Up next – A closer look at Betty Wright

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She has been labeled the “Queen of Miami Soul”, she just as well may have been labeled the Queen of awesome singing, because anything that Ms. Wright has comitted to tape or done on stage so far, is destined to thrill you to bits!

 

Betty Wright, photo from 1975

Betty Wright, photo from 1975

 

Betty Wright was born in December 1953, and was thus only 14 when her first album “My First Time Around” came out 1968. Since then, Betty Wright has released a long line of albums, and her music is almost a category all of its own. Miami soul it is, but she pours soul into everything she does, whether it is Miami flavoured, reggae infused, disco inspired or neo soul-y….

During the last six decades (yay!!) Betty has recorded many truly stunning albums, and I will soon give you all a closer look at those…. Album titles like “Explosive!”, “Danger – High Voltage” and “Wright Back At You” should give some clues about what this lady is all about. That she vocally can do anything from a deep, slurred whisper and then extend her voice up into the whistle register, is also proof that Betty Wright is one of the most amazing singers to appear on the scene during the last 50 years. (For more info about that, check this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistle_register )

 

Betty Wright - photographed in 2010

Betty Wright – photographed in 2010

 

Stay tuned, a profile on the great work of Betty Wright coming up on this site in a short while….

 

 

 

Cancel the party – Lesley Gore is dead

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I received the sad news of Lesley Gore’s passing yesterday. Lesleys fight against cancer was finally ended on February 16 2015.

If anyone could be named the greatest female pop star of the 1960, Lesley was it. When she burst on the scene in 1963, her music, voice and style was something completely new. She was young, she had a new sound, she had Quincy Jones arrange and produce her songs, and her voice was pitch perfect. When “It’s My Party” topped both the US Hot 100 as well as the R’n’B Charts in 1963, the young singer (born May 2, 1946) had well and truly arrived.

 

Lesley Gore in 1963

Lesley Gore in 1963

During the 1960’s, Lesley notched up one chart hit after the other, and she released 8 very good albums. She acted in films and was on TV’s “Batman”. Her looks, sound and music are all the definitive sounds of the 60’s – and as an artist, what she did back then was something we hadn’t heard before. Although some of her original albums from that decade might be hard to get, you can get a very good box set: the German label Bear Family collected ALL of her 1960’s recordings (whether released or not) plus her recordings in other languages on 5 CDs and boxed it all up into the greatest Lesley Gore collection ever. It is (of course) titled “It’s My Party” – and this is indeed a party! You see the Bear Family Box Set pictured below.

On 5 CDs, you get absolutely everything Lesley recorded in the 1960. Bear Family did it again!

On 5 CDs, you get absolutely everything Lesley recorded in the 1960. Bear Family did it again!

In the early 1970s, musical tastes changed, and Lesley cut down on her activities in the studio. With the happy “girl group sound” giving way to more rock oriented material, as well as the emerging singer-songwriter styles of James Taylor and Carole King – Lesley as a 60’s Icon was suddenly outdated…. Still, no changes in musical trends could hide the fact that she is a great singer. A new kind of Lesley thus appeared on her first album of the 70s – called “Someplace Else Now” (released 1972).

Her 1972 album, "Someplace Else Now"

Her 1972 album, “Someplace Else Now”

Choosing not to work a lot during the 1970’s – she did however put out a new album in 1976. Called “Love Me By Name“, it was another great collection of lovely songs performed very well. The title track did get a new life when Dusty Springfield covered it on her 1978 album “It Begins Again“. Then in 1980, Lesley co-wrote some of the songs for the movie soundtrack “Fame” and got herself an Oscar nomination for best song (“Out Here On My Own”)

"Love Me By Name", her 1976 album

“Love Me By Name”, her 1976 album

 

Another album came out in 1982, though it hardly received any promotion, and is probably an album that a lot of people don’t know exists. Titled “The Canvas Can Do Miracles“, it consists of cover versions of a lot of other people’s songs, like Carly Simons “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain”, Dolly Partons hit “Here You Come Again” and “You’re The One That I Want” from the Grease Movie. All the songs are impeccably performed by Lesley, but overall this album isn’t the most essential addition to your collection….

