Aug 8, 2014

Pearlie's Porgy, Marilyn's Penultimate Last Call, Plus Desplat's Daughter And A Pope-Ripping Secret Song!

Shocker! In 1959, Pearl Bailey recorded an LP in which she performed songs from "Porgy & Bess," along with other Gershwin tunes, and it bombed - hardly anyone bought it - so it almost instantly went out of print. Me, yours truly, being the Porgy & Bess-head that I am - or thought I was - didn't even know it existed. By chance, while ambling through a record store with my Cuban Luvuh last week, I spotted it popping up like Pearl herself, all smiles and effortlessly stylish.

It probably didn't help that the album was released by a third-tier company with no money to promote it, but whatever the reason, this is truly a lost gem, and, yes, a Cheerful Pearlie Exclusive! just for you. When I first gave it a listen, I was thrilled, because it's as good as I'd hoped it would be. Her rendition of "Summertime," for example, in which she's accompanied by a soaring choir, gives me chills every time I play it.

But there's more, including her take on "Someone to Watch Over Me" and her sleek, sassy version of "It Ain't Necessarily So" which, I think, ranks amongst the best. The LP wasn't in the best shape; I removed most of the scritchy-scratches without compromising the original sound quality (which wasn't all that terrif to begin with, so fair warning), and there's one skip - just one - but really, you'll be too busy marveling at Pearl's towering performance to notice.

UPDATE: Reader James has kindly pointed out that Pearl's Porgy is now on CD (hooray!), so if the LP rip below is not to your liking, go HERE.

UPDATE TWO: Since I love this LP so much, and think you will, too, I dashed out on my li'l feets and got the CD. Below, you can now hear Pearlie's Porgy gorgeously restored. If you previously downloaded the LP version, download again. You'll be glad you did. And thanks again, James!

The 1950's were a busy decade for several noted divas. It was also the beginning of the end for Marilyn Monroe when she began shooting "There's No Business Like Show Business" in 1953. Not surprisingly, if you look at the finished film, all you'll see is a seasoned performer giving it her all; at once provocative, funny and enormously sympathetic. In other words, she's Marilyn.

But behind the camera, the seams were already unraveling. Years of addiction to various pills left her spiraling on set; she was listless, confused and subject to wild, unprovoked crying jags. For the first time, she wasn't just "difficult" to work with, she was downright impossible.

The fact that anything was shot with her at all, according to lore, was something of a miracle. Yet her musical numbers are the only ones worth watching in this otherwise subpar, late-era Hollywood dud of a musical. It shouldn't have been that way - and if you haven't seen the movie, you'll probably think it's a winner when you listen to this rousing, fully-restored soundtrack. All the songs you love are here, including "Heat Wave," of course, as well as Ethel Merman giving her all (which is a lot), to "Midnight Choo-Choo," the title track and a host of others. It's better than you remember, I swear.

Every now and then, the French come out with one of their People-Of-The-Earth movies. They're romantic, slightly wistful, morose, and usually feature beautiful young women doing everyday chores amidst nature's plain grandeur. They're intolerable. Ah, the plight of the common folk, they seem to be saying, the artless beauty of the bourgeoisie. Don't the poors have it good?

But then every country has a tedious genre: the English with their "tea cozy" movies, the Italians with their giallo horror movies (I can't with Dario Argento, I just can't), and the Americans with their junky action flicks. It's like we're all torturing each other. And yet the French perhaps trump us all in one respect. Their People-Of-The-Earth movies usually have outstanding soundtracks - with indelible scores by the likes of Georges Delerue or Gabriel Yared.

"The Well Digger's Daughter" is no exception. As a movie, it's a comatose little yarn about young love and minor conflict amidst the peasant class (a remake of an alleged "classic") and it came and went without much fanfare in 2011. I saw it on DVD. I lasted thirty minutes (when you start wondering if all the actors were made up with the same drab, taupe-colored blush and lipstick, it's time hit the "stop" button). But the soundtrack caught me by surprise, with a gorgeously wrought score by Alexandre Desplat. I swear you'll swoon. Better yet, you won't have to look at a single enshrined peasant.

Below, the Secret Song File is posing with her best I'm-Gonna-Cut-A-Bitch smile. Some people cut with scissors, others use their hands - like a certain Irish singer who's career took a nosedive after she held up a photo of the Pope and tore it in half on national tee-vee. If she did this today, she'd probably be applauded given all the stomach-turning pedophile scandals still plaguing the Church. Or maybe not. America, as you know, is really two countries now - one side wants to arm everyone with guns; the other wants everyone to chill with a certain herb.

Can you guess which side The Secret Song File aligns herself with? You didn't even have to think about it, did you? And the Irish singer? Golly, it sure took her a loooooooong-ass time to put out a new CD, but get this, it's pretty darn good - especially the second half, which is less radio-friendly, but much better. I'm sure if she lived in the U.S., she'd be in herb-imbibing territory, don't you?

UPDATE: Reader Wiredream just ripped the Secret Song File's picture in half! Why? Because the Irish singer actually released a new CD two years ago. The Secret Song File would apologize for this mistake, but she's too busy swallowing a rather large bite of crow.

Actually, scratch that. Everywhere seems to be herb terrain these days. 

Blow a li'l smoke in the comments, if you like.


James Sanford said...

As a huge Pearl fan, I was astonished to find someone had reissued the Porgy and Bess sessions on CD a few years ago, so if you want a cleaned-up copy at a reasonable price:

wiredream said...

Re: Sinead - not sure if you heard her last CD - released not such a "loooooong-ass time" ago! Haha! It was released only 2 years ago and stands with her very best. Called "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)." If you're a Sinead fan (and it appears you are) treat yourself. It's beautiful stuff.

LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. It's essential go-to every day, hoping for some more hidden treasures.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Thank you for the heads up about Pearlie's CD, James. I may just have to get it!

And Wiredream, how great to know that there's more "new" Sinead for me to listen to. I am a Sinead fan! :D

wiredream said...

Well, since you've been so SO generous with your fans, how about I return the favor?

Here's the Sinead I spoke of:

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Wow, thank you, Wiredream!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for Pearlie Mae & Norma Jean! You wouldn't happen to have Marilyn's songs from the original cast album where they were sung by Miss Dolores Gray?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Unfortunately, I don't.

But I do have Ethel Merman singing Monroe's "Heat Wave" (which is must in my book). Enjoy!

tony said...

Wow! My head is spinning here. What do I download first to listen?! Thanks a mil....!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

That happens to be so often. It spins and spins - then pops right off. :D

L said...

You were right about the Desplat soundtrack. Wonderful stuff and I never would have stumbled across it. Many thanks for the heads-up and even more for posting.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You are sooooooo welcome! :)

Luis DuLac said...

Amazing this Pearl Bailey's record. Thank you!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome Luis. It's one of her best, I think.