Vikki Carr, It Must Be Him: Versatile Vikki

I have a really bad tendency of buying albums, sometimes boxes of albums, and not listening to them for months. Around a year ago, I began to dig through a stack of vinyl I had acquired and I found this record I don’t even remember purchasing.

The album was  It Must Be Him by Vikki Carr.Vikki_Carr_1974

I don’t know what took me so long, being a huge fan of the vocal divas of the late 1950’s and 1960’s like Connie Francis, Anita Bryant, and Eydie Gorme, to discover Vikki Carr. I have not been able to stop picking up every album I have found of hers since.

There is a clarity and truth about Carr’s voice, that I have not discovered elsewhere. Her voice can do acrobatics, but it is just as stunning on a mid-tempo song. Carr is what I guess you would call “the girl next door.” I felt like she wasn’t some lofty star, but someone on my level who understood my troubles. Her music is like a best friend.

As I have furthered my Carr collection, I have come across one (or I guess two) albums that have truly personified this friendship aspect to me. The album is Love Story/ The First Time I Ever (Saw Your Face. These albums seemed to be a collection of covers that Carr gave her own twist on, often making them her own and showing them from a different perspective. I have outlined my favorites below:

“The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)”: If heart beats spoke this is what they would say when they fall in love. Carr’s vocals emanate this ideal with her every breath and note. This is a truly pristine take on a classic tune.

“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”: Carr proves through this song and many others that her voice is not restricted to a specific style or genre. Here she gives us her rendition of a classic 5th Rendition piece. This song shows off Carr’s aggressive and versatile pipes. I also love the new symphony backing that is given to this song.

unnamed“Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” and “The Way of Love”: Carr does Cher. She delivers these songs in a more gentle manner and give them a new facade. They would fit much better in a dinner club or cabaret then Cher’s versions.  Listening to her versions, while being familiar with Cher’s, is like listening to another Gypsy’s take. They both had their heart broken through the way of love, but each one just has a different perspective. Instead of comparing these two versions try looking at them as companions.

“Cabaret”: Well speak of the devil, it’s the cabaret song! Her version doesn’t quite embody the spunk and character that was Minnelli’s, but it is noteworthy and that is not an insult. Carr’s rendition again shows that her voice, and in this case a song, does not belong to a certain style, genre, or even artist. I will admit though, I miss Elsie in Carr’s version.

“I’ve Never Been A Woman Before”: Although technically Carr did this song before Streisand did on her album The Way We Were, I am still going to include it on my list. I am fascinated by Carr’s version and I feel she gives a real account of the realization of love. Babs simply covers notes like a blanket and calls it a day.

“If I Were Your Woman”: Is there any place Carr’s vocals can’t reach?

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”: Now Diana Ross and this song are two of my favorite things in the world. Carr did this song justice and more. It could easily be her song, but let’s not forget it belongs to Ms. Ross. I feel like Carr is casually singing this song to me on her balcony, yet standing from time to time to make her point. Bravo Ms. Carr!

28715701“One Less Bell to Answer”: I’m a sucker for any Burt Bacharach tune. This is another song that Carr borrowed from The 5th Dimension. I love the classic vocal feel that echoes the 1950’s and early 1960’s crooners, that she gives this song. Her take on this song is easily one of my favorite versions.

Carr’s take on these classic tunes gives me new perspectives on these songs. Like I stated before, her renditions didn’t seem like a competition, simply a new view. She sings each of these songs as if they are her own single to be released. This further proves how music can have many facades and to never restrict it to one or the other.

Although the first time I ever say her face, I never would have called her a gypsy, tramp, or thief, yet Carr has given me one more bell to answer and a new cabaret to visit.

Judy Garland, A Star Is Born: Oscar Got Away

star-is-bornMany people are familiar with the 1976 movie A Star is Born. A Barbra Streisand showcase that just happened to feature Kris Kristofferson. This movie did not properly encapsulate the classic tale of the original A Star is Born, because of Streisand’s ego. I’m surprised it even fit on camera.

There is a total of three A Star is Born movies. The first came in 1937 starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. This version was nonmusical and mainly focused on rising to stardom thorough acting. Seventeen years later in 1954, the same story was set to music by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin.

It was also Judy Garland’s return to the screen since being released by MGM.

Everybody during this time were familiar with Garland’s drug addictions, suicide attempts, and tumultuous personal life. Through these struggles, she was able to regain stardom as a stage performer and once more becoming renowned in many theaters around the world. Now it was time to prove that she still had the same star quality she always had, amidst MGM’s release.

Directed by George Cukor and produced by Garland’s then husband Sid Luft, A Star is Born was well on it’s way to being the biggest picture of the year, and potentially one of the biggest to that time. They filmed the movie coming in roughly at 181 minutes, in which Warner Brothers cut by 30 minutes. This was a rough blow to everybody who had worked on the film, especially Garland. Garland’s acting skills were on the top of their game, but this movie truly displayed Garland’s vocals at one of its peaks.

