Maxine and Anita – new posts coming soon!

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I will shortly update this blog with some new posts, and they will both deal with two marvellous “grand dames” of jazz: Anita O’Day and Maxine Sullivan.

The two legendary ladies of jazz have several things in common, and also several things that make them complete opposites: they both had very long careers, and while Anita was maybe the greatest white jazz girl of the last century, Maxine was forever left in the shadows of her more famous afro american jazz sisters, like Billie, Ella, Sarah and even Lena Horne.

Maxine’s recording career spans 50 years, from her first record made in 1937 up to the last one, recorded live just one week before she died in 1987. Maxine also left the music industry completely 1957-1969, so there is a 12 year gap in her output. However, she always sounded fresh and swinging up to her very last session.

Anita O’Day has one of the longest stretching recording careers in the history of music! Making her first disc in 1941, she kept at it even after most of her voice was gone up to and including her last album made in 2006. That adds up to 65 years of recording, and unlike Maxine she never had very long stretches when she wasn’t actively singing.

More about these two fabulous girls coming soon!

Lita Ford – Heavy and Heavenly

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My appreciation and admiration for Lita Ford goes some 35 years back, to when I (aged about 12) discovered this amazing guitar player and singer for the first time. Since then, Lita Ford has been one of the very few female rockers to whom I’ve stayed completely dedicated. And it all has to do with her music! Lita Ford is a one of a kind singer, and her talent and diversity never ceases to amaze me.

British born, Carmelita Rossanna Ford came into the world in Streatham, London in September 1958, her family relocating to the US when she was four years old. At age 11 she got her first guitar, thus creating an instant interest in playing that instrument. After a while she got some work as a guitar player for local bands. 1976 saw her being recruited by Kim Fowley to play in the first female rock group ever, The Runaways. Lita was one of the constant members, staying with the group from 1976 until they dissolved in 1979. Besides her skilled playing on all five official Runaways albums (4 studio, one live) she also contributed songs, like “Fantasies” on the “Waiting For The Night” album, and singing lead on “I’m a million” from their last album “And Now… The Runaways”.

Lita (far right) in 1976, with The Runaways

After the group she set her goals for a solo career, but for the first 4 years nothing much happened and she had a string of regular jobs; gas station attendant, perfume sales lady, hairdresser and fitness instructor. I’m sure the last three all suited her perfectly, as each and every record cover during her 30 years as a solo performer have made the most of her shapely figure and beautiful face.

Her first solo album, “Out For Blood” came out 1983, her last so far, “Living Like A Runaway” was released 2012 – with 6 other regular studio albums in between the two, one live album (with new studio track) and the odd hit collection also being released during this period. Lita was also twice nominated for Grammy Awards in the category Best Female Rock Performance: for  “Gotta Let Go” (1984, losing it to Tina Turner) and also “Shot Of Poison” (1991, this time losing it to Melissa Etheridge). A brief survey of Lita’s albums and the best songs on them follows here…

The “sexy blonde” image

Out For Blood (1983) contains the stand-out tracks “Stay with me baby”, her version of “Any way that you want me”, the fast and furious title track and the ballad “Just a feeling”. A much rougher sound than anything recorded by the Runaways, this one kick started Lita’s solo career and made her the Queen of Heavy Rock of the 80s & 90s!

Dancin’ On The Edge (1984) is where you find hit songs like “Gotta let go” and “Fire in my heart” and raucous rockers like “Run with the money” and the title track

Lita (1988) was her biggest album success, spawning hits like “Kiss me deadly”, “Back to the cave” and her Top 40 duet with Ozzy Osbourne, “Close my eyes forever”. However, there isn’t a bad song on this album – so if you never heard Lita Ford and looking for an album to start with, THIS is the one!

Stiletto (1990) is her second album in a row to embrace the metal-pop style, and like its predecessor most of this is also quite commercial. “Hungry”, “Lisa” and “Only women bleed” were the biggest hits off this one, but other tracks worth checking out is “Cherry Red”, “Dedication” and “Aces & Eights”

Dangerous Curves (1991) contains four of the best songs Lita ever recorded: “Playing with fire”, “Shot of poison”, “What do you know about love” and “Larger than life”. On these four tracks, she fuses all her best qualities, playing and singing into four different rock masterpieces! Nothing wrong with the rest of the record, but the songs pale in comparison to these four!