Lesley Gore's little known 1982 album, "The Canvas Can Do Miracles"

Lesley Gore’s little known 1982 album, “The Canvas Can Do Miracles”

During 1986, Lesley was one of the “Legendary Ladies of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, sharing honors with Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, Freda Payne, Shirley Alston of the Shirelles and Brenda Lee. Clips of the ladies during the show is to be found on YouTube, and the standout stunner is Lesley performing her old hit “You Don’t Own Me” – at this time turned into a very powerfully sung feminist anthem!

After 23 years, Lesley finally got into the recording studio once more, for her final album “Ever Since” (2005). This album is yet another great example of good song performed very well, and it was critically acclaimed – but no chart hit. It marked the end of a recording career that spanned 42 years of making great music.

The final album released by Lesley; "Ever Since" (2005)

The final album released by Lesley; “Ever Since” (2005)

 

A lot more active on stages around the world, Lesley was constantly touring and always a great concert attraction. So I guess we should forgive her for not making more records than she did. But looking back on her output, there are indeed many treasures to be found.

From 60s pop princess to 2000s LGBT activist, Lesley pretty much did it all, and she did it extremely well. I still can’t quite comprehend that the gorgeous voice was silenced forever Monday this week – but I will get used to it somehow…

At least I have dozens of great songs to listen to, and although I sure don’t feel like partying, the eternally great voice of Lesley Gore will be able to raise my spirits at any time, years from now!

Lesley Gore pictured after a show in 2011

Lesley Gore pictured after a show in 2011

R.I.P, Lesley – we will cancel the party for now (and I’ll cry if I want to…..)

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up soon – a closer look at Bettye LaVette

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Bettye LaVette is currently one of the truly great blues and soul singers in the business. For the last ten years she has released one great album after another, showing time and time again what a totally dedicated and consummate artist she is.

A lot of people might not be aware that she made her first record way back in 1962 and spent years struggling on small labels, constantly working but never quite making it into the big league. She made dozens of great singles in the 60s and early 70s, was a disco singer in the late 70s, had her first released album come out on Motown in 1982 – after TWENTY years of working in the business, then moving on to the British label Motorcity in the late 80s, before rightly claiming her well-deserved position in this millennium.

The great Bettye LaVette

The great Bettye LaVette

Universally acclaimed for her talent these days, the record companies have been wise enough to re-release most of what Bettye has recorded during the last 53 years, and a survey of her recording career will be published here during February or March. Stay tuned!

 

Calla was just one of the smaller labels Bettye worked for. Ad from 1965

Calla was just one of the smaller labels Bettye worked for. Ad from 1965

 

 

Coming next: A profile on Teresa Brewer

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Teresa Brewer (1931 – 2007) seems to have faded a little into obscurity, at least in Europe. Mostly regarded as a perky fifties singer who sang cute, funny songs in a doll like voice – I find it’s time to dig a little deeper into the career of this wonderful, versatile singer.

 

A great view AND Teresa Brewer!

A great view AND Teresa Brewer!

 

Ms. Brewer was a recording artist from 1949 and into the early 1990’s, and she did incredibly much more than just sing cute novelty songs! The young girl who recorded “Music, music, music” and “Molasses, molasses” in the early 1950’s later turned into a allround singer, who recorded more than 600 songs.

Teresa did pop, r & b, country, rock, jazz and even some disco in the 1970’s. And that funny, squeeky voice was actually an instrument of great versatility, something I personally discovered when I sat down and really listened for the first time!

Coming soon; a closer look into the treasure trove of albums the great Teresa Brewer left behind, stay tuned….

 

Coming up – A profile on Vicki Sue Robinson

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Vicki Sue… Vicki who?? For some music fans, the name of Vicki Sue Robinson conjures up some very happy memories of the exuberant late 1970s. To a lot of other people, she is virtually unknown. Despite a fairly long career in show business, her time at the top and in the spotlight was all too brief. She released 4 wonderful albums, and a handful of singles before her career was abruptly cut short….

