Bear Family records – a treasure chest for music lovers

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The German record company Bear Family specializes in re-issues – and thus a lot of us collectors can find some truly exciting stuff!

In my last post on this site, I wrote about Peggy March – an American singer who had a vast record production in Germany. Bear Family has released three CD’s with Peggy – basically containing each and every song she recorded in Germany 1962-72 (she also continued working there for many years after that).

Bear Family records also made me aware of the many Scandinavian girls who had long-lasting careers in Germany, and they have made many really great collections of these recordings.

Below you see some of the “Scandi-girls” packages that are on the market – Norwegian and Swedish legendary singers, performing material that for the most part is not that well-known in their native countries.

Anita Lindblom was dubbed “Die Schwedische Sex Katze”, due to her sensual, alluring voice

 

Long considered one of Norways finest singers – Kirsti Sparboe was hot stuff in Germany also

 

Barbo “Lill Babs” Svensson was tremendously popular in Germany in the early 60’s!

 

Ann-Louise Hanson, one of the most beautiful voices from Sweden

 

Anna-Lena Löfgren made records in Germany from 1962 up until 2005

 

The above are just a few examples – Scandinavia also – at various points – exported Bibi Johns, Wencke Myhre, Vivi Bach, Gitte Hænning, Alice Babs, Laila Kinnunen, Stein Ingebrigtsen, Agnetha Fältskog, Siw Malmkvist, Benny Borg and Sylvia Vrethammar. They all made several records in Germany (singing in German)

Coming up in the next month or so: A closer look at these singers, and what it was that made them so popular in Germany. Stay tuned in November also!

3 great girls – who made it big in Germany

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German pop music is almost a category of its own. A lot of it is named “schlager” and is mostly commercial pop music with a distinct beat, often also quite march-like.  German music industry is really big business, and in addition to all the great native singers – they have also made “German music stars” out of a lot of foreign singers who otherwise have separate careers in their native countries.

This video is a great example – three girls from three different countries, who for several decades have been really big stars in Germany: Lithuanian Lena Valaitis (born 1943), British Ireen Sheer (born 1949) and American Peggy March (born 1948). In 2013 these three great singers got together on a German TV-show, to sing a dynamite medley of hits from the 60’s. The respective ages then spanned from 64 to 70, but they are all proof that talent is ageless. Lena (dressed in red), Ireen (dressed in brown) and the fabulous Peggy (dressed in silver) sure show you how to-do-it!

 

 

Peggy March was just 15 back in the early 60’s when she topped the US charts with “I Will Follow Him”. She is sometimes referred to as a One Hit Wonder, but that is all wrong; Peggy just relocated to Germany and has released an incredible amount of records there since 1963. The video below was recorded in 2013 also – and shows Peggy doing a brand new version of her old hit – and for once, the new version favourably compares to the original! This is one great lady whose looks and voice remain untouched by time!

 

 

Germany also gave Connie Francis a lengthy career there (making German records from 1960 up to 1992), and then there are all the great Scandinavian girl singers who had German careers: Siw Malmkvist, Wencke Myhre, Lill-Babs, Anna Lena Löfgren, Ann-Louise Hansson, Kirsti Sparboe, Anita Lindblom, Gitte Hænning, Dorthe Kollo….

Seems like I have to get back to the theme of foreign girls in German pop music in another post on this site. For now – enjoy Peggy and the others, and please note that these are not rare, comeback performances – these are girl singers at work in a country you might not have known they were working in!

BEA WAIN: April 30, 1917 – August 19, 2017

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I´m afraid it´s true – her daughter Bonnie published it on her Facebook page: Bea is gone forever….

 

30s Photo. Style and class was evident in both her voice and looks. The voice was silenced forever on August 19th…

 

As you, my readers, know – I was a big fan of Bea, she was just AWEsome! I really appreciated all the nice messages coming in after I had written about Bea. I know that you all will also share the loss…

 

Bea got to turn 100 – this photo was taken by S.F. Baruch on Bea´s 99th birthday

 

With Bea´s passing, the era of the classic American pop-jazz singer is effectively over.

I can only think of one more singer who made records in the 1930s who is still around: The UK´s Vera Lynn.

 

Rest in Peace, Bea. Love, Stian

Reflections – a quick look at this site

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Now mid-way into its sixth year, this website is (I’m happy to say) still going strong, and that is thanks to all you readers out there!

