Else Skagen – Minneord

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Hun var en av de  norske artistene på 60-tallet som ga seg altfor tidlig…. Noen husker henne med glede, andre vet ikke hvem hun var. Else vokste opp i Bodø, men bodde i Oslo i mange år fra slutten av 1970-tallet…

En av Else's singler; denne er fra 1968 og sørget for at hun også opptrådte i "Popkorn" på norsk TV

En av Else’s singler; denne er fra 1968 og sørget for at hun også opptrådte i “Popkorn” på norsk TV

 

Magasinet Bodø NU ba meg om å skrive en minneartikkel om Else – noe jeg med største glede gjorde! I dag har magasinet publisert den, du kan lese oppslaget i sin helhet ved å klikke på lenken under:

http://bodonu.no/ett-av-60-tallets-stjerneskudd-har-sluknet-for-godt/

Som det fremgår av artikkelen, så tilhører Else Skagen de som hadde mer enn nok talent til å kunne ha blitt en av de store, men hun valgte å gjøre andre ting i livet.

 

Oppdatering, april 2014:

50 år etter at den be spilt inn, gikk et eksemplar av Else Skagens debut-singel ut med utropspris på 175,- på en nettauksjon. Resultatet ble at den ble solgt for kr. 1700,-!! Else hadde garantert sagt noe a la “Æ flire mæ i hjæl” dersom hun hadde levd og fått med seg dette salget!

Bildet av 1964-singelen “Hvite Perler”/”Du Skulle Skamme Deg” ser du under her….

Den 15-årige talentkonkurranse-vinneren fikk så klart spille inn plate!

Den 15-årige talentkonkurranse-vinneren fikk så klart spille inn plate!

 

En lenke som omhandler auksjonssalget, kan du lese her: http://tidogrom.blogspot.no/2014/02/bod-pop-fra-1964-else-skagen.html

 

Else Skagen, fotografert i sitt hjem i Josefinesgt. i Oslo, 1993

Else Skagen, fotografert i sitt hjem i Josefinesgt. i Oslo, 1993

For meg var hun først og fremst en av mine beste venner – og det er derfor hyggelig å kunne bidra til å hedre hennes ettermæle på denne måten.

 

“Hvil i fred, Alex” – minner om Alexandra Naumik Sandøy

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Enten begynner jeg å bli for gammel, eller så dør ungdomsidolene mine altfor unge…. Kanskje begge deler er korrekt. Jeg var nær ved å falle ut av sofaen forrige lørdag, da jeg fikk høre at Alex var død. Musikken hennes har fulgt meg helt siden jeg var 10-11 år og en av de første platene jeg kjøpte for egne penger, var et av hennes album.

Alex, 1949 - 2013

Alex, 1949 – 2013

Denne uken sto dødsannonsen på trykk i Aftenposten – så er det altså sant, hun er borte fra denne verden og skal begraves fra en kirke i Oslo. Så der har vi beviset på at selv de mest spennende, eksotiske, særpregede og flotte kunstnerene også er vanlige dødelige mennesker. Det var en gang da jeg trodde at artister som Alex ikke døde på vanlig måte – de bare gikk over til en slags vakker og spesiell Nirvana, men den gang ei.

Annonsen som bekreftet at det virkelig var sant...

Annonsen som bekreftet at det virkelig var sant…

Flashback til 1978: Bydelen Haugerud på slutten av 1970-tallet var verken verre eller bedre enn alle andre drabantbyer på den tiden. Haugerud hadde sitt eget senter, med det oppfinnsomme navnet “Haugerud-senteret”. Matbutikken på senteret het “Bonus” og “Bonus” solgte LP-plater! Der inne sto jeg, med kr. 49,50 av ukepengene i lomma og en LP under armen. Etter å ha betalt, bar det rett hjem og etter å ha skrelt av meg yttertøyet ble LP’en lagt på stereoanlegget og ut strømmet lyden av noe helt nytt; en heftig, stakkato trommerytme tett fulgt av den feiteste bassen jeg til da hadde hørt, og på toppen av dette en stemme som var milevis over alle andre norske artister på den tida. Det var lyden av Alex som sang “Listen to the music”…. Jeg lyttet, jeg lyttet til hele LP’en, mange ganger om igjen og oppdaget stadig noe nytt. Alex sin musikk kom som det helt riktige alternativet, på det helt riktige tidspunktet. Hun ble en viktig del av lydsporet som tilhører min ungdomstid – og musikken hennes har beholdt sitt grep på meg i alle de 35 årene siden.

