Jan 31, 2015

Judy's Touch, Anita In '76, Plus Exotic Adventures And A Feathered Freak Secret Song!

Does anyone still wear a hat? I don't (except when I'm having a super bad hair day and then I put on my "Taylor Dayne: Satisfied!" baseball cap). Judy, however, stills wears a hat, and no, it's not wearing her, though I would say that if a hat is significantly taller than your head, it's probably a good time to rethink things. But Judy? Pshh. She can wear whatever she likes (including that dress below which looks like a collection of baby eels are ready to strangle her) (look out Judy!).

Speaking of Judy, Capital records released "The Garland Touch" in 1962, the very last LP of studio songs released in her lifetime. A few of them were pulled from previous records, like "More Than You Know," but the majority are gathered from a quickie 1960 London recording session. Whatever the source, this is prime Garland. For example, when she sings the lyric, "Live! Live! Live! C'mon and live for today!", boy, do you believe her. Plus, her roof-raising version of "San Francisco" is still unequaled. I can't think of a single modern crooner (like Buble or Connick, Jr.,) who's even tried it. They know better.

Hot-cha! The Jezebel Of Jazz is back with another Cheerful Exclusive! just for you.

I'm not sure when the pictures (above and below) were taken, but I had to share them with you because they're in color - which is mighty rare for Anita beyond her LP covers. She looks relaxed, a li'l sassy, a bit over it, and I'm inclined to think a bit uncomfortable, too, since she normally loathed wearing dresses. And not, as some have theorized, because she was a lesbian (she wasn't) (sorry ladies).

In actuality, she was firmly convinced that jazz musicians (and the jazz press) wouldn't take her seriously if she wore a dress. Given the era, I don't doubt this, and so she performed in blouse and pants for most of her career, a notable exception being her appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival where she famously swiped a dress, hat and gloves from a Salvation Army outlet just minutes before the show. Others claim that she grabbed the hat, specifically, from an unnamed drag queen friend. Either story makes me happy.

As for "Here Is Anita," it was recorded live in Japan in 1976 - almost ten years after she'd kicked heroin for good (without medical help) - and it's notable for the number of slow ballads she tackles, which she rarely did, like "I Cover The Waterfront" and "Stardust," and for her surprisingly gentle, insinuating delivery. "Yesterday Yesterdays," however, has her beginning in a slow mode, then jacking it up whiplash-fast with her band. The precision is thrilling. There's also tracks like "Just The Way You Look" in which she and the band seem to fuse into one celebratory instrument. The LP goes out with a bang with a combo of "You Are My Sunshine" and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life." Leave it to Anita (again) to take tired, overplayed tunes, rip them apart, and then re-assemble them into six minutes of off-rhythm, wholly improvised, syncopated bliss.

Swerving into an entirely different musical lane - hold on! - we arrive at a place where "exotic" means Japanese kotos, primitive shrieks, melodic bird calls, African gongs and, yes, savage beauties.

It's hard to beat the exotica music genre from the 1950s, because it's the only one that's both kitsch and lusciously beautiful - and all at once. I had a friend from New York who used to play exotica round the clock by the pool at his summer home. The water, the music, the free-flowing drugs intoxicants; it was perfect. I learned a lot about exotica over those many summers, and became familiar with its premiere practitioner, composer Martin Denny, who first popularized his music in Honolulu (of course).

It wasn't too long after when seemingly every adult backyard party was a hip-swaying mix of Martin's exotica and equally exotic cocktails. Sex on the Beach! Sidecars! Agro Dolces! Martin once called his life's work "window dressing, background music" - and it is, but in the very best sense. Anything you're doing seems better with his music bubbling beneath you. Below, one of my favorite Denny LPs, plus an embarrassment of riches from a 2-CD "Best Of" of compilation.

The Secret Song File is always exotic, thankyouverymuch, even at a boxing match while (1) wearing her smarty-glasses, (2) ignoring her boyfriend-du-jour and (3) consulting with her financial advisor about some off-shore something-or-other. She was multi-tasking long before anyone! And multitasking is the best way to describe a certain Icelandic singer who sings, writes songs, plays multiple instruments and once wore a swan - a swan! - to the Academy Awards.

Yes, you know who it is, and it's heartening to listen to her spanking new CD and realize that she's just as adventurous, just as surprising and definitely just as out there as we've come to expect (dull is one thing she'll never be). What? Is it that flower you see blooming? In vespertine? Why, yes, I think it is.

Did you know bats - bats! - pollinate night-blooming flowers? Mangoes depend on them.

Bloom all over the comments, if you like (just don't be messy about it).


Anthony said...

Yeah, you're right: Anita looks as if she would feel more comfortable with a cigarette and a beer, and in clam diggers.....

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

And you know she'd drink us all under the table. ;)

L'apprenti-poète said...

thaks for Judy touch cd….very nice….merci!

powenmoore said...

I'm pretty sure the color shots of O'Day are from Spring 1963, right before she traveled east to appear in Madison Square Garden. The setting looks like Fisherman's Wharf, Frisco, but could be any marina.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Great guesswork! And Fisherman's Wharf sounds very likely.