Black (1995) shows Lita going into much harder and heavier material. Some of the hit-making, commercial aspects are gone and this record has an overall darker feel than her earlier records. Some hidden gems are to be found though, and the tracks “Loverman”, “Killin’ Kind” and “War Of The Angels” easily rank with her best work. It was recorded for a German label, had a limited release and might be hard to get…

In Concert (2000) is a collection of live tracks that has been repackaged and released on several different budget labels. I still think you should get it, as it shows our heroine doing her thing on stage. And it does contain one new studio track “Nobody’s Child” which is very good, and sounds like it could have been recorded around the same time as her 1991 album. It’s a powerful pop-metal track with good lyrics and Lita is in marvellous voice on this one!

Wicked Wonderland (2009) after a 14 year hiatus out of the studio, she came back with this, a very heavy record showing that at age 50 she still has the talent for creating fabulous rock music, her voice and talent intact and also very much keeping up with current trends. A little hard to access at first playing, believe me – this one will grow on you with each repeated listen!

Living Like A Runaway (2012) is her latest album, and what a stunner!! Stylistically more along the lines of the albums she made 1988-91, this is Lita at her best! There’s not a bad track on the album, but the one song that really stands out is the title track, “Living like a runaway”. A very personal lyric is combined with maybe the most commerical music she has ever recorded, this song just about tops anything she has ever done on record. It’s the kind of song that should land her another Grammy nomination, as well as high chart placings! It also proves, that while she was always a great singer, her voice has now taken on yet another dimension and she sings about her own life with great conviction and a real “joie de vivre”.  There’s just one thing to say about this album: “Every home should have one“!

Lita ca. 2009

Ethel Merman …away from the stage

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Ethel MERMAN (1908-84) was the undisputed queen of American musical theatre, and also regarded as The Queen of Broadway. And of course she earned the title from starring in an incredible string of great musicals from 1930 until 1970.  Shows like “Girl Crazy” (1930), “Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), “Call Me Madam” (1950) and “Gypsy”(1959) are all musicals in which she starred and triumphed and they are forever linked to her name. She also acted in a lot of movies, and appeared on TV shows right up to the end. On Youtube you can see clips of Ethel from just about every decade, including duets with both Sha Na Na and the Muppets!

Vocally Ethel is a powerhouse! Her voice lies in the mezzo range, and she has the kind of booming sound that hits the back of the theatre even without a microphone. Also blessed with a very clear enunciation, she will get the message through no matter what. That kind of voice may be an acquired taste, but there’s no doubt that Ethel still belongs with the very best of singers of the 20th century.

Just about every show she starred has had “original cast” album released, and she’s also re-recorded a lot of her most famous songs on other occasions. However, she also made a string of “regular” albums and records that reveals Merman the Singer, as opposed to Merman on Stage – front and center! The albums I will be talking about here, will follow the timeline of her singing career in its entirety, starting with the first one made in 1932 and ending with her final album in 1979.





Ethel 1932-50: This collection contains Ethel’s first recordings, made 1932 and including her most famous songs from the 30’s and 40’s, ending with a number from “Annie Get Your Gun” recorded 1950. A good overview of her early years!





Ethel 1950-51: “The World Is Your Balloon – The Decca Singles 1950-51” is a quite recently released collection of just what the title says. The novelty craze was sweeping the world at this time, and a lot of this stuff is quite funny and she does several duets with Ray Bolger and Jimmy Durante. Stuff like “Ma, she’s shimmying on the beach again” might not be aimed for the top of the charts, but it’s quite good. Also included is a stunning version of the classic bluesy ballad “Make the man love me” which Ethel does to perfection!





Ethel 1955: You get 2 in 1 here, as this CD collects two of her mid-fifties albums, “Musical Memories” and “Ethel Merman, A Musical Autobiography”. The first 10 tracks are medleys of “sing along” tunes hailing from the turn of the century, cheerfully done in the atmosphere of a cosy club or even your neighborhood pub! The next 15 tracks finds Ethel doing spoken intros to all the songs, and thereby creating a musical autobiography telling you a little about the songs and the shows they were featured in. No new material then, but done in a new way – with narratives.





Ethel 1961: With Billy May’s orchestra, Ethel recreates 11 of her most famous songs with fresh, new arrangements. Billy May was no slouch dealing with powerhouse vocalists, and the two of them obviously enjoyed working together as the results from these sessions truly are “… Her Greatest”






Ethel 1964: Naturally, the queen of musicals also did Las Vegas! This is a live recording of her 1964 club appearance there. It shows a relaxed, funny Ethel in very good voice doing her one-woman show before an appreciative audience!




