Celebrare, miei amici! Which hopefully translates to "Celebrate, my friends," because today I'm listening to Miss Katyna Ranieri, Italy's bella-bella movie queen and songstress who reigned in the boot-shaped country from the 1950s to the 60s.
She's still popular with a few hipsters out there - one of her songs is on the soundtrack of "Drive," a portentous dirge of a movie made bearable by this - but I have a feeling your love for her is a whole lot stronger than that. In fact, I'm certain of it.
Did you know? She was the first Italian singer to perform at the Oscars (because she's that favoloso), though her career started well before that. She was first signed with the Italian arm of RCA when she was barely out of her teens, and quicker than you can say "spaghettini," she was off touring the world, delighting the crowds in Brazil, New York and Hollywood's Coconut Grove and Ciro's. "She was a hit in New York," noted the
Let's swing back to America, where we'll find one of the best white blues singers ever. No, this not a case of white trying to be black, but a genuine blues and jazz legend who's abilities are as "rare as a 20 karat diamond," according to no less that Louis Armstrong. Barbara Dane is the real deal.
A fervent battler against social injustice, Barbara's career took off when she moved to San Francisco in the late 1940s. There, she caught the eyes (and ears) (obviously) of blues devotees all round town (even Ebony was impressed). In the late 1960s, she'd become so successful that she opened "Sugar Hill," her own blues club, and continued her activism throughout the Vietnam War era. Yet what's most striking about her debut LP "Trouble In Mind" from 1957 - a Blues Baby Cheerful Exclusive! - is the battle-scarred conviction of her voice. It's as if she'd endured every single heartache in songs like "Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me" or "Mighty Rumbling Blues." Most likely because she had. She's that good and that exciting. Still.
Speaking of exciting, I just made the most delicious batch of peanut butter cookies (accept no substitutes)! But I digress. Or maybe I don't, because homespun charm and good-natured silliness is synonymous with Miss Joanie Sommers. How can't you not be cheered as she hip-swings past with a smile (and her kicky pearls)?
I think I've shared most everything Joanie's ever recorded on this blog (in its last incantation, at least), so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a fairly "new" Joanie collection. Yes, it's "Come Alive! - Complete Columbia Recordings" - a Just Joanie Cheerful Exclusive! - with all of the tracks newly collected, newly remastered. And quite a few of them have never been on CD before, like her version of "Never, Never," and in keeping with all things Italian, her Italian-language version of "You Take What Comes Along."
What's remarkable is that his performance was committed to film at all. Because he was so quick-witted, he was given to wild, audience-pleasing improvisations when he originally performed "Fagin" on stage. No single performance he gave was ever the same, much to the infamous ire of one of his co-stars Georgia Brown, who loudly objected to the higher-ups and the press. But no one intervened. The audience was too enraptured.
Maybe it's not too surprising that he's so alive on film, because he was guided by director Carol Reed, a master who could bring out the best in any actor (by the way, if you haven't seen his haunting "Odd Man Out" or the chilling "Night Train to Munich," they make for a great double feature). Oh, and if you've never watched "Oliver" before, what are you waiting for? With Ron Moody's indelible performance, John Box's hyper-real stage sets and Oona White's eye-popping choreography, it is, as Pauline Kael once remarked, "An imaginative version of the (Dickens) novel as a lyrical, macabre fable." The soundtrack below is a special treat for those who've heard it before. This is the "restored" CD, or the only version I know of that includes the complete versions of all of the movie's songs, which were severely truncated when the LP was first released in the late 1960s.
The Secret Song has just about had it with all these EDM twinks burping out one unlistenable thump-whiplash-thump track after another. Sure, if she was still doing ecstasy (or Molly, as the kids call it these days), they might actually sound good - but then any piece of garbage sounds good on ecstasy (one of many reasons not to take it). What to do, what to do?
Luckily, an Italian - yes, an Italian - has come to the rescue, or more specifically, an aging Italia maestro who knows a thing or two about blondies, summers and feelin' a what. Still don't know who it is? Take a walk through MacArthur Park and maybe you'll figure it out, or call me.
Just remember, no more tears, 'cause enough is enough.
Have a last dance in the comments, if you like!