On May 31 this year, Vicki Sue should have celebrated her 60th birthday (if there was any justice in the world!), but we lost her due to cancer in 2000, when she died a few weeks before  her 46th birthday.

Her breakt-hrough hit will forever be associated with Vicki Sue Robinson

Her break-through hit will forever be associated with Vicki Sue Robinson

 

Vicki Sue was a singer who was hard to classify – and maybe she was too versatile for her own good? She is remembered as one of the “Disco Queens” of the late 1970’s – yet her one Grammy Award nomination in 1976 was in the “Best Female Pop Singer” category. She was also labeled as a soul singer at times. Fair skinned, born by a black father and a caucasian mother, she was also sometimes referred to as black, but just as often she was considered white… What is most important is that she made some truly wonderful music, and her four albums (made 1976-79) are proof positive of her talent. It also proves that her music is almost in a category all its own; a great mix of disco, pop, soul and rock all melded into something truly new and creative.

3 Disco Queens in one place: Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue & France Joli

3 Disco Queens in one place: Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue & France Joli

 

When her four original albums were re-issued on CD (with bonus tracks!) in 2011, I immediately bough them all, they really are treasures to be saved! All the albums have a style that is uniquely Vicki Sue’s own – and they display some of the very best dance music ever made! In a short while, I will discuss those albums in depth – and hopefully that will make all of you want to go out and buy them – these records are so good, you cannot live without!

1976 Fan Card

1976 Fan Card

 

Stay tuned – for more about Vicki Sue Robinson in a little while. It’s about time we got this great artist back into the spotlight, and into our lives!

 

Pictured in the late 1990's: Evelyn King, Thelma Houston & Vicki Sue

Pictured in the late 1990’s: Evelyn King, Thelma Houston & Vicki Sue

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonid Larionov – en stemme av de sjeldne

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Larionov under en konsert i januar 2014

Larionov under en konsert i januar 2014

Av og til oppdager man en stemme som har dette udefinerbare, en stemme som gjør “et eller annet” med deg når du hører vedkommende synge….. Leonid Larionov har en slik stemme – jeg har kalt den flytende fløyel i et forsøk på å beskrive hvilken virkning denne stemmen har på meg. Det blir ofte sagt om operasangere at han eller hun har en stemme som treffer deg midt i hjertet, bl.a. ble Birgit Nilssons stemme en gang sammenlignet med en laserstråle…

Leonid fremstår for meg på en annen måte – stemmen hans er som et teppe som draperer seg rundt meg, jeg føler meg innpakket i bare vellyd når denne mannen synger!

Samme følelsen hadde sopranen Maud Hurum da hun hørte ham første gangen. Med sine over 30 aktive år som utøvende kunstner og ca. 20 roller på reportoaret, så har Maud både sett, hørt og sunget med mange dyktige kunstnere, og hun lar seg kanskje ikke alltid imponere av hva hun hører. I  Leonids tilfelle ble Maud Hurum fullstendig satt ut, og for å sitere henne: “- Hadde ikke håret mitt vært satt opp, hadde det stått rett opp! Det var rett og slett hårreisende vakkert, som en åpenbaring fra et annet sted….” God attest, spør du meg!

Leonid Larionov & Maud Hurum i 2011

Leonid Larionov & Maud Hurum i 2011

Jeg har hatt gleden av å se og høre Leonid ved flere anledninger, og det han har gjort har alltid vært solid gjennomført, nydelig sunget og med en formidlingsevne som gjør at uansett språk eller setting, så når han frem til samtlige i publikum.

Gårsdagens recital-konsert var intet unntak: med Per Arne Frantzen ved flygelet ga han oss en time med et vakkert og variert program. Han åpnet med kardinal Brogni’s arie “Si la rigueur et la vengeance” fra Halevy’s opera “La Juive”, et perfekt eksempel på hvor vakkert en bass-arie kan fremføres!

