Coming soon – an in-depth look at Connie Francis

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To me, Connie Francis is the Queen! Of all the great vocalists who appeared on the musical scene in the 1950s, she is the brightest jewel, the unparalleled leading female singer and the only female rival to both Sinatra and Elvis.

Connie has recorded more than 2500 songs, in a variety of styles and languages – she is versatile beyond compare, and absolutely everything she has done on record is vocally perfect.

 

A young Connie in the late 1950s

A young Connie in the late 1950s

 

Connie released 46 albums of music in the USA between 1958 and 1969 (and that excludes movie soundtracks and compilations!). Her first single came out 1955, her last album of new music came out 1996. Connie was one of the first female rockers, but she could just as easily sing big band swing, show tunes, Italian and Spanish themed songs, country and MOR pop. She made theme albums of Irish and Jewish favourites, two children’s records, several albums of movie songs and whole albums dedicated to composers like Burt Bacharach and Les Reed. She covered the 1978 Eurosong Winner “A Ba Ni Bi” (in 1978) and the perennial Bob Seger favourite “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” (in 1989).

 

Connie photograped in 1985

Connie photographed in 1985

 

Her collected discography is vast and varied to the point of schizophrenia, but what is most amazing is that she could handle anything, and did – very well! She made albums for any foreign market, but her career in Germany is worth an article all of its own; she made her first German single in 1960, the last “So Nah” (a duet with Peter Kraus) in 1992.

I have long lost count of the many hits collections of Connies music – and they all more or less contain her best known singles from 1958 until 1969. I will however, look into all her great albums, also those made in the 70s, 80s and 90s. It’s these albums that show off her many sides as a singer and they all contain great music that deserves to be heard by everybody. Her three US number ones (“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool“, “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own” and “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You“) + other well-known hits like “Who’s Sorry Now” and “Lipstick On Your Collar” are just a tiny fragment of her recorded works – so I will put the spotlight on other parts of her legacy, hopefully this will be of interest to you!

Did you know that Connie was the first singer to record “When Will The Good Apples Fall” (better known in the version recorded by The Seekers)? In 1968, Jeannie C. Riley hit big with her story song depicting life in the “Harper Valley PTA” – but did you know that Connie the same year recorded a similar themed tune called “Satan Place“? Did you know that Connie recorded a disco version of her old hit “Where The Boys Are” in the late 1970s?

Stay tuned – an in-depth look at the great Connie Francis will appear on this site in the near future!

 

Connie Francis in 2016

Connie Francis in 2016

Christmas gifts – a hot tip

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Sometimes you kind of rediscover singers you used to listen to a lot, but haven’t for a long time…. Such was the case when I recently re-accquainted myself with the great Janie Fricke (born 1947).

Janie was all over the airwaves in the late 70’s and 80’s here in Norway, and she even made it to one of the country festivals in Norway, receiving thunderous applause for her electrifying concert there.

I always liked her, and to my own amazement I found out that it was really a long time since I had listened to any of her music. Janie started out as a jingles-singer, and she is technically perfect. Her voice can be adapted to any kind of music, and she has vocal control way beyond another other country singer (except, maybe Connie Smith). She can singer the most tender kind of ballads, she can rock with the best of them, and she can be as down-home country as you’d ever want. Added to all of it, a slight southern twang in her voice – and you get the picture.

Her versatility may have worked against her, as by being able to sing absolutely anything she is also vocally a little hard to categorize, and might therefore not always be instantly recognizable.

I of course wanted to check out if there were any new albums by Janie out there that I didn’t already have, and that’s how I found the two collections I will recommend as a Christmas gift:

Janie's first 4 albums 1978-80

Janie’s first 4 albums 1978-80

 

Her first four albums (released 1978-80) have been collected onto a 2-CD package. They are: “Singer Of Songs” (1978), “Love Notes” (1979), “From The Heart” (1979) and “I Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry” (1980).

 

Janie's next 4 albums (1981-84)

Janie’s next 4 albums (1981-84)

 

But it doesn’t stop there; her next four albums (released 1981-84) have also been repackaged onto another double CD, they are: “Sleeping With Your Memory” (1981), “It Ain’t Easy” (1982), “Love Lies” (1983) and “The First Word In Memory” (1984).

For a reasonable price, you can get the 8 first albums by this great singer, containing a total of 80 tracks, 21 of them placed high in the country singles charts also.