I dag er hun, i hvert fall for noen, et fjernt minne fra norsk rocks historie, andre husker henne med glede, mange lurer på “hvor ble hun av?”….  Sitt siste studioalbum, “Always” ga hun ut i 1983 – etter den tid har hun vært ute av rampelyset i Norge, og vi har ikke veldig mye kjennskap til hva hun har drevet med siden da, bortsett fra at hun har jobbet bl.a. i USA – og sporadisk utgitt noen singler…

"Always" var den 5. og siste i rekken av Alex' klassiske album fra 70/80-tallet

“Always” var den 5. og siste i rekken av Alex’ klassiske album fra 70/80-tallet

En kort oppsummering av Alex: Hun ga ut 5 flotte album mellom 1977 og 1983. Hun skapte mote med det som fremdeles i dag kalles “Alex-hår”. Hun vant Spellemannsprisen. Hun deltok i 4 norske Melodi Grand Prix finaler. Hun var født av polske foreldre i Litauen. Hun giftet seg med den norske filmregissøren Haakon Sandøy og flyttet til Norge i 1970, og fikk etter hvert datteren Naomi. Etter at hun ble skilt fra Sandøy hadde hun i mange år et forhold til musiker Atle Bakken.

Alex hadde en fantastisk stor og flexibel stemme, som strakk seg over fire oktaver – og hun var derfor i stand til å takle vokale utfordringer som lå langt over hva mange andre kunne klare. Fra den mest innsmigrende hvisking, via beinharde rockebrøl til høye, eteriske toner – Alex fikk alt sammen til å lyde like uanstrengt og like naturlig. To av de beste eksemplene på det siste finnes på “Daddy’s Child” fra 1980 – her gjør hun cover-versjoner av to artister som ikke mange tør å nærme seg vokalmessig; Minnie Riperton og Deniece Williams. Begge disse souldamene er kjent for å nå toner som anses som umulig for de fleste andre, men Alex klarte det med glans. Hun er fullt på høyde med originalene, Minnie’s “Inside my love” og Deniece’s “Touch me again” – bravo!

Alex fikk allerede fra starten etiketten “funkrockdronning” klistret på seg. I mine øyne er den delvis riktig; Alex var funky til tusen, og den eneste på 70/80-tallet som var musikalsk i nærheten av det Gudny Aspaas i Ruphus hadde gjort noen år tidligere. Men Alex var også en glimrende ballade-tolker, hun sang rock så det freste og hun kunne gi hvem som helst lyst til å innta dansegulvet med sine mest disco-pregede up-tempo låter (“I’m not alone“, “Let me be the beat” m.fl.). Alt i alt tilførte hun norsk musikkliv en skikkelig vitamininnsprøytning, på et tidspunkt da det var helt nødvendig. Alex hadde også en velutviklet evne til å leve seg inn i tekstene hun sang, og alt hun gjorde på plate og konserter fremsto dermed som ekte og levende.

"Alex" ble utgitt 1977. Håret hennes ble en egen mote-greie...

“Alex” ble utgitt 1977. Håret hennes ble en egen mote-greie…

Alex sine album: I kronologisk rekkefølge kom “Alex” (1977), “Handle With Care” (1978), “Hello, I Love You” (1979), “Daddy’s Child” (1980) og til slutt “Always” (1983). Samleplata “Alex’ Beste” kom i 1981, og inneholdt låter fra de første albumene pluss MGP-bidraget “Rock ‘n’ Roller”. I senere år har Alex sluppet noen singler med ujevne mellomrom, bl.a. “Home is where the hatred is“, “Almost” og “Living in color”.

Melodi Grand Prix: Fire ganger har hun deltatt i de norske Melodi Grand Prix-finalene, og alle gangene har hennes bidrag vært bedre enn det som vant. Hun sang “Univers” i 1980, “Rock ‘ n’ Roller” i 1981, “Perfekte Engel” i 1982 og “Fri” i 1986. Personlig tror jeg det hadde blitt flere poeng og mindre latterbrøl fra Europa dersom vi hadde sendt Alex til 1980-finalen fremfor “Samid Ædnan”. Finn Kalvik høstet “zero points” i 1981 – kan hende det ikke hadde skjedd dersom vår polsk/norske rock’n’roller hadde inntatt podiet isteden..?

Det er med glede jeg konstanterer at iTunes har samtlige av Alex’ originalutgivelser tilgjengelig – både fordi lyden er mye bedre enn mine gamle, slitte LP’er – og fordi hennes tidløse musikk dermed – endelig – er lett tilgjengelig for alle.

Alex er en viktig artist i norsk musikks historie, hun er en av de beste vokalistene vi har hatt – og hun ga ut noen fantastisk bra album. Jeg håper alle de som vokste opp med musikken hennes kan kjenne seg i gjen i noe av det jeg har skrevet her… Er du for ung til å ha opplevd henne mens hun var på høyden, sørg for å unne deg en “snik-lytt” snarest mulig!

Alex begraves i Oslo 7. oktober 2013. Hvil i fred. “perfekte engel” – jeg er takknemlig for at du satte farge på mitt musikalske univers!