Ethel 1972: Recorded in Great Britain in 1972 with Stanley Black conducting a large orchestra, Ethel does yet another round of her most famous songs including a very sassy “Eadie was a Lady”.




Ethel 1974: Also made in Great Britain, “Ethel’s Ridin’ High” from 1974 still finds her with one foot in the world of musicals, but this time she turns her attention to shows she herself had not been starring in. At 66 her vocal power still was not diminished, and she does songs from “Fiddler on the roof”, “Man of La Mancha” and “Stop The World! I Want To Get Off” and others, giving them her personal, queenly stamp!






Ethel 1979: After 47 years of recording, and almost 50 years experience in stage musicals, there wasn’t much of the American standard repertoire or show tunes Ethel hadn’t sung. Still the trooper and wanting to work, she did something that left the world in a state of shock; at 71 she did a DISCO album! The approach was new, the material wasn’t; Ethel did some of her famous songs, only this time to a disco beat, in extended versions surrounded by synthesizers and back-up singers. The record is pure kitsch of course, but still shows that her voice was good and you have to give her credit for doing something so absolutely crazy. The arrangements are good, you can definitely dance to it and it is indeed the last session she ever recorded.

So… there’s my personal opinion of some very good records that will take you through the career of the incredible Ethel Merman!

Linda Clifford – Sure, I’ll keep on loving you!

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Of all the soulful girl singers of the 70’s, no one has made such a lasting impression on me as Linda Clifford. She’s been labeled a “disco diva” and of course she is THAT, but she’s so much more than just that! Her voice is one of the most wondrous musical instruments of the 20th century, and I will talk in-depth about her music here…

La Clifford was born in the mid 1940’s and had already explored other branches of the entertainment field when she made her first record. Physically very beautiful, it is no wonder she was once voted Miss New York State. She also sang with a jazz trio, and acted in some films; you can see her in supporting parts in some late 60’s movies like “The Boston Strangler”, “Coogans Bluff” and “Sweet Charity”. One of the songs from the last movie would play a significant part in Linda’s career some 10 years later…

In the early 70’s, she released a few singles, i.e. “It’s gonna be a long, long winter”, “March across the land” and “Can’t get enough”. In 1976 she signed with the Curtom label, and the next year her first album “Linda” was released. It’s a great record, and shows off her talent and diversity to great advantage. From the dance floor groove of “From now on” to the sexy ballad “You can do it”, this album offers one treat after another. She covers Rod Stewart’s recent no. 1 hit “Tonight’s the night” and Evie Sand’s “One thing on my mind” in addition to the Bee Gees’ “Be tender with my love” – and Linda’s versions more than hold their own to the originals.

Her second album, “If My Friends Could See Me Now” came out 1978, and supplied Linda with two substantial hits, the title track (from “Sweet Charity” but revamped as a 7 minute disco work out) and the enduring soul classic “Runaway love”. She covers Curtis Mayfield’s “You are, you are” and also wraps her sexy pipes around “Broadway Gypsy Lady”, a pop song with some nice guitar work and another dancer, “Gypsy Lady” (probably not from Broadway?) in addition to a couple of nice ballads. This album proved once and for all that Linda Clifford had the voice to sing any kind of material presented to her, and that’s exactly what she did!

The very first Clifford album I owned, was the third one she made: “Let Me Be Your Woman” (1979) and I still have the original vinyl LP at home – four sides of pure pleasure! Her extended versions of two classics each clocked in at around 10 minutes and filled one side each: “One of those songs” and “Bridge over troubled water”. The last one is of course, one of the classic ballads of all time, yet Linda proved that when completely rearranged, it could also be a disco classic. The title track is another wonderful ballad, with Linda doing the verses nice and easy, then going into full voice and raising the roof in the chorus. I never saw the point in Helen Reddy covering that song a year later, as it’s done the definite way by Linda.