When I started this web site in January 2012, I knew what the site was going to be about – and I enjoyed the luxurious feeling of writing articles about my favourite subject, music – in my own time and tempo. Now, five and a half years later – I find it a good time to kind of sum up some of the highlights of those past five years:

  • Profiles on singers Bea Wain and Susan Maughan are the ones who have created the most responses from you out there. I have gotten so many wonderful mails from their fans and admirers!
  • My profile on Lita Ford is the one that have been read by readers in the biggest amount of countries – more than 90. I have to admit that some of those countries I knew nothing about – and had to check.
  • My profile on Diamanda Galas set the first record as “most read in the day of publishing” in September 2013, with more than 900 views on the first dat. This record stood until May 2017 when my piece about (Norwegian former festival site) Salerud Amfi broke that record by a long shot, with 4997 readers on the first day!
  • Also gaining big numbers, accumulated through the years, are my profiles on Sheena Easton, Rachel Sweet, Suzi Quatro and The Three Degrees.
  • I also find it totally awesome when singers I write about take the time to read my stuff – and give me positive feedback in return; I really treasure the mails and messages from Linda Clifford, Diamanda Galas, France Joli, Trine Rein and Bea Wain‘s daughter, Bonnie Baruch Barnes. Thanks, girls – mwah!
  • In my own country, Norway – my article about strange Norwegian disco have gained many funny responses and a lot of people have shared their memories related to those songs.

Some articles have been announced, but haven’t been published yet – they will be in due time. I hope you all will continue to follow my site, and please keep sending questions, responses and messages – they are always welcome!

 

Enjoy your summer!

Best wishes to all of you from Stian

 

 

 

 

 

Petula Clark – Singer of the century…?

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Just some facts; Petula Clark (1932 – ) will turn 85 years old in November this year. She made her first public appearance on radio in the early 40’s, and her first record, “Put your shoes on, Lucy” in 1949. None of that is very remarkable, but what is remarkable is that Petula is still performing, and still recording. And, may I add – still doing it very well, with no signs of aging. Now, that is a feat!

During the last 5 years, Petula has put out 3 new albums: “Petula Clark” (2012), with songs mostly in French. She followed that one in 2013, releasing “Lost In You” – and last year, just before Christmas her final one so far, “From Now On” came out. I found it rather gutsy, that at age 84 she makes a new record – and gives it that title. What is most unbelievable, is that 67 years after her first record, she makes this one – AND she still sounds like a young woman! Also, none of these three albums are in any way a throw-back to days gone by, no no – Petula is spot on, doing very current material and sounding like the equal to many contemporary singers who are like 55 years younger than she is.

Petula’s 2013 album, “Lost In You”

 

Allmusic.com writes this about “Lost In You“: “Petula Clark hadn’t made a studio album featuring original compositions since the mid-70s when Lost in You was released in early 2013. Amazingly, it came 57 years after her 1957 debut album. Almost as amazingly, the 80-year-old Clark’s voice has held up remarkably well, and throughout most of the album’s 12 songs she sounds strong and soulful with only the occasional bit of studio trickery used to help her out. Working with producer John Williams, she’s crafted an album that relies on a few covers (an MOR country take on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” an earnest version of “Imagine”) and a batch of newly written songs that feature Clark looking back over a long life in music (“Reflections”), lamenting lost love (“Next to You”), and looking for new love (the country-rocking “Never Enough”). Apart from her voice being so strong and soulful (check out her pleading tones on “Lost in You” if you doubt that even a little), there are two big surprises on the album. First is the slowed-down and elegiac version of her biggest hit, “Downtown”; second is the opening track on the album, “Cut Copy Me.” An insistent late-night ballad that blends acoustic guitars and swooning strings with Clark’s Auto-Tuned voice and some icy synths, it’s the kind of sad and pretty song Saint Etienne would kill for. It also serves notice that Lost in You isn’t a nostalgic exercise for Clark; she’s fully up to date. It’s a quiet triumph of a song that stands as an equal to her best work from the past. There are a couple of missteps (the thin-sounding cover of the Gershwin standard “He Loves and She Loves,” the overwrought take on Elvis’ “Love Me Tender”) and one can’t help but wish at times that she had chosen to work with a producer who was a little more sonically adventurous than Williams; he’s stuck firmly in the middle of the road and while that fits some of the songs, it would have been interesting to hear what Air, for example, would have done with the sound. Wishes aside, Lost in You is an impressive achievement that shows Clark is still alive and kicking, and stands as a reminder that she is one of the great vocalists of her era.”

