and like most groups, the music is best enjoyed in its original context. One of my favorites is 1988's "Bellisima!" The slogan for the CD is "Let's Get Stoned With Pizzicato 5!" You really ought to, though even without herbal aid, it's pure delight.
Ten years later, their music became even more deliriously batty - or to continue the band's drug reference, they went from weed to heroin. Wheeeeee! It's almost impossible to keep a straight face when you're listening to "Playboy & Playgirl" (and I don't recommend you try) (just surrender).
Sadly, the group disbanded in 2001, but various members have gone on to create wonderful music, including Miss Maki Nomiya, seen below performing in what I believe are tiny, knitted squares of Reynolds Wrap and a polarized car visor (because why not?).
Her 2005 CD "Party People" is exactly what you think it will be (thank goodness); a hyper-stylized collection of sleek dance songs with 80's-inspired beats and grooves. Plus her voice seems to have no real limits to what it can do. She's like an up-to-the-minute Lady Miss Kier - a soulful, believably earth-bound element amidst all the electro beeps and blurps.
Remember Julie London? We talked about her last week being all sexy 'n' stuff, though below, she looks a bit zonked, like she just woke up with a killer hangover, turned to the guy next to her and asked, "And who the hell are you?"
Julie obviously downed some coffee before singing on "Cha-Cha De Amor," a fabulous compilation of cha-cha numbers with Yma Sumac, Dean Martin, Les Baxter, Perez Prado and so many-many more. When you're having a dinner party, this is the perfect accompaniment for appetizers. No, really. It's lively without being distracting and happy without being annoying. And, yes, I've given it a party test-run, and plan to play it again at a little soiree me and my Cuban Luvuh are having tomorrow night. So if you hear cha-cha music, come on over. I always make too much!
Meanwhile, see how young Shirley Jones looks below? Like, really young-young. She's almost fetal!
Shirley's led quite the life (even if Joan Collins says otherwise), and yet, I normally don't enjoy her singing. Yet after listening to the genuinely sweet 1959 LP "With Love From Hollywood," which she did with her then-husband Jack Cassidy, I now know why. I actually like Shirley's voice, I just don't like hearing all those painfully sticky-sweet Rogers & Hammerstein songs she usually performs (come at me in the comments, R & H-heads. I'm battle-scared from this opinion and don't plan to stop now).
Interestingly, Shirley's voice is ageless, but Jack's voice sounds very much of its time, when men all sang in a sort of low-pitched "woo-woo-woo" fashion (and maybe that's why I enjoy female singers more than male. The woman, for the most part, aren't beholden to the styles of their era). At any rate, this is a sunny, lighter-than-light confection - and a Cheerfully Shirley Lossless Exclusive! Perfect for dessert and after-dinner drinks? Hmmm.
The Secret Song File doesn't just throw a good dinner party, she goes to it, which is another way of saying that she makes as much as possible beforehand so she can spend time bewitching her guests. Still, she always makes her roux fresh, especially if it's for pasta. But there's another kind of roux, dont'cha know - and it sings.
This roux hasn't released anything new for a while, so her latest collection is something of an event. Is it as good as her last? It might be. It's growing on me. Which means it's probably as good, if not better, but not as instantly ear-candy-ish as the former. But whatever. A good roux always adds something special to any occasion. Except for when party guests won't leave. Have you ever had that happen? We have. Some people just can't take a hint.
Roux vs. bechamel vs. mornay. I just can't decide!
Comment below, if you like, and, yes, I have more wine.