The movie opens with Garland’s first number “Gotta Have Me Go With You.” This is a fun vaudevillian song where Garland, the future Vicki Lester, had to sing through a drunk Judy-Garland-A-Star-Is-Born-judy-garland-32438572-432-288Norman Maine (James Mason) disrupting her performance. This number set a precedent for the movie, that was never broken.

Then came one of Garland’s signature hits and greatest recordings, “The Man That Got Away.” This song is now a must in most crooner’s books, but Garland was the original. She sings every note precisely and pronounces every word with detail, but that isn’t what made this song classic. It wasn’t just about the man that got away for Garland; it was about everything that had been taken away in Garland’s life to this time.

This was a summary of her life till 1954 and sadly remained a constant commentary till her untimely death in 1969.

Garland’s deep vibrato and intense emotion makes this song an emotional journey for the listener. She tells of how “the stars have lost their glitter” and how “the dreams you dreamed have all gone astray.” She talks about how people will “undue you” and how it’s all a “crazy game.” Every aspect of this song is perfection, but Judy took it to the next level with her personal failures and triumphs.

The soundtrack then goes into the classic “Born in a Trunk” melody that is also somewhat biographical of Garland’s life, but not completely. This melody soars with her renditions of “My Melancholy Baby” and “Swanee.”

Lastly, there is her unforgettable “Someone At Last.” This somewhat dream sequence is shot around Lester’s (Garland) and Maine’s (Mason) living room. This is a one woman show where she travels around musical genres and the world all in less then 10 minutes. This proves Garland was far from the public and gossip papers perception. She was an immaculate performer that only needed a few instruments and a camera to prove so. To hell with their thoughts, Judy Garland was on top and wasn’t afraid to show it.

In recestar_isnt years, this film has been selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The rankings go on with Garland being listed as the best actress for that year in many magazines and the movie itself being named in many top 100 movie lists. Even “The Man That Got Away” has been redone by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

The biggest disappointment with this film was the adjourning Academy Awards. In what is said to be one of the closet votes in the history of the Oscars, Garland was snubbed for best actress by Grace Kelly for her film The Country Girl. Garland had once again given her all to a project she believed in, only to be ignored by her peers.

But in the end, awards don’t matter. Who remembers The Country Girl? This movie rebirths a said to be “washed up” actress into a household name once again. Garland soared over the rainbow with this one and, as history has proven, nothing is going to let that get away.

Jack Jones, Lillipops and Roses: How to Become Debonair 101

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Jones with Judy Garland, a young Liza Minnelli, and family

Back when I was a mere age of 4, maybe 5, Christmas came as it often does every year. At one time there was this thing called Nick at Night where they actually showed old shows from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Keeping with its then tradition, they showed the older variety show’s Christmas specials.

For some reason or another, my parents decided to record The Judy Garland Christmas Special. I’ve watched it nearly every year since. I’m not particularly sure why they recorded it, neither one of them are huge Garland fans, but young me was already regressing in age taking a liking to the music of yesterday. Beside the fact that this Christmas show boasted the talents of Judy Garland and a young Liza Minnelli, Jack Jones guest starred to sing his then hit “Lollipops and Roses” and a melody of Christmas hits with both Garland and Minnelli.

4706924016_53b6a45b73_zIf that is what it took to sing with the likes of Judy and Liza, I had to become that. I had to be just like Jack Jones.

Well I’m a lot older now, never grew past 5’6′, and always seem to carry a few extra pounds on me. I’ve been singing here and there, but it’s clear my goal of becoming Jack Jones never came true. Nonetheless, he has been a role model for my singing and performing.

I acquired his second album and what I believe to be his first record for Kapp records, Lollipops and Roses. Jones released the title track when he was 24. This album was Jones introducing himself to the world of music and it was happy to have him.

This album opens with “This Was My Love.” A ballad that proved his voice was as strong as a stone, but as soft as velvet. He goes on to sing his Grammy winning “Lollipops and Roses” and a flowing, yet capitvating, rendition of “Moonlight Becomes You.”

MI0001412566Flip the album, and you find songs of equal proportion. He gives one of the best performances of “Love Letters” and a haunting version of “Julie.” My personal favorite from this side is “The Girl Next Door,” a cover of Judy Garland’s “The Boy Next Door” from the musical Meet Me in St. Louis.

On his first album, he was already singing songs by the best artists of all-time, as well as singing songs that would someday be sung by equally legendary artists in their time. This proves Jones’ legacy and cements his name in the history of music.

Jones still sings to sold out crowds around the globe. I recently went to his website to inquire about getting my album signed. That evening I received an email saying that he would be more then happy and to what address I should send it. It was barely a week after I sent it, that I received it back in the mail along with some of his new CD’s. I was flabergasted at the gesture and the CD’s further prove that this legend is far from over. Receiving this pacakge from Jones and his wife was one of the highlights of my collecting and musical adventure.

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Jones today

So as I sit and just listen to this classic album that first brought Jones into the spotlight, I am reminded of a ribbon. A ribbon that flows gently in the wind with a gust every now and then, but always consistent. One can always count on Jones for a keen deliverance of song, keeping every note in place, yet never ignoring a single emotion. I only hope to sing like that.

Man, now I really want to be Jack Jones. Think he gives lessons?