I might not agree with everything said above, I find the album a joy to listen to – this is great music, performed by one of the most enduring female vocalists of all time!

 

Petula’s 2016 album, “From Now On”

Allmusic.com writes this about “From Now On“: “Petula Clark began her career as an entertainer in 1939, when she was just seven years old, and hosted her own radio show at age 11. The mere fact she still has a singing career at the age of 84 is remarkable in itself, but on 2016’s From Now On, the U.K. pop legend sounds impressively up to date. It’s hard to imagine an octogenarian pop singer who is able to get over without nostalgia being part of the formula. But Clark comes very close to that here; her voice isn’t as strong as it once was, but it still possesses a remarkable clarity, and her command of her instrument is precise. Clark and producer John Owen Williams are smart enough to give her material that allows her voice to float with the current rather that push against the grain. But the largely electronic backings on “Sacrifice My Heart” and “Sincerely” push Clark toward contemporary pop (the former even finds her embracing Auto-Tune for effect), and Clark’s subtly passionate, confident delivery suggests the work of an artist a fraction of her age. Clark also wrote or co-wrote seven of the eleven tracks on From Now On (“Pour Etre Aime de Toi” finds her composing in tandem with Charles Aznavour), and she’s an able tunesmith who can walk the line between pop classicism and 21st century gloss with a capable stride. Though the production sometimes feels a bit cool, there’s a genuine warmth to Clark’s performances that’s effective and winning. And while a reasonable person might wonder if they ever need to hear another cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” or Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” Clark puts an unexpectedly fresh spin on her interpretations, and brings a playful sexiness to the latter that one would not expect from a woman her age. Anyone hoping Clark will re-create the sound of her Tony Hatch-produced singles of the ’60s is bound to be disappointed, but From Now On is music that’s mature but not dated or stiff, and reminds us she’s still one of the most thoughtful and capable pop vocalists at work today. An admirable achievement in a career that has spanned eight decades … so far.

A recent photo of the great Petula Clark

Her recording career stretching from 1949 until 2016 is in itself quite a feat! But the fact that she makes music that sounds so current and fresh is remarkable, and the fact that her voice still is just fabulous – that is really something. There are other singers out there, who had very long recording careers – but some of them should have given it up many years earlier. Anita O’ Day (making records between 1941 and 2006) had no voice left when she made her final album. Peggy Lee (whom I totally love) recorded between 1941 and 1995, but made a poor choice when she re-recorded some of her early 1940’s hits in 1990 – making the new versions proving once and for all that they should have been left in the can. Margaret Whiting made records from 1942 until 1990 (and sang live even longer), but she mostly stuck to evergreens and standards, and knew exactly how to make them sound still good even when she approached the age of 80.

Petula can just go on singing forever, if she keeps up sounding like this! Her career is a textbook example on “how to do it”, and tracing her musical development from 1949 and up until today, makes one thing very clear: Petula Clark is one of the best singers in popular music ever!

 

 

 

 

Happy 100th birthday to the fabulous Bea Wain!

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Exactly to the date, five years ago – I wrote an article in honor of Bea Wains 95th birthday. You can read that one here:

https://stianeriksen.com/2012/04/30/bea-wain-happy-95th-birthday/

Most of what’s in that piece is still relevant, except that Bea herself now, today turns 100 years old. Her daughter has told me that she is in good shape and that they will actually celebrate her centennial.

Bea Wain is one of the great singers of our time, and I am sorry she did not keep on recording for a much longer time. This video of a 66-year old Bea (in 1983), clearly shows that she still had her voice, charm and looks intact:

 

The 1930’s truly was a golden decade for vocalists, and a lot of the guys & girls who started recording back then, have left us awesome legacies of great music. Not many are still around though; Vera Lynn turned 100 in March (and released a new album!), most of the others are gone by now, one of the most recent being Kay Starr who died last November at the age of 94.

I bow my head in admiration for Bea’s 100th birthday today – and I certainly bow again, for her totally wonderful contribution to the world of song. Any young singer out there who wants to learn all about phrasing, breath control, involving yourself in the lyrics you sing or how to make each performance unique; all you need to do is listen to Bea Wain – ’cause she’s the best! There will never be another one like her, and for ages to come she will stand as the perfect template to any and all singers of popular music!

Dear Bea: Wishing you the very best for your birthday and the days to come! With much love and admiration from your biggest fan in Norway. Mwah!!

