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.
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.
“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!
“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.