Varme tanker og hilsener til Naomi & Colin, Alex’ søster Lilianna, Atle Bakken, Haakon Sandøy og alle venner og fans i inn- og utland

PATTI – a PAGE in everyone’s life

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2013 got off to a rather sad start, musically that is. On January 1st the golden voice of Patti Page was silenced forever, and one of the true American cultural icons left this world. She left behind an incredible amount of records – the sales of which have been certified at over 100 millions, her 1950 single “Tennessee Waltz” alone sold over 15 millions. Patti made her first record in 1947, and stayed actively in show business up to late 2012 – when she announced on her website that she was retiring due to health reasons. That concluded 65 years of singing, recording and performing – and a career which stands as unparalleled in musical history.

To sum up everything Patti has done is nearly impossible, and all aspects of her career and musical legacy have been discussed already. I will do the personal angle on this, and talk a little about my personal views on Patti Page. She most certainly was a page in the book of my life as well. What never ceases to amaze me is that every person I meet has their own view on Patti Page, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s never heard of her. Whether she is a pop singer, a country singer or a jazz singer depends on your taste in music – but Patti has done all kinds of music, and her versatility is just amazing…..

Patti Page (1927 - 2013)

Patti Page (1927 – 2013)

Born with the name Clara Ann Fowler on November 8 1927, the renamed Patti Page died on January 1 2013 at the Seacrest Village Retirement Community, of heart and lung ailments at the age of 85.

Patti is usually classified as one of the classic pop vocalists, which she is. She is also labelled a country singer, which is also correct. Even on some of her pop records, she added a certain country flavor. She did jazzy stuff with big bands, she did her share of silly novelty songs and she recorded an album of American hymns, and Christmas songs. Add to it a whole lot of different stuff; Patti did rock ‘n’ roll and twist, she recorded the English Version of the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest Winning entry, Vicky Leandros’ “Apres Toi”, she recorded Philly Soul (Gamble & Huffs “A Brand New Me”) in the late 60’s and Elton Johns theme from “The Lion King” movie, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” in the late 90’s. So checking out Pattis recorded legacy will have you finding a lot of well known songs, and quite a lot of musical surprises!

A very early LP, this 10" album collects her hits of the late 1940s

A very early LP, this 10″ album collects her hits of the late 1940s

Patti was known to be technically perfect, and usually the first take on any recording was used as the final product. So researchers have been known to be surprised that they never find any alternate takes, That of course also could be one reason there is such an incredible amount of records to be found – she used all her studio time very well, and she was known to learn new material very quickly.

Even from the late 1940s, Patti had albums released, and while a lot of them just collected her most recent hits and popular songs of the day, some of the others had more of a theme, ie. “The Waltz Queen”, her recording of Gordon Jenkins “Manhattan Tower” and her 1962 album “Sings Golden HIts of The Boys” which is a great collection of Patti doing songs that had been hits for male artists like Rick Nelson, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Chubby Checker… Playing these three albums back to back will give a you marvellous lesson in versatility!

Everybody knows Patti’s biggest hits; “Tennessee Waltz”, “”(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window”, “Cross Over The Bridge”, “Old Cape Cod”, “Allegheny Moon” and others… And if those are the songs you want when you go buying Patti Page records, you can get several hundreds of best of/greatest hits collections that will satisfy your needs… If you want to dig a little deeper beyond those well known 50’s hits – you also have several options – some great collections that will no doubt be of great musical value.

50 years after her first record came out, this great box set was released in 1997

50 years after her first record came out, this great box set was released in 1997

The 4 disc box set “Golden Celebration” was released in 1997, celebrating her first 50 years as a singer. You get all her hits of the 50s and 60s on the first two discs. The Third disc contains her best country songs, and the fourth is dedicated to her more jazzy, big band material. The set also contains some songs that had been previously very hard to find. Highly recommended for all music lovers!

Patti herself chose to celebrate her 50th Anniversary as a singer with a concert in Carnegie Hall, that was recorded and later released on disc as “Live at Carnegie Hall – The 50th Anniversary Concert”, a disc that later won Patti her first Grammy Award in the category “Best Traditional Pop Record” – very well deserved!

Patti, an obviously happy 1997 Grammy Award winner. And for a new album none the less!

Patti, an obviously happy 1997 Grammy Award winner. And for a new album none the less!

In recent years, the UK based label Jasmine Records has given the world a musical gift that is truly great; they have put together no less than 3 very thorough collections, which are widely available in the webshops and also as downloads. With brilliant liner notes that contains the dates of recording and all other facts collectors might want to know. Put together, you get 267 different songs – and with it Patti Page at her very best, in a lot of different musical settings. They are pictured below, so you’ll know what to look for!

The first of the Jasmine box sets, "Near To You"

The first of the Jasmine box sets, “Near To You”

“Near To You – Celebrating a Career Defining Class” does what it says on the tin! You get 111 songs, mostly from the late 1940 and the 1950. Here’s the place to start your Patti Page musical Journey!

The second box set from Jasmine Records

The second box set from Jasmine Records

You will be transported back to “Another Time, Another Place” with the second of Jasmine Records box sets. This one contains more of her 50’s output, some of the 60’s country records, a couple of Christmas songs, some religious tracks, and it also includes some rarities not commercially released previously – even radio spots and jingles!