 

 

Happy birthday to Vera and Jennifer!

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March is almost over, but during this month two very special musical personalities both celebrated landmark birthdays: Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 years old on March 20th, and on March 3rd the great Jennifer Warnes turned 70. As much as I would have liked to see the media flooded with tributes and congratulations, both dates were passed over sort of quietly, at least here on the north part of the globe.

Dame Vera Lynn: It somehow seems just right that Vera has gotten to celebrate her centennial – she definitely is one of the historic musical legends of our time. She made her first record “Up The Wooden Hill To Bedfordshire” in 1936 (yep, that’s 81 years ago!), and just released a new collection of music – making her the only artist ever to have a new album out at age 100. She is also just about the only person still alive, who made records back in the 1930’s. With the death of the great Kay Starr in November 2016, the only other 30’s singer I can think of who is still around, is Bea Wain, and she herself will turn 100 in April.

 

Dame Vera; assorted photos taken 1937-2017

 

Vera Lynn’s musical legacy is vast and varied, but we can safely say that she belongs in the category of classic pop singers. She started making albums way back when that format was still new, and she released new ones at least once a year up until the early 80’s. She has recorded many great songs by British composers, as well as dozens of American standards. Completely devoid of funk or rock influences, she has her own regal, British way of doing her material, all of it perfectly sung in that strong, golden alto voice. Her last albums saw her dipping her ladylike toes into more contemporary stuff, and she recorded songs made famous by Abba, Barry Manilow, Randy Crawford, John Denver and Helen Reddy. In the late 70’s she also made a country album in Nashville, which is quite enjoyable (but even then she still kept her British pronunciation, and thus words like “cahn’t” and “dahnce” jarr a little against the steel guitars and Nashville sound)

To me, Vera Lynn is a singer who has always been there. She was a favourite of my grandmother, she was still a contemporary singer when my mother was growing up, and she was often seen on TV during my youth. Her artistic achievements are too many to list, but it is still worth mentioning that she was the very first British female singer to top the US Hot 100 (in 1952 with “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart“), followed in the 60’s by Petula Clark and Lulu, and in the 70’s and 80’s also by Kiki Dee and Sheena Easton (and no; Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black never had a US no. 1….)

With such an illustrious career to look back on, I am sure Dame Vera must be very happy when she now enters her 101st year. I certainly bow my head in honor of what she has achieved during the more than 80 years she has been active as a singer.

 

Jennifer Warnes: A totally different kind of singer is Jennifer Warnes. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of her debut record, and whereas Vera Lynn has made so many albums you can’t count them, Jennifer has made just 8 (yeah, eight!). Her studio albums came out 1968, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1979, 1987, 1992 and the last one in 2001.

But it’s what on those 8 albums (and assorted singles) that really counts, and Jennifer Warnes’ career is still a great one. Jennifer reached the top of the US Charts twice in the 1980’s – both times as one part of a duo, both times with songs from a movie soundtrack, and both times with songs that are not on any of her 8 studio albums. The first one was of course the theme song from “An Officer & A Gentleman” titled “Up Where We Belong“, performed with Joe Cocker in 1982. Five years later she sang the theme from “Dirty Dancing” with Bill Medley, called “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life“.

 

Assorted photos of Jennifer, taken 1980’s – 2010’s

 

Despite the fact that she has been recording for almost 50 years, a lot of people don’t know who Jennifer Warnes is, which is a great pity – as she is supremely talented and her voice has a very special timbre which makes her easy to identify when you hear her sing. I would recommend any and all albums – and even the greatest hits collections that are out there. If you don’t know Jennifer Warnes, you better get acquainted very soon!

Some of her songs have become part of our musical history: “Right Time Of The Night“, “It Goes Like It Goes“, “Could It Be Love“, “First We Take Manhattan” (written especially for her by her former boss, Leonard Cohen) and her supreme cover version of the Waterboys’ “The Whole Of The Moon“.

Obviously content with not being a megastar who is always in the media, Jennifer instead has taken her time between each album, making sure that when a new one appears – it is filled with Grade A material! That said, I much prefer the Jennifer Warnes approach to a musical career, instead of all the pop tarts who are always in the media but can’t really sing, and are more famous for being famous than for any artistic qualities.

We can still hope that Jennifer will make new albums in the future – and if and when she does, you can bet it will be 100% pure pleasure to listen to!

A belated congratulation to both of these legendary Ladies of music!

 

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