Jul 29, 2015
Judy X Infinity, Nancy's Live, Plus Dirty Ditties And A Madhouse Rock Secret Song!
I hope you're hungry today, because I've got a huge platter of Judy for you. Oh, and brew some coffee, because the DLs, as the kids say, might take you a bit. But it's so-o-o insanely worth it. "But why is it insanely worth it?" you say. I'll tell you why (thanks for asking).
This unusual collection is comprised of songs that Judy performed more than one time, like the showstopper "On the Atchison, Topeka," which she performed for the MGM movie "Harvey Girls" (co-starring a very young Angela Lansbury), and also for Decca Records in July of 1945, and again for Decca in September of 1945. Yet they all have a unique tone, tempo and more important, a different vocal delivery.
If, like me, you think of Judy as the greatest actress of song, then this is a master class. It's not often that you get to see (or hear) the same actor do the exact same role with a vastly different approach (I'm sure some have, though I can't think of one at the moment), but here, Judy does just that. The CD doesn't feel repetitive - which was my initial fear before playing it - because her dramatic motives are sometimes completely reshaped from the previous. And they all work. It really is one of her best compilations.
Have you heard about Miss Nancy Kelly? She's a classical-pianist-turned-rock-lead-singer-turned-jazz-vocalist. She's been there and back - and now she's here to tell you about it.
When I first listened to Nancy, it felt like I was struck by a lightening bolt. She can scat like a madwoman, which is to say, brilliantly, and it's what I first noticed about her. But there's quite a bit more to her singing. In her 1999 CD "Live Jazz," her hundred-proof voice is thrilling. There are few jazz vocalists who lay it out with such emotion, much less with such "wow" technique (her phrasing and attack is scarily perfect). Trust me, she's one for the ages.
Do you like raunchy tunes? If you do - and who doesn't? - then you'll probably enjoy a spicy li'l ditty called "It's Tight Like That" (which is about when you put, um, something into something and it's too, well, you know). No, it's not the latest Nicki Minaj single, it's by Clara Smith, pictured below. And it was recorded in the early 1920s. Oh, snap!
Clara was a renowned blues legend in the 1920s and 30s - "Queen of the Moaners," as they called her - though she started in theatre and vaudeville before becoming a "must-see" at elite speakeasies in NYC. That's where she hit the big time after being signed by Columbia Records. She was wildly popular in her day and might have achieved more enduring fame had she not been felled by a heart attack when she was only forty-years-old.
Clara's just one of many fantastic singers in "Those Dirty Blues," a two-CD set which lives up to its name, with song titles like "Wet It" - performed by Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon, a popular blues performer and drag queen (yes, they had those back then) - "She's Givin' It Away" and "I Want a Hot Dog For My Roll." I always chuckle when people complain about all the raunch in today's popular music, because it's always been there. "But I have enough filth in my life!" you tell me. But do you? Do you really?
The Secret Song File can never have enough naughtiness (duh!), but lately, she's had it with rock 'n' roll. "Why has she had it with rock 'n' roll?" you inquire. I'll tell you why (thanks for asking). Because rock 'n' roll hasn't evolved with any real significance since the late 1970s. Since that time? The same shredding guitar solos, the same pre-pubescent (or aging) (read: Bono) performer wailing like a stuck pig. Somebody needs to shake things up. But will anyone notice if they do?
Possibly. The Secret Song File has lately been listening to a highly, um, let's say suspicious (*cough*cough*) new CD that appears to have leaped out of a madhouse (*cough*cough*). But more to the point, these Brooklyn rockers' debut is the best new rock 'n' roll album the Secret Song file has heard in ages. Have they reinvented the wheel? Not exactly, yet it still sounds fresh and unprocessed (or at least not processed to sludge).
So rock out, kids, because the Cheerful Earfull is taking the rest of the summer off. Wheeee! But fear not, all the giggles and tunes will return after Labor Day (that's after September 7th for those of you across the pond). Have fun, wear plenty of sunscreen and for God's sakes, stay away stuff like this, because ain't nobody got time for that (or the money to bail you out).
Happy Summer 'n' stuff!
Leave a little sunburn in the comments, if you like.