At the end of the year – heading for the future!

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I would like to take the opportunity on the last day of 2012, to once again say to all my readers and followers that I truly appreciate you following my blog, and that I’m so happy to receive all your nice comments!

Planned projects for 2013: profiles on the careers of legendary “classic pop” singer Eydie Gorme (who turned 85 this year!), a closer look at all the albums of one of my favorite rock singers, Bob Seger (whose recording career enters its 45th year in 2013!).

Janet Jackson could look back at 30 years of recording this year – and she’s come a long way since she sang about “Young Love” at the age of 16! I also plan to write a thorough profile on the albums of Mariah Carey, another singer who’s gone through quite a lot of musical changes since her 1990 debut!

2012 was also the year we lost two of the greatest voices in pop music: Whitney Houston and Donna Summer – both fondly remembered and much missed!

During 1982, Sweden’s maybe best singer ever, Anita Lindblom (b. 1937), made her last album – a collection of gospel songs, sung in Swedish. So this year marked the 30th year of her retirement from the recording business. It’s a great big shame, as vocally no other singer has ever sounded like Anita, and although there are more than 100 records bearing her name, I still wish she would make some more. But, I guess she’s happy to be out of the limelight, as she’s still living in Thoule-sur-Mer (outside of Cannes, France) taking care of homeless cats (bless her!) and obviously having no regrets about giving up her career while at the top of the game…

Sweden's finest - Anita Lindblom with one of her cats. How do we get her back into the game...?

Sweden’s finest – Anita Lindblom with one of her cats. How do we get her back into the game…?

With these few words, I wish you all a very happy New Year – stick around for more musical musings next year!

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers!

A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers!

 

Season’s Greetings from Stian

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This is a special greeting to all my readers and followers – and a BIG “thank you” for following my blog this year, for your nice comments on my blog posts and for all your positive feed-back!

I hope 2012 was a great year for you in every way, and that the things that weren’t so great can be made better in 2013. Christmas is a time for contemplation and thought; my thoughts go to all the people out there who somehow find Christmas to be the loneliest time of the year, and who only get depressed by all the Christmas cheer going on. I spent yesterday afternoon serving dinner for the not-so-fortunate in my local community, the guys who battle substance abuse, the folks from the psychiatric day shelter. It was a very nice experience for me also, and it just goes to show that we all can make an effort, however small, to do something nice for those around us…

If you spend your holidays with small children around – drop the drinks! In Norway there are 250.000 kids who are not looking forward to the Christmas season because their parents drink too much. Before you go out and buy that wonderful French red wine you like so much – stop and think it over; “How many glasses can my kid handle?” 

More musical facts, biographies and spotlights on a chosen singer will follow after the holidays – so please stay with me! If you have questions, corrections or suggestions, don’t hesitate to write me. I love getting your messages!

Season's Greetings to all my readers! Love always, Stian

Season’s Greetings to all my readers! Love always, Stian

I wish you all the merriest of Christmases, wherever you are. I hope this will be a wonderful time for you!

 

Christmas Music – My own personal favorites

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It is the season to be merry & gay, light the lights, spend all your money on presents – and it is also the season where we get positively flooded by this strange phenomenon called “Christmas music”. It usually means that every artist who’s ever been signed to a label get the chance to release a record celebrating seasonal joy in their own way.

Much of it is quite good, even though the same dozen traditional songs seem to be done and re-done in every way possible. Teen idols like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift did it, jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald did it, great pop stylists like Connie Francis and Frank Sinatra did it, and the amount of Christmas records is absolutely staggering.

In this post, I will give a short survey of my own personal favorites – the Christmas records I do care to bring out every year, and which have been part of my Christmas celebrations every year for many years now. You might not agree which my choices, but since a lot of you obviously (like myself) have a great taste in music – these albums might float your boat as well!

I was first introduced to the wonderful voice of Jo Stafford when I was a kid – my mother was a big fan of Jo. Technically perfect, her voice is maybe the eighth wonder of the world. Her career stretches from the 1930’s and into the late 1970’s when she basically retired. She lived for another 30 years, dying at the age of almost 91 in July 2008. Her 3 albums of Christmas music are all good: “Happy Holiday” (1955), “Ski Trails” (1956) and “The Joyful Season” (1964). All available on CD and as downloads – the first two albums were put together and called “Happy Holidays – I Love The Winter Weather“.

Her 1955/56 seasonal records will no doubt put you in a cozy mood...

Her 1955/56 seasonal records will no doubt put you in a cozy mood…

The third one bears the caption “the voices of Jo Stafford”. The reason for this is that on several songs, she is multi-tracked and it sounds like an entire choir is backing her, but no – it is just Jo alone doing ALL the vocals. Truly special, and a great testament to her talent.