"Keep Me In Mind" is the last of the Jasmine Records collections of Patti Page

“Keep Me In Mind” is the last of the Jasmine Records collections of Patti Page

Added to the two previously mentioned box set, is the singe disc “Keep Me In Mind”. You get even more rarities here, some novelty tunes and some very hard to find tracks that were originally put out as 7″ B-sides, and after listening to all three collections, there is no way your mind will not be on Patti Page!

Many of the albums Patti recorded from the mid-1960’s onwards seem to be rather neglected, and most of them are deleted from the catalogues and are quite hard to find these days. Collectables have put out three “2 on 1” discs, at least giving 6 of those albums a limited re-release. If, however, you can find any of these original albums anywhere – my suggestion is that you just buy, buy, buy!! Keep an eye out for: “Say Wonderful Things” (1963), “Blue Dream Street” (1964), “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” (1965), “Today My Way” (1967), “Gentle On my Mind” (1969), “Stand By Your Man” and “Honey Come Back” (both 1970), “I’d Rather Be Sorry” (1971), “A Touch Of Country” (1979), “No Aces” (1981) and “Special Thoughts” (1982) – they are all worth having, and they all give you yet another perspective on the wonderful musical legacy of Patti Page!

After winning her 1997 Grammy, Patti ventured into the studios once more, and recorded what turned out to be her last regular album (it was followed by another Christmas disc) in 2000. Titled “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” it links Patti of the past with Patti of today in a great musical setting. Sounding mature and confident – it is a great contemporary country record, showing once and for all that even at age 73 Patti was right at home with the current trends, she still sang very well and sounded exactly right doing country music in the new millennium also…

Patti's last album, "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" came out in 2000

Patti’s last album, “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” came out in 2000

In addition to the title track, this album also includes that other, by now quite old “Tennessee Waltz” – redone 50 years after the original was made, and so you can favourably compare Patti’s versions and see which one you like the best. She does a bluesy cover of Tammy Wynette’s old hit “Til I Get It Right”, turning the song inside out, and making it sound like it was tailor made for Patti Page. By this time, after 53 years of making records, Patti had done everything at least once, she had sung her way into billions of hearts, had numerous hits, singles and albums on the charts – and she had done all of it exactly right!

Risë Stevens: 1913 – 2013

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Last month, on June 11, Risë Stevens should have celebrated her 100th birthday, but she died in March this year – at the age of 99 years and 9 months old…

She was of partial Norwegian heritage, and her birth name was Steenberg. As an opera singer, she was lauded in many ways and was awarded a lot of prestigious prizes. She was also the only mezzosoprano who got top billing in the opera houses around the world, that is usually an honor only bestowed upon the star sopranos.

In the late 1930's, With Nelson Eddy

In the late 1930’s, With Nelson Eddy

She made her operatic debut in 1936, and was actively singing opera up til the late 1960’s. After that she worked as a voice teacher for a lot of the singers at the Metropolitan. She also was the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera National Company for several years. She obviously passed on the talent for acting to her only son, actor Nicholas Surovy. Miss Stevens was married to Nick’s father, Walther Surovy for 61 years.

Her "Carmen" in 1956 set the standards for how to interpret that role...

Her “Carmen” in 1956 set the standards for how to interpret that role…

On the opera stage, she played among other roles: Mignon, Dorabella, Cherubino, Octavian, Wagner’s “Fricka” and Prince Orlovsky. Above all she was the most celebrated Carmen of her day. She also headlined some lesser known operatic works, like  “La Figlia del Diavolo” and “Natoma”.

With Composer Richard Rogers - two great musical personalities

With Composer Richard Rogers – two great musical personalities

She was all about versatility, so in addition to being a great diva of the opera stage she also acted in films, on radio and television. She recorded a lot of songs from The American Songbook, and in musicals like “The King and I” and “Lady in the Dark”. She toured the U.S. annually for several decades singing recitals, which she loved doing – and she was very good at it.

Her looks and her voice were both high quality, as proven by this 1960's photo

Her looks and her voice were both high quality, as proven by this 1960’s photo

Her musical achievements are well documented on records and films – and a lot of her best work is also available on CD and as digital downloads.

As a mezzosporano, she was maybe unsurpassed, and she certainly was an equal to Marilyn Horne. If you want to hear Risë Stevens sing somer lighter material, from the great popular composers & musicals, get the collection “Dearly Beloved”. it is a beautiful sample of one of the last century’s best voices doing some of the best songs from the great American songbook! Highly recommended!

A great collection! Risë sings some great songs from the classic age of pop

A great collection! Risë sings some great songs from the classic age of pop

Not many artists live to be almost one hundred years old, and certainly not many of them can look back on a life on so many stages doing such an array of varied tasks. The stages were lit up not only by the great voice of Miss Stevens, but also her charm, grace and beauty.

How to look absolutely stunning even when you're 100!

How to look absolutely stunning even when you’re pushing 100!

For me personally, she has given me a lot of cherished musical memories, and I am really sorry I’m not old enough to have seen her on stage as Carmen. And so ends my tribute to the late, great Miss Risë Stevens….,

Sara Montiel – Goodbye, Prima Donna….