For any lover of 80’s country and/or great singing in general – these two packages belong under any Christmas tree! If you never heard Janie Fricke sing, you should treat yourself to a great listening experience. If you’re a long time fan like me, you probably know most of the music here, but will still be overjoyed by the fact that these albums are now available again!

 

 

 

 

HOT (the female trio, not the condition)

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The 60s and the 70s were certainly the decades of female trios…. The most famous ones are maybe The Supremes and The Three Degrees, followed by The Ritchie Family, Silver Convention and many others.

And while a lot of people will remember the great 1977 hit “Angel In Your Arms” – the name of the group who originally sang it might have been long forgotten. They were called Hot, and consisted of a black girl, a white girl and a latin girl – quite an Oreo combination!

 

hot-gold-record

Hot in 1977 with gold records for their biggest hit “Angel In Your Arms”

 

Hot released 3 albums, starred in their own movie and the three ladies had careers in music both before and after their time in Hot.

Stay tuned – a closer look at Hot will follow in a short time on this site.

 

Coming up – a closer look at Maxine Brown

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Not too well known, but forever cherished by anyone who’s ever heard her sing – Maxine Brown is a true hidden gem within the music business.

Whether she was actually born in 1932 or 1939 is not important – the magic sound of her voice is where the focus should be.

 

Maxine Brown, ca. 1963

Maxine Brown, ca. 1963

 

From her breakthrough hit single, “All In My Mind” (1960) and up to today, Maxine is a stunning singer whose vocal technique makes her stand apart from any other singer in the business.

 

This site will soon give you a closer look at the career of this great singer – who has left behind way too few records for a girl who’s been around for 55 years. Stay tuned for an update in a few days!

 

Maxine on stage, 2013

Maxine on stage, 2013

 

France Joli – A quick look at Canada´s premiere Disco Diva

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My last post on this site dealt with some fabulous disco records – all made in 1979. They were all more or less obscure one-off releases by some now forgotten acts and one by a never-to-be-forgotten-ex-Supremes diva, Mary Wilson.

Another great record appeared that same year, a single called “Come To Me”. I bought the single, performed by a beautiful young girl called France Joli. The song starts out with a ballad intro, then picks up steam and turns into a disco extravaganza. When I bought her debut album, “France Joli” I was happy to find a much more complete (i.e. longer) version of the song on it, lasting close to 10 minutes. Followed by the next song, “Let Go” which is almost the same length, I was dancing around the room and I was definetely an instant fan of this Canadian singer – who was all of 15 when this album was made! The album consists of only four songs, all made for dancing – and totally perfect for 1979!

F01

The first album, “France Joli” (1979)

 

Producer Tony Green (born as Antonio Di Verdis-Mazzone) had to strike while the iron was hot, and 1980 saw the release of another album, “Tonight“. Putting the ballad “This Time (I´m Giving All I Got)” out as the first single proved a wrong move, so more danceable stuff were put on the next singles; “Feel Like Dancing” and “The Heart To Break The Heart”.

Tony Green + F + Gene Leone 1979

Tony Green, France Joli and Gene Leone in 1979

 

Luckily, these last two songs confirmed that France was indeed a force to be reckoned with if you wanted to dance in the late 70´s.

F02

Her second album, “Tonight” (1980)

 

Her third album for Prelude Records, 1981´s “Now!” saw a slight shift in musical directions for France. Turning down the tempo a couple of notches, this record is a much more urban contemporary affair, and a style that suits Miss Joli´s smooth, silky, but still strong voice. My personal favourites from this album are “Gonna Get Over You” and “Can We Fall In Love Again”.

F03

Third album, “Now!” (1981)

 

When France Joli switched labels in 1983, from Prelude to Epic, I was certainly not prepared for the musical change that also took place. The album “Attitude” shows a completely new France, and even as great as she had been up to this point – she gets even better here! Ditching the disco sound completely, France works with Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder and they created an absolutely stunning concoction of radio ready rock with a slice of synth pop and just a tiny bit disco. France herself sings in a new way too, showing off that she is one terrific singer – as she slides effortlessly over the fast paced rhythms, heavy drum machines and guitar solos. She also wraps her silky pipes around some really juicy lyrics, done in tongue twisting tempos.