Joyful

If you are unfamiliar with Jo Stafford, I strongly suggest you check her out. There are plenty of records to choose from, and most of her orignal albums made from 1950 onwards, are available – in addition to lots of great collections of her work. To me, she is maybe the best singer ever – and coming from me, that is quite a compliment!

Another great singer from the same era, is June Christy (1925-1990). Her reputation as a jazz singer is formidable, but she still seems to be unknown to a lot of people. Quite a shame – she is another wonderful singer who’s left behind a marvellous legacy of music, and luckily most of her original albums recorded 1953-76 are all available. Her sole seasonal record was released 1961, called “This Time Of Year“. The misty Miss Christy however isn’t as joyful around Christmas, she seems to be rather introvert, thoughtful and even a little moody. Maybe the joyful season isn’t so joyful to everyone…? The record is jazzy, a little bluesy – with June’s warm voice front and center. It is a perfect record for those of us who have the ability to see that there are people who fall outside all the festive gaiety, who get even more lonely at Christmas, and June sings different kinds of Christmas songs for the not-so-happy bunch.

June Christy's very special 1961 album - looking beyond the joy and glitter...

June Christy’s very special 1961 album – looking beyond the joy and glitter…

It is a complex, adult look at the mixed emotions the holiday season can provoke, with intricate, tasteful charts to support June’s always immaculate phrasing. This album offers an antidote to the syrupy sentimentality of most holiday releases… but the Christmas blues never sounded so good!

Singers from the same era, whose Christmas records I would also recommend: Doris Day, Connie Francis, Frank Sinatra. If you like a more operatic kind of Christmas – my suggestions would be Joan Sutherland’s 1965 seasonal album “Joy To The World” or Renata Tebaldi’s great 1973 album, titled “Christmas Festival“.

Renata

Depending on your preference for music, you can get Christmas music done the country way, the choral way, the rock ‘n’ roll way, probably there is a rapper out there who’s done a kind of “diamonds fo’ my hoe” thing…. Madonna covered Eartha Kitt’s classic “Santa Baby”, and the Christmas albums released by Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera show that the newer generations of pop divas also know how to put you in the right mood!

As for a soulful Christmas – I choose Patti LaBelle’s 1995 Christmas album, called “This Christmas“. Patti wraps her wondrous pipes around some more or less well-known songs, but the true stand-out is called “Angel Man”! This song alone is worth the price of the album, as it fuses everything you’d expect from Patti LaBelle with an inspirational lyric and a magnificent arrangement.

Oooh, that voice! Her 1995 Xmas album, containing "Angel Man"

Oooh, that voice! Her 1995 Xmas album, containing “Angel Man”

I hope your Christmas will be filled with music, laughter and love! And pass it on to those around you as well!

Nancy Sinatra – Second generation Superstar

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When one of your parents is the worlds greatest singer, and a Superstar spelled with a capital S – how wise is it to follow in his footsteps? If you do that only to cash in on your father’s name and fame, it is not very wise. If, however, you have plenty of talent and you choose another direction – it can prove to be very wise indeed. Nancy Sinatra is a good point in case; though no one is ever likely to forget she is Frank’s daughter, her musical achievements are all her own. She was talented enough to make a name for herself even if they were not related, and she clearly had talent enough to reach the top even without her illustrious bloodline….

Nancy with her dad on stage in the mid 60's

Nancy with her dad on stage in the mid 60’s

Nancy was born in 1940, and at age 20 she made her first single, “Cuff links and a tie clip”. She quickly followed with a string of other singles, among them cover versions of “Tammy”, “I’m walking” and “I see the moon”. She also released a very good version of “To know him is to love him” and she recorded the anti-war, socially conscious “Cruel War”. Her early records didn’t really stand out in any way, she made cute girl pop, and although she sang very well, these records weren’t all that special – she had yet to come up with that extraordinary “Nancy touch”!

AN EP from around 1964. A brunette Nancy with fame just a step away...

An EP from around 1964. A brunette Nancy with fame just a step away…

Nancy hooked up with Lee Hazlewood in 1965, resulting in their first musical collaboration, “So long, babe”. While not a big hit, it was the first in line of songs featuring the “new” Nancy; she lowered her voice a bit, creating a more intimate and sexy sound, all dressed up in Lee’s inventive arrangements. The way she looked also changed, gone was the brown, short hairdo and in its place long, blond tresses. For her next single she also added the mini skirt and the go-go boots – and the eternal image of Nancy Sinatra was thus born!

With the boots ON, she walked on to  the top of the charts...

