Sep 13, 2014

Wash Is The Word, Oscar's Best, Plus That Other Buttery Barbara And A Real-Buttah Secret Song!

Have you ever watched "Unsung" on TVOne? It's a must-watch series about unjustly ignored or overlooked African-American singers and musicians (you know, the ones that aren't always in your face). Me and my Cuban Luvuh were watching the Martha Wash episode the other night, and I was all arrogant 'n' such and said, "Really? Martha's 'unsung?' Since when?"

But as the program made clear, this is sadly the case, even though you likely know many of her songs, like "It's Raining Men" from 1982's "I Got the Feeling," an LP she cut with singer Izora Armstead, the latter who digs deep into "Taking Away Your Space" an R&B classic. In fact, the entire LP is a classic, but you rarely hear any songs from it besides "It's Raining Men" (which, interestingly enough, was co-written by this guy).

You'd have thought that these two powerhouse voices would move on to record more hit LPs - but record companies, in their wisdom, saw only "fat." They were kicked to the curb not long after. Izora took off for Germany and Martha pounded the pavement, doing session work and finally hitting pay-dirt with Black Box, an Italian electro-dance group which released "Dreamland" - a worldwide hit in 1989 - and once again, Martha's voice soared like a supernova on hit songs like "Everybody Everybody," "Strike It Up" and more, while Loleatta Holloway nabbed a hit with her vocals on "Ride On Time." Joy, rapture, bunny kisses! Success for all!

Unfortunately, Black Box failed to give Martha a single vocal credit on the LP, and to add insult to injury, they enlisted a slim model (pictured above on the cover) to lip-sync her vocals in their music videos. WTF? Martha couldn't catch a break. She sued, she won, she was eventually credited and paid (so was Loleatta, whom Black Box also "forgot" to credit), yet despite this win, Martha was once more starting from scratch.

But eureka! More bunny kisses! Fame and fortune were at last around the corner when she hooked up with C+C Music Factory, an American electro-group, for their smash 1990 LP "Gonna Make You Sweat," which had Martha rocketing the infectious title track right to the top of the charts. Hooray!

Unfortunately (yes, again) (for reals), C+C Music Factory "forgot" to give Martha credit anywhere on their LP. You know the drill; she sued, she won, she was eventually credited and paid, and - it's coming, wait for it - a slim model was hired to lip-sync in her place for the group's music videos (the one on the cover above). By this time, Martha's mainstream career was just about finished.

So what's the takeaway from all this? Don't trust Italians? Stay away from American electro-artists? Stop kissing bunnies? Possibly (or at least have a decent lawyer look over your initial contracts) (but, you know, it's the music industry). Luckily for all of us, Martha is still in fantastic voice and still making new music. Her new CD is presently the Number One Adult Contemporary album. Hooray! Success at last. Bunnies are safe to kiss again. Isn't it nice when there's a happy ending?

Meanwhile, let's all celebrate Canada, for while they've given us questionable talent over the years, they've also given us Oscar Peterson, a gift that keeps on giving in the best way.

If, for some reason, you're unfamiliar with this master jazz and bop pianist, 2006's "Supreme Jazz" compilation is an excellent place to start, and a terrif addition for any Oscar collector. What makes this CD head-and-shoulders above all others is the pristine restoration, which vividly brings classic tracks like "Ad Lib Blues" and "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues" to new life. Why, it's like the "Maharaja of the Keyboard" (which is what the Duke called him) and his friends are performing right in your own living room.

Let's pause for a moment. This is important. This is the definition of beauty:

The face: like a pale, English Cream Custard (which is just a lot a bit overcooked). The jewelry: made from the finest diamonelles money can buy (why pay full price, dahling?). The eyes: with their exquisite baby tarantula eyelashes (the eye shadow is their after-birth). I'm so overcome, I can barely breathe. She is, of course, Barbara Cartland, the author of unputdownable tomes such as this:

And - brace yourself - she sings like an angel! Okay, so not an angel, exactly, but maybe an angel with baby tarantula eyelashes? Work with me here. The songs are all about love. The orchestrations are lush. And her voice - a cross between Miss Piggy and a cat blowing chunks - is perfection. It is, my darling loved ones (as Barbara would want me to say), one of the best (unintentionally) delightful LPs you're ever likely to hear. A feast for the ears, a cornucopia of corn, a Niagara of driveling joy. Trust me.

Gunslinger Gilda, The Secret Song File's BFF, is hiding a meat cleaver under that pillow. Why? Because if anyone should dare turn off the new CD she's listening to, then - whack! whack! whack! - they're a pulpy, splattery mess. See, GeeGee, as her friends call her, has a li'l soft spot for the original Buttah. Accept no substitutes. Everything else is just margarine.

In her newest offering, Buttah sings duets with all sorts of famous people, including her son and a few dead people, too. She sounds swell, especially given her age, but this being Buttah, a notorious perfectionist, only her voice has been processed and filtered ("It's like she put Vaseline on her microphone!" said the Cuban). Oh, Buttah, never change!

I like my Buttah with lo-o-o-ong fingernails, but don't we all?

Smear your thoughts all over in the comments, if you like!


Anonymous said...

"It's Raining Men" is from 1982 and their album on which it was featured is 1983's "Success". Their "Two Ton's of Fun" moniker predates their success as the Weather Girls, so perhaps this is a compilation album - I'll check it out (thanks for posting, as always).

Btw, Loleatta claimed that she was in contact with Martha while negotiating with Black Box to do the album, and that Martha slid in and offered her services for a cheaper price...

Oh, and do you happen to have Sylvester's Live album "Living Proof", on which Martha & Izora sing?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're right about the 1982 date, but I think "It's Raining Men" was before "Success." I could be wrong, though - and frequently am!

I'll look into the Sylvester LP. I must have it somewhere.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Here, you go, Anon, Sylvester Live:

tony said...

Thanks for the trip to the early 90's disco!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Have fun, Tony! And remember, drink lots of water or you'll dehydrate! :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the Sylvester! I've been loving "You Are My Friend" off a compilation, so I'll be delighted to hear to whole thing!

- aNun

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Enjoy, aNun! I'm glad you have it now!

tony said...

Can't get enough of Sylvester's later albums on the WB label: "Mutual Attraction." Perhaps one of his best sounding recordings!

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I like that one, too. Amazing he had such success in the 70's!