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The greatest international star ever to come out of Spain, Sara Montiel died last week, on April 8th at the age of 85.

She was an actress since the late 1940’s, a recording star since the 1950’s and a celebrity for 8 decades. The world will never see the likes of Sarita ever again, and it is now a poorer place since she left us….

Her exquisite beauty was apparent from an early age. This photo was taken ca. 1950

Her exquisite beauty was apparent from an early age. This photo was taken ca. 1950

Equipped with good acting talent, physically very beautiful and add to that a sensual, sexy voice – and you get an incredible combination of talent. Sara was a great movie star but to me she will always remain one of the finest Spanish singers through the ages. She was a very versatile singer, who at first did boleros, cha-cha’s, tangos etc. and then broadened her musical landscape to encompass a little bit of everything.

Her early 1970’s recording “Touch Me” is a hilarious bit of fun, where she  – with tongue in cheek – pokes fun at all the moaning and groaning disco divas, and also along the way spoofing her own “sex godess” image. Though firmly steeped in traditional, latin pop music, she none the less re-recorded her own 50’s hit “Fumando Espero” in a great techno-dance version on her 1995 album “Amados Mios”, and as late as 2009 she teamed with Fangoria on the dance track “Absolutamente”. The accompanying video shows La Sarita at age 83, sporting a sexy negligee and looking and sounding at least 25 years younger.

Released 1995, her album "Amados Mios" shows that Sarita kept up with the current musikal trends, without losing one bit of her unique style

Released 1995, her album “Amados Mios” shows that Sarita kept up with the current musical trends, without losing one bit of her unique style

Sara Montiel was a pioneer in several areas; she was the first Spanish singer to wear sexy, low cut dresses. She made it to Hollywood in the 1950’s, and was one of the first Spanish/Latin actresses to get real parts, not just “off-the-shoulder senoritas” called Rosita, Pepita and such.

Sara in Hollywood. With her bubbling personality, she even made James Dean laugh!

Sara in Hollywood. With her bubbling personality, she even made James Dean laugh!

 

She established herself as a big star in Mexico, she recorded in several languages and many different styles – sugar coating every record with her deep, sensual but very soulful voice. Even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish, her emotions come through, making you understand the feeling of the song. It is another proof of her talents as an actress.

A photo from the 1960's that proves she was one of the most beautiful people ever to grace the earth

A photo from the 1960’s that proves she was one of the most beautiful people ever to grace the earth

Sara died at her home last week, and Spain has thus lost their biggest star. Her fame spread far and wide, but Sara’s heart always belonged to Spain – and she refused all offers to settle down and live any place else. Staying active in show business for more than 60 years, Sarita had fans of all ages, and all nationalities. We all grieve now, and share the loss….

Even as she reached the age of 75, Sara was still glamourous and stylish...

Even as she reached the age of 75, Sara was still glamourous and stylish…

Descanse en paz, Sarita! You will never be forgotten – your legacy in films and on record lives on eternally!

R.I.P Fran Warren – The legendary singer has passed away…..

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Almost a year ago I profiled the wonderful singer Fran Warren with a closer look into her career.

You can read that post in its entirety her: https://stianeriksen.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fran-warren-an-everyday-kinda-love/

Born March 4th 1926, she also died on March 4th - in 2013

Born March 4th 1926, she also died on March 4th – in 2013

Fran passed away on her 87th birday, on March 4th – so another angel is added to the heavenly choir. If you’ve never heard Fran Warren sing – you owe it to yourself to listen to some of her records, she is great!

Rest in Peace, Frannie – your musical legacy lives on forever!

Always vivacious, her sense of "joie de vivre" was always reflected in her Music.

Always vivacious, her sense of “joie de vivre” was always reflected in her Music.

Toni Arden – A hidden treasure re-discovered

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Incredibly enough – Toni Arden was one singer who had somehow slipped under my musical radar for a long time. It wasn’t until Jasmine Records put together a Box Set of her music that I discovered her. After all, Jasmine had collected 54 songs by this singer, which immediately alerted me to find out more; here was a singer who obviously had done quite a lot of recording! And as I found out later on, those 54 tracks were just the tip of the iceberg!

A publicity photo of the young Toni Arden at the start of her career

A publicity photo of the young Toni Arden at the start of her career

Diving into her music, I discovered a very versatile singer, who started out in the late 1940’s – and who had kept on recording into the 1980’s. A wonderful singer with a very good voice, doing a wide range of different material – I very soon found I had a new musical favorite! Even though she mostly worked in the so-called rock ‘n’ roll area – Toni is very much a classic pop singer, but never afraid to take on a musical challenge outside of the great American songbook.

Toni Arden was born February 15, 1924 as Antoinette Ardizzone and died at her home in lake Worth, Florida on May 29, 2012, at the age of 88.