With the boots ON, she walked on to the top of the charts…

Her next single, “These boots are made for walking” then followed – and Nancy once and for all showed the world that she had indeed made it on her own! The music, style and arrangements were miles away from anything even remotely related to Frank’s music, and the song was an enormous hit, and is even today an example of a true classic from the 60’s! The original version is still popular, and I guess that’s why it hasn’t been recorded by a lot of other artists as well (unlike i.e. “Will you love me tomorrow” which has been remade in at least 100 other versions…). The most recent cover is Jessica Simpson’s who sang it in the movie “The Dukes of Hazzard”…

With Lee Hazlewood producing, Nancy’s career really took off – and for the next few years, she released one fabulous album after the other, usually consisting of new material (mostly written by Hazlewood) and some covers of recent hits. In quick succession, the albums were: “Boots“, “How Does That Grab You?” and “Nancy In London” (all 1966), “Country, My Way” and “Sugar” (both 1967), the soundtrack from her TV Special “Movin’ With Nancy” (1968), then “Nancy” (1969) followed by “Woman” (1972). Each and every one of these classic albums have been released on CD (with bonus tracks) and they are all highly recommended. Together they show the very best of Nancy, and they also give you an important insight into the formative years of this legendary singer!

In addition to her albums, she also made a lot of singles. Her entire output 1960-65 have been made available on 2 CD’s, called “Bubble Gum Girl” Volume 1 & 2 – and here you get all her earliest recordings. During the 1970’s, Nancy married, had children and worked only sporadically. The few singles she produced during the 70’s and early 80’s have all been collected onto one CD, “Cherry Smiles – The Rare Singles” – and it fills the gap between the classic albums of the 1960’s and what was to come later on.

A great collection of her non-album singles recorded 1971-80

A great collection of her non-album singles recorded 1971-80

Not only did Lee Hazlewood produce a lot of Nancy’s music – he was also the perfect duet partner! Acting the deep voiced outlaw to her bright & sunny California girl on a string of classic singles like “Summer wine”, “Jackson”, “Some velvet morning” and their awsome version of Dolly Parton’s “Down from Dover”, their collective sound stands as one of music history’s most fabulous duos! Together they made 3 albums; “Nancy & Lee” (1968), “Nancy & Lee Again” (1972) and finally (30 years later!) “Nancy & Lee 3” (2002). Nancy always sang duets with men only, in addition to her father, Dean Martin and Lee – she hooked up with Mel Tillis in 1981 to make her second country album, “Mel & Nancy“.  Never released on CD, this represents the rarest record for both singers, and that’s a shame – it is a very good album! They got 2 singles onto the country charts as well; “Play me or trade me” and “Texas cowboy night”

The 1981 country album she made with Mel Tillis

The 1981 country album she made with Mel Tillis

After another long hiatus in her career, Nancy slowly eased back onto the scene in the mid 90’s. Still looking fabulous at age 54, she posed for Playboy Magazine! She then started working on her first new album, “One More Time” (1995)…

Yes, she really did that! But at age 54, she had no reason to be ashamed of her body....

Yes, she really did that! But at age 54, she had no reason to be ashamed of her body….

Her new album “One More Time” was a good one, and the critics all went thumbs up for the comeback record of the glamorous Nancy. She followed this album with two more during the late 1990’s; “Sheet Music” (1997) and then “How Does It Feel” (1999). In the early 2000’s, there was a wave of records by legendary singers being produced by recent rock stars; both Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson had new albums out, where they were surrounded by new sounds and arrangements. These records sounded great, and the singers had lost none of the original sparkle!

In 2004, Nancy was another singer who tried this approach. Working with Morrissey, Sonic Youth, U2, Calexico and Jarvis Cocker among others, she made her final album so far, “Nancy Sinatra” (2004). The song “Burnin’ down the spark” got a lot of air play, and it perfectly melts together a modern musical sound with the voice of a legendary 60’s go-go girl, with an added touch of having lived a long life… The album is a major achievement – and one that proves that aging is not neccessarily a bad thing musically, as Nancy at age 64 had an added depth and sounded both soulful and a little jaded and world-weary – but I mean that as a compliment!

Her wonderful 2004 album - get it!!

Her wonderful 2004 album – get it!!

Being a true legend, Nancy Sinatra is now 72 years old, but she still makes the occasional appearance on stage, and neither her voice nor her looks show any signs of ageing. Being such a legendary figure, she causes a stir wherever she performs and that has as much to do with her music and songs, as with her image. Like her father before her, she is the other Sinatra whose musical legacy has shaped our formative years, and plays like the soundtrack to our lives….

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