With her spooky, film noir-ish soprano vocals, Ruth Olay has always been a jazz singer that you have to meet halfway. But it's worth it, I swear.
The pleasures of her voice sneak up on you, both emotionally and intellectually, the later given the sometimes head-turning, but oh-so-right, risks she often takes with her interpretations. In her 1982 LP "Ruth Olay Sings Jazz Today" - a Supah-Ruthie Cheerful Exclusive! just for you - she joins a trio of musicians led by bass player Red Mitchell in a set of songs originally recorded for Swedish radio. You'll have to excuse the awful LP cover, which my Cuban Luvuh rightly likens to a burst aneurysm. Or an unfortunate trip to the shower.
A few tracks really stand out - like "'Round Midnight," "Prelude To A Kiss" and "I Have A Feeling I've Been Here Before" - each of which Ruth infuses with her trademark emotional ambiguity and crystalline diction. I'll wager you've never heard either song performed quite the way she does here. Hers is the dark side of the spotlight, always in shadow, never fully revealed.
Let's skip along to our next diva, shall we?
Can you guess her name? I betcha you can. Hurry, say her name.
You're right. It's our old friend Dakota Staton, here in yet another Cheerful Exclusive! for you and yours. This was Dakota's second-to-last LP, recorded in 1992, at a time when everybody had pretty much written her off given the underwhelming reception received by her previous two LPs.
But Dakota came back and surprised both jazz critics and her devoted fans with one of her best blues-jazz LPs ever. It's hard to believe that her blazing, trumpet-like vocals would finally be stilled by a stroke just seven years later.
And that's understandable (of course), but again, like Astaire, the dancing tends to ignore Kelly's other gift: singing.
Astaire and Kelly never had what you might call "great voices." Astaire was a cool vocal stylist, his syncopated singing like another form of dance. Kelly takes another route, delivering pure showbiz personality, honed by Broadway, buffed to a shine by Hollywood. It could have been off-putting; all that sparkle, all that blinding razzmatazz. But Kelly brings another element to the mix, his own genuine warmth.
You know you're in the hands of seasoned pro when you hear him perform "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" or "I Got Rhythm," yet it's his irrepressible joy which really puts his vocals across. He's a "Regular Joe" whose amazing dancing, acting and, yes, singing, makes us all feel amazing, as if we could be just like him if we really wanted to be. Now that's a star. In this 2-CD compilation, all of his best numbers are gathered together, and trust me, it's delish. And for some odd reason which I can't figure out yet, it's both reviving and relaxing. How does that happen?
The Secret Song File loves a comeback CD, especially this spanking new one by a singer who's always been a bit of a maneater (*cough*cough*), yet always says it right (*cough*cough*). Is she promiscuous (*cough*cough*)? Maybe. Though like a bird (I can't cough anymore, my throat is giving out!), she's all good things to just about everyone.
You could say that about The Secret Song File, too - many have! Don't worry, she won't take offense. At any rate, besides a somewhat lumpy first track, this CD is a welcome return for a Canadian chanteuse who hopefully won't stay away so long again.
Promiscuous? Isn't that just another word for jealous?
Mill around in the comments, if you like! We're all listening!