Arden started out as a big band singer in the 1940s, singing with Al Trace, Joe Reichman, Ray Bloch and Shep Fields. She started recording as a soloist in 1946 for the minor label National Records. 

Toni was featured with Al Trace's band in the mid 40's, so here's your chance to hear her beginnings!

Toni was featured with Al Trace’s band in the mid 40’s, so here’s your chance to hear her beginnings!

She then signed her first solo recording contract with a major record label, Columbia Records, in 1949. On this label she had several hits including “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” (which reached #7 on the Billboard charts), “Too Young” (which reached #15), “Kiss of Fire” (which reached #14) and “I’m Yours” (which reached #24).

A great album from the mid 1950's, available on CD and as download

A great album from the mid 1950’s, available on CD and as download

In the mid-1950s she moved to Decca Records, where her only million-seller was “Padre” in 1958. LPs on Decca included “Miss Toni Arden,” “Besame!”, “Sing a Song of Italy” and “Italian Gold.”

One of her earliest records was an English language version of Josephine Baker’s hit song of the 1930’s, “J’ai deux d’amours” – called “Two loves have I” in Toni’s version. She has an amazing ability to adapt her voice to the different material she sings, from smooth and silky on ballads, to an almost operatic vocal on her fabulous version of “Come back to Sorrento”. Her cover of Skeeter Davis’ 1953 no. 1 hit “I forgot more than you’ll ever know” gets the Toni make-over in such a way, you’d think the song was written for her! She glides through pop songs and foxtrots as if  dancing on a cloud, yet she injects so much latin “fuego” into her Spanish records – she comes off as a very tough competitor to Lola Flores, Concha Piquer, Marife De Triana and Juanita Reina!

She might not look like a typical Spanish senorita, but she sure does sound like one!

She might not look like a typical Spanish senorita, but she sure does sound like one!

Toni Arden may also be the only caucasian singer who have really understood the difference between latin music and Italian music. The former is all about temperament and fire, the latter is all about emotions and keeping the embers just glowing. The proof of this is obvious when you compare Toni’s “Besame!” album with her albums of Italian songs!

Another great album; On this Toni simply glows - the Italian way!

Another great album; On this Toni simply glows – the Italian way!

In addition to making records, Toni was also a busy night-club act across the USA appearing in such venues as New York’s “La Vie En Rose” and “Copacabana”. She was also a regular guest on many popular television programmes like “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “The Dinah Shore Show”, and “The Bing Crosby Show”. She even appeared in a couple of movies – usually in singing guest spots. No matter what she did, she was the utmost professional – and earned rave compliments from both Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone for her singing and versatility.

Another Italian album, this one dating from 1963

Another Italian album, this one dating from 1963

She slowly eased into more contemporary pop music and some early rock ‘n’ roll in the late 50’s/early 60’s, including a duet with her brother Jan Arden titled “Blow out the candle”. But like most other classic pop singer she was left in the shade during the 1960’s…. But as a night club attraction and supper club headliner she was still much in demand – and always displaying versatility, vivacity and that great voice!

1973 LP

As late as 1973, Toni poured some of her “Tender Loving Care” on her listeners…

After her stint with Decca, she recorded for both RCA Victor and Mercury Records. Her last album “My World is You” came out 1981 and  features songs solely written by Gladys Shelley.

Her last album! Recorded 1981, Toni does the songs of Gladys Shelley....

Her last album! Recorded 1981, Toni does the songs of Gladys Shelley….

Thanks to re-issue labels like Jasmine and Sepia Records, most of Toni Arden’s music is once again available – and she definitely should be re-discovered by music lovers everywhere! She is a truly wonderful singer, whose passing away last year barely got a mention in the papers…. That’s a pity – because her talent succeeds her reputation by far!

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….

Susan Maughan – Bobby’s Girl is all grown up

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Eyes fixed at the top of the charts in 1962…

Born Marion Susan Maughan, in Durham County, North East of England, on July 1st 1942, she grew up in Birmingham.  As a child, her family relocated to Birmingham, and after leaving school she became an office typist. She answered an advertisement in Disc Weekly for a featured vocalist with the Ronnie Hancox Dance Band. Susan successfully auditioned and spent three years with Hancox.

In 1961 she was introduced to agent Dick Katz, who was looking for a female vocalist to join the Ray Ellington Quartet. Within a few weeks Susan was enjoying her first engagement with the quartet at the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo. She remained with Ellington for a year. Her 1961 debut release was titled “Mama do the twist”. Her second single, “Baby doll twist”, and on the B-side she did an updated version of the old 1920’s Hit Song “Some of these days”. Her third single was the more melancholy “I’ve got to learn to forget”.

In 1962 she was regarded as a challenge to the young and very talented Helen Shapiro. This followed the release of her wonderful record, “Bobby’s Girl”. The song had already been a hit in the US for Marcie Blane. Susan dropped the spoken, syrupy intro and jumped into the song head on. To this day it is still regarded as a classic, and one of the true “girl group” sounding gems of the 60’s!

