It's the dog days of summer, and you know what that means, it's time for The Cheerful Earful to take a break, though I'll be back shortly after Labor Day (or mid-September-ish for those of you over the pond). Will I leave you empty-handed till then? Oh, I would never! Or as the immortal Lena Horne says, "My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman!" Actually, I would never say that, but when you're reaching for a segue, sometimes you just drive off a cliff.
Did you know? In 1969, Lena recorded an album of contemporary hits with Gabor Szabo, a famed Hungarian guitarist noted for mixing it up with jazz and pop. It was a match made in Heaven, and even gave Lena a chart hitting single, "Watch What Happens."
Admittedly, when I first stumbled upon "Lena & Gabor," I thought I'd found a little-known camp classic (given that I thought you know who was paired with Lena). Instead, what I found was a wonderful, impassioned LP - and a Cheerful Exclusive! just for you - with late-era Lena bringing her best to songs like "Everybody's Talkin'" and "Message To Michael." I know, I know, Lena going 'contempo' could have been a train wreck (and the first song, "Rocky Raccoon," makes for an uneasy start), but Lena triumphs. This time, she really lets loose.
And now, America's favorite post-modern hippie chick:
A few weeks ago, my Cuban Luvuh and I attended a "Jagged Little Pill" tribute concert. "Isn't it too soon for that sort of thing?" you ask, but get this, the album is coming up on its twentieth anniversary. Shocking, isn't it? We're all a little older (or not) (I respect your choice not to age). The concert was well performed, a bit "Rent"-ish at times, which actually worked in its favor, while the songs proved their staying power. And, yes, the inevitable Broadway musical version is in the works. Is it necessary? Not really (but then neither was "American Idiot," which I thoroughly enjoyed).
"Jagged Little Pill" looms large - still. Why? Because its struggling-with-self-identity, twenty-something angst is so timeless and universal. In 2005, or ten years after the album was released, Alanis cut an acoustic version. The original is bursting at the seams with fury and anguish, but this version, with the same songs, has Alanis performing in a more considered tone, as if she's reflecting on a crucial life touchstone - her first steps into adulthood. Wiser, yes, not nearly as troubled and newly perceptive. For audiences who were in their early-thirties when this version came out, it must have felt like she was once again hitting a nerve.
Everything seems to slow to a crawl at the end of August, so it's the perfect time to kick back on your porch, balcony, fire escape or rooftop with a martini, iced tea, soda or medicinal herb (prescribed for your restless leg syndrome!) and let the cool jazz sounds of Sylvia Syms waft past.
As you may know, I love hearing great vocalists live, so I was thrilled to find a 1984 recording with Sylvia at Jack Kleinsinger's "Highlights In Jazz" venue - Manhattan's longest running jazz series - performing songs from the Johnny Mercer songbook. Given her mastery at storytelling and appreciation of lyrics, Sylvia and Mercer are a terrific match - plus you get to hear Sylvia's rousing, extemporaneous chats between songs. Not for nothing was Mae West an early admirer. She's funny, lively and always endearing.
Are you still sad about Robin Williams? Everyone is, so you're not alone, but remember, he wouldn't want you to cry, he'd want you to imagine him dashing off to Heaven like this:
And perhaps he'd want you to listen again to his debut comedy LP, "Reality...What a Concept," which was recorded live in San Francisco and New York in 1979. It's hilarious, of course, and includes one of my favorite Williams' routines, "Kindergarten Of The Stars" (which still makes me giggle after all these years). Robin may be gone, but what treasures he's left behind.
Sometimes the Secret Song File just can't believe what she's seeing or hearing, like that summer long ago when a friend told her (and you may want to sit down for this) that, yes, he's totally straight. She kept looking, looking - was he joking? was he high? - but alas, alack, he said nothing more and his face remained stock-still.
What does this have to do with a certain Canadian folk singer who's released a new jazz CD? Nothing. But you'd have to be a fool (*cough*) not to find gold (*cough*cough*) in the singer's new style. Oh, and if you think The Secret Song File is going to be anyone's beard, then she's got a new religion to sell you. It's called Givemeallyourcash-ientology and it's totally legit, I swear.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
And, hey, let 'er rip in the comments, if you like.