Per Arne Frantzen og Leonid under konserten 15. januar 2014

Per Arne Frantzen og Leonid under konserten 15. januar 2014

Deretter kom Brahms’ “Vier geernste Gesänge” – også nydelig fremført, og for meg var særlig “Ich wandte mich, und sahe an” et høydepunkt. Disse sangene blir fremført så altfor sjelden, men når de får liv gjennom Larionovs fyldige bass er det klart at disse har en helt naturlig plass i hans konserter fremover!

Han avsluttet konserten på sitt morsmål, med Modest Mussorgsky’s “Songs and Dances of Death”, dramatisk fremført og med stor innlevelse, det er tydelig at Leonid trives med å synge russisk!

Neste uke er jeg innvilget audiens hjemme hos Leonid Larionov for et intervju, som vil bli publisert her. Det skal bli spennende å lære mer om mannen bak stemmen, få et innblikk i hvordan han jobber med rollene, hva som har fått han til å bosette seg i lille Norge og ikke minst noen andre spennende sider ved ham…..

Så bare kikk innom igjen i løpet av de neste ukene – og bli bedre kjent med Norges nye “up & coming” stjerne-bass!

Leonid Larionov og Maria Bordas etter en konsert i 2011

Leonid Larionov og Maria Bordas etter en konsert i 2011

Coming soon – a profile on Jackie DeShannon

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Jackie DeShannon – my one true musical heroine! Incredibly enough, after almost 60 years in show business, she is still “unknown territory” to a lot of people…. Still not 70 years old (she will reach that age in August 2014), she is one of very few singers still working, who actually had a 78rpm record released. Of course, she started out very young; her first record, “Baby Honey” was recorded in 1956 (and credited to Sherry Lee!), and she also used the names Jackie Dee and Jacquie Shannon before settling on the name she still goes by today.

Sherry Lee or Jackie Dee - this late 1950s publicity photo makes her look like Barbie

Sherry Lee or Jackie Dee – this late 1950s publicity photo makes her look like Barbie

Looks can indeed be deceptive; Jackie’s earliest publicity photos shows a doll like beauty and indicates a sweet, young and kinda sugary girl singer. Not so! Jackies earliest records produced some really tough sounding rockabilly, and the voice that blares out of the speakers give you absolutely no hint about her tender young age…. This teenaged girl more than holds her own when compared to Brenda Lee, and she’s maybe the only real competitor to the stuff Wanda Jackson recorded around the same time.

Later on, in the 1960’s, Jackie looked more the folk singers of the day, with her straight blonde hair, her shy smile and all around sunny appearance. While no longer singing rockabilly at that point, her record covers still give no indication to what’s actually on the records. You’d expect some ethereal, folksy stuff – and what you get is one of the most soulful white singers, doing a wide range of material. A lot of she wrote herself, and she also had a very good idea about what songs to record, outside of her own material.

Jackie in the mid-60's

Jackie in the mid-60’s

Jackie DeShannon, the songwriter is maybe more famous than Jackie the singer. A lot of songs she wrote have been recorded by dozens of artists from the early 1960’s and they are still being recorded today. The most sucessful cover of a Jackie song is of course Kim Carnes’ version of “Bette Davis Eyes” – a song Jackie herself put out on her 1975 album “New Arrangement” in 1975. Six years later, Kim topped the charts for nine consecutive weeks with her “new arrangement” and the song is now regarded as a classic pop hit.

Jackie in 2011

Jackie in 2011

Jackie has made more than 20 solo albums, and they represent some of the finest music made in the 21st Century, covering a wide array of styles – and all of it impeccably performed by one of the greatest voices in the business. Jackie had a rather long gap in her album output too; between “Quick Touches” (1978) and “You Know Me” (2000), all she released was a few singles….

In a short while, I will take a closer look into the wondrous musical legacy of Jackie DeShannon, discussing in detail a lot of her albums. She is the kind of singer who is impossible not to like, she has something that will please everybody, she has an absolutely fabulous voice and you better be warned: Jackie DeShannon is addictive! One listen and you will be craving for a lot more!

Jackie invites you to listen to her - you will not regret it

Jackie invites you to listen to her – you will not regret it

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