Susan’s debut album, named after her big hit

Susan followed with more song in the same vein, but none of the came anywhere near the popularity of “Bobby’s Girl”. And none were very original either, so they sort of got lost in all the other records released by girl singers and girl groups in the early 1960’s.

Having been featured as a band singer previously, Susan of course had plenty of experience with the more classic pop songs, standards and evergreens. So, after just one pop album, she switched lanes – and went in the opposite direction, back to the classic American Songbook!

Her 1963 album found Susan “swinging” twelve classics from the Great American Songbook

Obviously being very comfortable with this kind of material, she takes a completely different vocal approach to this 12 songs. The result is very good versions of i.e. “If I were a bell”, “The gypsy in my soul”, “Gone with the wind” and “A lot of livin’ to do”. The album has been re-released on CD, and is still available from Amazon – but at terribly high prices!

The photo on her 1964 album, reflects the music. Smooth, silky and very beautiful…

On her next album, “Sentimental Susan” (1964), she still stuck to standards and classic pop, but this time going for the more gentle and tender stuff. The whole record is very good, and this is actually one of the best collections of this kind of music ever released! You will love her versions of “I’m in the mood for love”, “I’ve grown accustomed to his face” and “Someone to watch over me”!

Susan was part of the line-up for the 1963 Royal variety show, which also starred the Beatles. Susan sang “It might as well be spring” and “Bobby’s girl”.

Susan in the arms of The Beatles, 1963

She became a popular guest on television shows, including “Ready steady go!”, “Thank your lucky stars” and the “Morecambe and Wise Show”. Susan also had the female lead in the musical film “What a crazy world” alongside Marty Wilde (Kim’s father), Joe Brown and Grazina Frame.

A further musical feature, “Pop gear”, recently released on DVD, starring Billie Davis and Susan, who sings “Make him mine” in the film. The same year (1966) she put out another single, tailor-made for the German market. Singing in German, both sides had Susan singing (once again) about boys!

A 1966 single – still dealing with the eternal theme – BOYS!

Back in the UK, her second single of 1966, “Where the bullets fly”, was the title track of a spoof James Bond film and very much in the dramatic, Shirley Bassey/James Bond mould, but with a little more subdued vocals of course!

A year later, another album,  “Hey look me over” featured Susan offering a jazzy approach to some old songs like “Great day” as well as current pop hits like  “I’m a believer” and “There’s a kind of hush”.

Her 1967 album “Hey, Look Me Over”

After this, Susan worked continuously in clubs, concerts and travelled extensively around the UK and Europe. She was signed to different labels during the early 1970’s and had some singles on the market at infrequent intervals.

Despite the title of this 1971 single, I personally find it very easy to love Susan!

A lot of the girl singers who appeared on the scene in the early 1960’s was all gone (well, most of them!) a decade later. Actually, I think Susan was smart to widen her range of music, and getting a position as more of an all-round kind of entertainer. She has a clear, strong voice that can do a wide range of material, and with her cheerful personality and charm, she has always been a pleasant attraction in any musical setting. I doesn’t hurt either, that she is very beautiful to look at, has a fabulous figure and an infectious laughter….

Another single, from 1973. By then, Susan had certainly found HER way!

She went on to make another album in 1974. Titled “This Is Me”, it is a very nice collection of new material, in the pop/country mould that was very popular in the early 70’s. Extremely rare and never released on CD – the track list is listed below the cover photo:

Her very rare 1974 album – “This Is Me”

Time (Is Such A Funny Thing)
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Bigger Than I
There’s Gotta Be A Way
For the Rest Of My Life
Once More With Feeling
Almost Close To you
This Is Me
We’ll Singing The Sunshine
If We Only Have Love
Where Do You Go
Children Of My Mind

1975 had Susan doing her version of “El Bimbo” on a one-off 45, competing with versions by Finland’s Marion Rung and Italy’s Roseanna Fratello.  The next year, she released another single – this time her version of the Motown classic “It’s the same old song”.

One of very few examples of UK girls doing Motown stuff; 1975 single “It’s the same old song”….

In 1979, Susan released her (so far) last album of new material. Called “Superlady” – it finds the gorgeous Susan doing her own versions of a lot of current pop hits. All the songs are good, but still you can’t keep from comparing them to the original versions. Among the tracks, you find “With you I’m born again”, “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, “Last dance” and “Love is in the air”.

Call the fashion police! Awful cover, but the music on 1979’s “Superlady” is quite good

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Susan had carved a niche in pantomime work and as a regular fixture on the 1960s nostalgia circuit.

Susan ca. 1980 – still cute as a button!

By the early 1990’s, Susan could look back on 30 years in the spotlight – and a career that while based on ONE hit song alone, has seen her branch out into a lot of other fields of entertainment!

Looking slightly garish in this early 1990’s photo, Susan is obviously joking about push up bras!

Even today, she is still in demand for 1960s tours. Part of her set features a tribute to some of the other girl singers of the 1960s – Helen Shapiro, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Kathy Kirby and Cilla Black – and she sings a song most associated with each particular star.

