Happy New Year – and my first 365 days on this site!

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I hope 2013 has been off to a good start for all of you!

I suddenly realized that today it’s been exactly one year since I created this blog, and during that year you’ve been treated to my very personal views on a lot of different musical topics, a diverse group of singers – and a couple of other subjects squeezed in between!

So, what to expect next? Well, during 2012 we lost some well-known artists; Whitney Houston and Donna Summer are those everyone remembers…

Therefore I will look into the music and career of a great singer whom I’m sure a lot of people don’t remember these days; the great Toni Arden! She passed away in May last year at the age of 88.

A very fitting title! Toni Arden was an incredibly exciting and very versatile singer!

A very fitting title! Toni Arden was an incredibly exciting and very versatile singer!

Toni Arden was born in 1924, her birth name Antoinette Ardizzone conjures up images of both France and Italy, and she later recorded in both languages. Starting out in the late 1940’s, Miss Arden was yet another traditional pop singer – but she had her very own personal way of making every song she sang totally unique!

Miss Arden; elegant and stylish even in her later years...

Miss Arden; elegant and stylish even in her later years…

April 2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of another great singer – Frances Langford! She was maybe the most versatile of all the girl singers who appeared on the scene during the 1930’s.

Frances was a recording star, a radio star, a movie actress and one of the biggest attractions of the 30’s and 40’s! During WWII she endlessly entertained soldiers both in the US and abroad, and she is fondly remembered even to this day for her efforts during the war.

An autographed photo from the 1940's of (a dark haired) Frances Langford

An autographed photo from the 1940’s of (a dark haired) Frances Langford

Thanks to labels like Jasmin and Flare – most of Miss Langfords recordings are now once again available – and they show a truly versatile singer doing an incredible amount of great music! She made her last studio recordings in the late 1960’s, but lived to the age of 92 – she died in 2005.

Frances Langford in the early 200's. Approaching her 90th birthday, she was still a sweetheart!

Frances Langford in the early 2000’s. Approaching her 90th birthday, she was still a sweetheart!

A closer look into the music and careers of both these singers will be posted in the near future! So stay with me this year as well!

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!

 

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!

Coming soon – a closer look at Barbara Acklin

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Much revered, but too little known – I feel it’s time to place the spotlight on that late, great soul sister – Barbara Acklin! Her career and her albums to be profiled soon!

A portrait of Barbara Acklin, taken in the late 1960’s

Acklin was a song writer and singer, whose golden decade was from around 1965 up to 1975 (the year of her last studio album), but she did make occasional singles up to the early 1990’s. She may be best known for hit duet with Gene Chandler, “From The Teacher to The Preacher” and her own 1968 classic “Love Makes A Woman”, but her albums show a lot of different sides to this wonderful, and now sadly obscure, vocalist. She was a soulful singer, doing a wide range of material from middle of the road pop songs to dance tunes….

The cover of her 1990 single “You’re The One”

Check back in a few days, and there will be more information here about Barbara Acklin, who sadly died in 1998 at the age of just 55…

Coming up next – A tribute to Rachel Sweet!

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Why a tribute to Rachel Sweet…? Several reasons for that actually; She was one of the top singers in the late 70´s and early 80´s. She started out very young, and also ended her singing career very young. The main reason for doing a tribute is, that besides being one of my favourite singers, she also turns 50 this week.

She made 4 fabulous albums between 1978 and 1982, and even though not yet 20 at the time, she gave up her recording career completely in 1982, making just a few soundtrack contributions in the last 30 years.

If ever a singer truly deserved the label “the little girl with the big voice”, Rachel is your candidate.

So, in a couple of days, I will give you an in-depth look at her career and those four fabulous albums… Check back in here in a short time!

Coming soon… A profile on Suzi Quatro!

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The year 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of Suzi Quatro as a recording artist! Her first single, “Rolling Stone” was released in 1972. She then shot into the superstar league the next year, based on her hit singles “Can the Can”, “48 Crash” and “Devil Gate Drive”.

Labelled, at various times, as the “queen of glamrock”, “worlds greatest female bass guitarist” and original bad girl of rock ´n roll – Suzi was all that, but so much more!

The first ten years of her recording career made the foundation for her lasting reputation in rock, but it´s not like she stopped recording or performing in the early 80s. She just sought out other directions, and found new outlets for her creative powers.

Is there a link between Ethel Merman & Suzi? And a link between Tallulah Bankhead & Suzi? Is the leather clad siren of the 70´s in any way linked to new age spirituality? Is Suzi really a German “hausfrau” these days…?

Stay with me, and check back in a few days – all these questions and much more about Suzi and her long and prosperous career will be revealed!

Comin’ up next – Girls from the Big Bands

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From the early stages of popular music, a band with a featured singer was often the main attraction where music was played. From around the 1920’s and 30’s a lot of great bands had a female vocalist as their headliner. Some of those girls later went solo, and from the late 30’s and early 40’s the music business was full of ex-band “canaries” who had their minds set on a solo career.

I will be writing some shorter biographies on some of those great girls in my next blog posts – and there are quite a few to choose from: Frances Langford, Bea Wain, Peg LaCentra, Helen Ward, Helen Forrest, Helen O’Connell, Dinah Shore, Fran Warren…..

Frances Langford on stage, probably around 1940

Some of these girls seem to have vanished from view quite early, while others had fairly long careers and branched out into both movies and television later on. Many of them also made appearances on the great 1980’s television show “Jukebox Saturday Night” and some of those clips can be seen on YouTube – giving younger generations an impression of just what it was that made mom and dad fans of these singers 40 years earlier.

Dinah Shore and Helen O’Connell were visible in many different settings right up to the 1990’s. Peg LaCentra, Helen Ward and others seem to have been shrouded by the mists of time… Or maybe not! Keep checking back over the next weeks, and you’ll find out more about these great ladies that started out as “big band singers” at the first part of the last century….

A 1970 LP by Helen O'Connell - who started recording back in the late 1930's

Coming soon…. Candi Staton and the many aspects of her career

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Candi Staton has been a singer and recording artist since the 1960s, and she’s gone from being called “The Queen of Southern Soul”, to Disco Queen, to gospel interpreter and since 2006 she’s once again an undisputed, secular soul queen.

Her music has touched millions of people, and all the more so for her being such a versatile singer, in different types of music.

Stay with me for a closer look at Candi’s recorded output – coming on this blog very soon!

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Easter Holiday!

Coming up…. Amii Stewart!

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Amii Stewart might be looked upon as a so-called “One Hit Wonder”… She topped the American Hot 100 chart in 1979 with “Knock on wood”, a disco remake of the older Eddie Floyd hit.

If you look beyond the drum programming and the sort of overloaded arrangement, you will hear a singer with a tremendous vocal power, and Amii has proven time and time again in the years following her brief time as a disco diva that she is a one-of-a-kind singer!

She took a completely different musical path after disco music petered out, but she’s kept on singing, performing and making a string of very good records since then. Her last album “Caracciolo Street” came out in 2010.

I will shortly give you a survey of Amii’s recording career from the late 70’s up to the present. Hopefully it will provide some interesting information, and give you a new perspective on this fabulous lady whose voice have graced many different kinds of music through the years!

 

 

 

Abbey Lincoln and Brenda Holloway ….new posts coming soon!

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I will in the next days give you in-depth surveys of the careers of two great singers, both of whom were quite magnificent, and they both deserved to be much bigger stars – although both of them have a loyal following:

Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln, and soul chanteuse par exellence: Former “Motown Diva” Brenda Holloway!

 

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