Are you enjoying your long Labor Day Weekend? Did you miss me this past August? As much as you've missed Julie London? Just look at her. All that cash-cash-cash and her champagne and her exquisite
I've missed all of you terribly (of course), so I've prepared myself for our reunion (of course). Let's get started with a Cheerful Exclusive!, Julie London's moody 1965 LP "Our Fair Lady," where Julie tones down the fast-jazz and purrs on a selection of mix-and-match movie ballads. Some of them are culled from previous LPs, some are brand new, including "Summer of '42," "Wives And Lover," and "Never On Sunday," the best track on the album. A lot of critics dismissed this LP because she wasn't the "brassy" Julie they'd come to know and love, and so she would never travel this smoky-cool route again. But it's nice to hear her take down the beat and revel in probing, sometimes darker, lyrics and languorous melodies. It's like that momentary calm between summer and fall.
Another songstress is someone I've actually met. Can you guess who this is?
If you guessed Monica Lewis, you win! I only met her briefly, mind you, and it wasn't long before she died. She was in her early 90s and attending an anniversary screening of the movie "Earthquake" - she gets shaken about in it a lot - and she was so delightful, so sweet and so patient with a li'l fan such as myself. In actuality, I've always enjoyed her singing more than her acting. She was a good actor, yes, though she never seemed as fully committed to it as she was to music.
But then later in life, married to Jennings Lang, a big-time producer, she took parts when they were offered. Who can blame her? Unfortunately (for us), she mostly left her music career behind from that point on. She was also quite the bombshell in her day, don't you think?
In 1957, she recorded "Sing It To The Marines" - a Dishy Monica Cheerful Exclusive! - with her alternately husky and honeyed voice in numbers like "Blues In The Night" and a terrific cha-cha version of "Let's Face The Music And Dance." She wasn't all talk about supporting the fighting boys, either. She was in Korea singing her heart out on several occasions in the 1950s and obviously made quite a few of them very happy.
If you guessed Anita Ellis, you win! Win what, exactly? The prize of knowing you were right. I know, I know, you'd rather have cash (me, too). But let's get back to Anita. Did you know? Her brother was Broadway's Larry Kert. And if you think haven't heard her, you have, since she dubbed the drop-dead-sexy singing voice of Rita Hayworth in "Gilda." She later achieved fame in her own right on TV variety shows and through starry nightclub gigs in Manhattan. Unfortunately, her crippling stage fright, which she struggled with all her life, ended her solo career in the early 1980s, despite her much-publicized stint with a therapist.
Okay, so now you know about Anita. Here's another mystery gal-singer (we're going somewhere with this, don't worry). Can you guess who this is below?
Why, if you guessed Eugenie Baird, you win! Win what, you ask again? And again, I say, the thrill of know you were right! And, yes, I know what you're saying to that, so let's skip along, shall we? Eugenie, as you may know, was a Broadway star, movie actress and a celebrated Big Band singer who performed on radio and TV. She was also a nightclub headliner across the US. Not bad for a gal from Pittsburgh, right?
But what, you ask, do Anita and Eugenie have to do with each other? To which I say, "Not much," because Anita's purring jazz vocals and Eugenie's more traditional soprano are a sharp study in contrasts. But they're both delightful and criminally unheralded, and for some reason - in this Cheerful Duo Exclusive! - a record company decided to offer a twofer in 1995; half Anita and half Eugenie. Don't question why, and don't be put off by that drab LP cover, because this is a fantastic vocal collection. I promise.
Finally, how about little Italian musica?
Are you a fan of Italian movie director Paolo Sorrentino? Did you see "The Great Beauty?" You haven't? Rent it right this very second. Really. Trust me on this one. It's sumptuous. If you're already a fan of Paolo, you might have seen his earlier film "The Consequences of Love" (watch that, too) (you won't be sorry). But even if you haven't seen it, you'll want the soundtrack, a luxuriant collection of tunes by composer Pasquale Catalono, along with flavorful electro from Lali Puna, Boards Of Canada, Fila Brazillia and many more. It's perfect with a cup of espresso on a rainy day.
I'm not sure why Paolo hasn't caught on in a bigger way for U.S. audiences - a lot of his movies aren't even available on Netflix, which is criminal. But I promise you, try the two movies above, or either one of them, and you'll be a fan, too.
If, like the Secret Song File, you want something stronger than coffee with your music, than has she got a treat for you.
There's a certain R&B singer-songwriter who recently dropped a new CD - after how many years? Too long. And who is he? Let's just say that it's highly unusual for an R&B singer to be "Friends With Dorothy" (*cough*) (*big hint*), or at least publicly. Not only that, he's enormously talented to boot. It's just the right kind of music to wake you up to all of life's possibilities for the coming fall - and for more tunes, I swear.
Vacation's over, now get back to work.
Giggle about your summer vaca in the comments, if you like!