The same year saw another Clifford album hit the shelves, titled “Here’s My Love”. With the disco factor tuned a little down, this album focuses more on some other sides of Linda, like pop singer, and soul ballad interpreter par excellence! A good example is the title track; in the first half of the song, she coos and sexily offers her love to the listener in a way that says “HERE‘s my love”… Mid-way through the song, she changes her approach altogether, raising her voice as if to fight off competition and most definitely grabbing your attention by changing it to “here’s MY!! love”. It’s a stunning number, and it might just be the finest five minutes of music she’s ever recorded! “Never gonna stop” and “King for a night” are both nice pop songs, “Lonely night”, “Bailin’ out” and “Repossessed” will make you dance, “I just wanna wanna” is a dancey pop song that is also very good. She also made a duet album on Curtom, with its owner Curtis Mayfield. Called “The Right Combination”, it contains a couple of very good tracks like “It’s loving time” and “Rock you to your socks”. What is painfully clear though is that Curtis is not up to his best, and the albums shows Linda stealing all the thunder and making even the most saccharine ballads sound convincing.

In 1980, Linda recorded the song for which she is probably best remembered, “Red Light”. It was featured in the movie “Fame” and also on the Soundtrack album before it was included on Linda’s own “Im Yours” the same year. It’s one of three stand-out tracks, the other two being the funky dancer “Shoot your best shot” and her fabulous version of Mitty Collier’s 1966 hit “I had a talk with my man”. If this track doesn’t prove that Linda deserves to be labeled soul singer, nothing ever will!

The great Linda Clifford made three more albums during the 80’s: “I’ll keep on loving you” (1981), “Sneakin’ Out” (1984) and “My Heart’s On Fire” (1985). The 1981 album is notable for her soulful disco hit “Don’t come crying to me” and the original version of “All the man that I need”, later recorded by Sister Sledge and also Whitney Houston. The 1984/85 albums are the only ones in Linda’s discography that have seen no CD releases (at least not in Europe so far), and I think it’s about time they were put out on a nice two-fer very soon (do you hear me record companies!!??)

The music of Linda Clifford has followed me for more than thirty years, and I never tire of listening to that rich, warm “red velvet” voice. She’s still active, releasing singles like “How long”, “Going back to my roots” and quite recently, “Baby, I’m yours”.

Yes, you sure are “mine”, your voice is the soundtrack of my life and I will keep on loving you…. Forever!

Me at home in 2010 with some original Clifford LPs

Happy birthday, Johnnie Ray!

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Johnnie would have turned 85 years old today, if he was still alive. Unfortunately, this very talented singer died in 1990, but he left behind an awesome legacy of music, and ALL of it is available!

Described by various sources as the link between Sinatra and Presley, I consider Johnnie’s music to be almost a category of its own. His unique way of merging the well-known crooning style of Sinatra, Dick Haymes and others, he also added a lot of things that would be regarded as substantial elements when rock n’ roll arrived. Johnnie used his voice in a new way, singing very rhythmically and fusing the black feeling of the blues into a primarily new style, adding bits of country, cabaret and rhythm & blues along the way and the result was something never heard before.

Adding to all this, he also had a stage personality that was new in the early 50’s. Johnnie swung his hips, tore at his hair, flung himself on the piano, danced with the microphone stand and did things vocally that was creating a sensation.

Johnnies first record came out 1951, his last was recorded in 1969. The German record company Bear Family has released his entire output on record. They come in two big boxes of 5 CDs, each with a big hard cover book. More than 200 songs recorded over almost 20 years, the music paints a portrait of a singer whose talent is too little appreciated, but none the less shows what a fabulous singer Johnnie was. You get standards, blues songs, a little country, some early rock ‘n roll, some very soulful stuff he made in the mid-to-late 60’s, his duets with Doris Day, Frankie Laine, Timi Yuro and you really owe it to yourself to check this guy out! Also included are two live albums, and the songs from his 1954 movie “There’s no business like show business”, in which he costarred with Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Dan Dailey and Marilyn Monroe.

Although he made no records after 1969, he still toured the world constantly and he remained a popular and very dynamic entertainer up to the very end. He was plagued by ill-health in his later years, and finally died of liver failure in February 1990 at the age of 63.

My house will be filled with the great sound of Johnnies voice all day today, in my personal celebration of what would have been his 85th birthday!

A few words of information….

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Welcome to my musical corner on the net!

I will mostly write about music, specifically singers from the 1920s and up to and including very current ones.

Depending on my mood, I do listen to almost any kind of music:

Pop/rock, soul, jazz, a lot of different oldies music and I also truly love opera.

I will mostly turn my attention to singers that may not be too well known, and hopefully you all will find my posts interesting.

If you’re looking for the latest gossip about Beyonce or Nicki Minaj this won’ t be the place to find it, but you will regularly get in-depth musings on singers like Connie Francis, Johnnie Ray, Ethel Merman, Johnny Rivers and Dinah Shore….

Keep checking back, eh?

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