F04

Fourth album “Attitude” (1983) – you didn´t see this one coming!

If comparable to anything else released in 1983, it has to be the albums Teri Tims and Tane Cain put out around the same time. These three albums by these three different singers form a category all their own, it might be labeled AOR – but it´s not quite that either. “Attitude” will forever stand as France Joli´s crowning achievement, and I consider it one of the best albums of the 1980s! Standout tracks are: “Nasty Love”, “Dumb Blonde”, “Girl In The 80s”, “Walking Into A Heartache” and “Standing In The Shadows Of Love”. If you want to own just one France Joli album – get this one!

1984 saw France participating at the Yamaha Music Festival in Japan, and she won the Grand Prix for her song “Party Lights”. That is no surprise as the George Duke-produced track is a stunner. He also produced her fifth and final album, “Witch Of Love” (1985). In addition to her Japanese winning entry, the albums opening track “Does He Dance” was put out on a single and gained some attention in the clubs. On this album France does one of her very few ballad performances, a beautiful version of Snow/Weils “Love Always Finds A Way”.

F05

The fifth of France, “Witch Of Love” (1985)

 

During the last 30 years, France Joli has done very little recording but a lot of live performing. She is an ever popular singer, appearing at festivals and disco shows to an always appreciative audience.

Her career may be based on her 1979 hit “Come To Me” – but the few years she spent making albums has left us with a portrait of an artist who deserves to be considered as much more than a “70s Disco Diva”. Personally, I am sorry she didn´t make more albums, as she had potential to be something much greater, judging from her 80s albums. One can always hope that some producer will re-discover her, and get her back into the studios! Talent always wills out in the end….

My personal thanks to the “tres jolie” Miss Joli, vive la France!

 

F 2015

France in the 2010s, on stage doing a fabulous show for the audience

 

 

 

Dinah Shore – A centennial celebration

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On this day, one hundred years ago – Dinah Shore came into this world. Up until her Death, on February 24th 1994, she was perhaps the finest example of “Southern Elegance” – both on record and in person. She was also one of the first American stars of TV, and there was seemingly no limit to her talents in any media. She sang, she acted in movies, she had her own TV show for many years, she was an avid golfer, her talent for cooking was legendary, she wrote books and above all, she was an incredible singer.

 

Dinah: photos from the 40s, 50s and 60s

Dinah: photos from the 40s, 50s and 60s

 

Her TV shows were never screened in Norway, so in this country she is more famous as a singer. As such, she was a very versatile one – the magic touch of the Shore voice was equally well put to use on jazzy ballads, 50s novelty tunes, country songs and contemporary 70s pop songs. Her mid-1970s sessions turned out to be the last time she recorded new music, but her takes on Eagles’ “Best of my love”, Diana Ross’ “Do you know where you’re going to”, Paul Simon’s “50 ways to leave your lover” and Neil Sedaka’s “The hungry years” are so good it makes me wish she had continued in that vein…

Before that, she made an endlessly long list of incredibly good recordings – most of which are available, and way overdue for rediscovery. Her albums recorded for Capitol from 1957-1962 are strongly recommended!

 

Dinah: photos from the 70s, 80s and 90s

Dinah: photos from the 70s, 80s and 90s

 

On this day, the centennial of Dinah Shore’s birth, I strongly suggest you check out some of her music and I just know you will enjoy the sound of that liquid honey voice – “Southern Elegance” indeed!

 

Sister Sledge – Happy anniversary

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Incredibly enough, 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of Sister Sledge as recording artists! Yep, their very first single “Time will tell” came out in 1971…. Eight years on, they had their major break-through;  their album “We Are Family” and its hit singles “He´s the greatest dancer”, “Lost in music”, “Thinking of you” and the classic title track made them household names all over the globe.

From their first album, “Circle Of Love” (1976) and up to their great 1985-release, “When The Boys Meet The Girls” they enjoyed a very golden decade indeed, churning out hits and very good albums.

This post is just a small reminder – to draw your attention to the greatest sister act since the Andrews Sisters, and to ask you to re-accquaint yourself with some of their great album. Sister Sledge were SO much more than just their all time greatest hit, “We are family”.

The classic albums 1976-85

The classic albums 1976-85

The sisters smooth, sliky, soulful harmonies are just what you need during the grey, cold and dark January evenings. Music and love “given in a family dose”!

 

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