Eartha Kitt, That Bad Eartha: A Cat With Tacks

This Saturday the vinyl community celebrated “Record Store Day.” RSD is littered with special edition and rare releases that go for normal price in stores, but can often be resold for 100’s of dollars! These limited editions are often worth it, but often times they are just a way for record companies to get their hands further in vinyl collector’s wallets.

IMG_2227This year I decided not to participate in RSD. One of the only stores in the area that was participating extensively, Guestroom Records, had long lines throughout the night before they opened. Although I love the excitement this creates for vinyl.

To celebrate the day I decided to visit on of my new favorite record shops now in Oklahoma City, Monkey Feet Music. I could spend hours in this store browsing and talking to the owner, Chris. Every time I go in there I seem to find something. It never fails.

Basically since I wasn’t going for any special releases I though I would just pick up a few old ones.

On this special Record Store Day I found an album truly fascinating from the moment I found it. The album That Bad Eartha, by the incomparable Earth Kitt didn’t disappoint and is just as enchanting at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd listen.

Kitt is easily be considered one of the best character actresses in the history of film and stage. I had always known that she was a singer too, I had just never seen one of her albums to my knowledge before. I am sucker for any singer who encompasses the American Songbook and nobody can sing them as well as these original greats.

Naturally the first songs that struck me  from the track listing were “Let’s Do It,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Each of these songs she does brilliantly, but they are whole new creatures when Kitt interprets them. She has a unique phrasing, vocal style, and vibrato that breathes new life into these songs, even 60 years later.

IMG_2229The quintessential song from this album, which later became a Kitt speciality, is the opening track, “I Want to Be Evil.” I was immediately hooked on this song. She tells the story of how she’s always been good, but how now she just wants “to spit tacks,” which is exactly how this song strikes you. She mixes that with a vocal sex appeal (and physical!) that is nearly irresistible. This continues throughout the album.

She also gives the listener a taste of her vast talent and nearly endless image creation through performing songs in French, Spanish, Turkish, and even Swahili. Your imagination runs rampant as you imagine what she is saying if you are not fluent in these language.

The standout tracks for me were “Lilac Wine” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” She gives each of these songs a different interpertation then what you would expect from a crooner. They hit you like a force that can have a different sentiment at each listen.

Would it be corny to say that Kitt literally sings like a cat? Cats are odd creatures that I am often scared off. I can’t tell if they are truly loving or me or plotting my death. Then they will tease you with allowing you to pet them before snapping at you and running away.

You never know what they are thinking.

That is exactly how I interpret Kitt’s voice. She can tease and make you think whatever she wants, but she can snap. The listener can never tell when it’s coming. She sings like she is “spitting tacks” for every song strikes you like a pinpoint mixed with the unpredictable bewitchment only created by Eartha Kitt.

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