A blond Susan with male company, taken around 2002/2003

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Susan is one of my favorite girls from the 60’s – and her voice and music never ceases to please my ears….. After 50 years of making music, the eternally beautiful Susan has reached the age of 70, but Bobby’s girl still seems ageless. Much like her music!

A fairly recent photo of Susan. She, like her music. remains untouched by the hands of time….

Barbara Acklin – A soulful piece of Chicago….

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Barbara Acklin entered the world in Chicago, on February 28 1943, and left the world behind in Omaha, Nebraska on November 27 1998. In between those dates, she was for a short time one of the many glowing soul sisters who made a string of very good records, yet she never achieved superstar status, was never nominated for any big awards nor graced the coveted number one spot on the charts…

She did, however, leave behind a recorded legacy which is not only pleasant, but quite interesting as well. Being a colored girl, she was automatically tagged as a “soul” singer when she started out, but although she was soulful, she also seemed to be equally at home singing pop tunes and more middle of the road material, and she had even studied classical music for a time, which might explain how she so easily reached those high notes she sang occasionally. In addition to a great voice, she was also a gifted song writer – and her credits as such is proved by a lot of her songs being recorded by other singers.

Vocally, Acklin was never a gutsy, deep soul wailer – she emits a soft, pleasant – at times almost breathy – kind of voice, but it more than proves that her subtle way is equally effective as those heavy shouting mamas! If any other singers is to be compared with her, she is vocally closest to Jackie Ross and Barbara Lewis, maybe even Mary Wells at times…. She also had the opportunity to see the music business from the inside – she started working as a secretary-receptionist at Brunswick Records in her early twenties! Somebody in that company obviously discovered her, as within a few years she was labeled “First Lady” of that company – and not because of her typing skills!

Before long, Barbara luckily found herself in front of the microphone, rather than behind the receptionists desk – and a couple of her first records (“I’m not mad anymore” and “Nobody cares”) went absolutely nowhere. Then Brunswick thought of pairing her with Gene Chandler – which proved to be a match made in heaven! She made a total of six duets with him, and the first to make any impact was “Show me the way to go”. Following Barbara’s first small hit “Fool, fool, fool (Look in the mirror)”, she & Gene were cast into a great duet about puppy love gone adult very fast, “From the teacher to the preacher” – a truly classic slice of late 60’s soul! She also wrote songs for other singers, and both Jackie Wilson and The Chi-Lites recorded some of her songs.

This 1968 single saw Barbara going from the teacher to the preacher with Gene. Then she went on to solo stardom

With a hit duet to her credit, Barbara started working on her first album for Brunswick. Titled “Love Makes A Woman” and released in 1968, it was a very good album that showed this new talent to her best advantage, and also made her stand apart from all the other soul girls active at the same time. Aided by great songs like “I’ve got you baby”, “Come and see me baby” and two covers of recent hits: “The look of love” and Lulu’s No. 1 hit “To Sir, with love” it was full of gems. The title track soared up the charts, and even today stands out as the most famous of Acklin’s hits – and a real classic. It was re-done some ten years later by Phoebe Snow, another great and much underrated singer – whose version of the song compares favourably to the original.

“Love Makes A Woman” (1968), the debut album that also made Barbara Acklin’s career

She made her sophomore album the next year; called “Seven Days Of Night” it gave her more charted singles, and standout tracks from this album include “Just ain’t no love”, the fabulous “Where would I go” and of course “Am i the same girl” which was covered effectively in the UK by Dusty Springfield, and also saw an instrumental cover, “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited. She also recorded another cover, the recent hit song “This girl’s in love with you”.

Second album, “Seven Days Of Night” came out 1969. The cover shot however, shows just day with no trace of night….

Her first two albums were stylistically in the same vein. For her third album, “Someone Else’s Arms” she turned a little more funky, adding an exciting line of horns and some jarring guitars to back her up, while also doing even more MOR material. On this record she did great versions of the Mondo Cane movie theme “More”, the samba hit “Quiet night of quiet stars” (recorded by everyone from Doris Day to Cleo Laine!), and she was one of many female singers who covered Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning wheel”. This last song was also recorded in 3 great, but different versions by caucasian Motown soul girl Chris Clark, Peggy Lee and Shirley Bassey! Barbara was one of the first girl singers to record “More today than yesterday”, a song which has also been done by Dee Dee Warwick, Lena Horne and Patti Austin – all of them very good!

The 1970 album “Someone Else’s Arms”

After this, the chemistry between Brunswick and Barbara lost some of its sparks, and her next albums “I Did It” (1971) and “I Call It Trouble” (1972) contained some of the same songs, and didn’t give Barbara any big hits. She recorded one of the many versions of “Stop, look (Listen to your heart)”, but stuff like “I’ll bake me a man” was way beneath her talent, and she was obviously sad about having to record such crap! Her last Brunswick single, “Love, you are mine today” is very good though! Throughout the 70’s and 80’s there were several compilations of her hits from the Brunswick years put on the market. It wasn’t until 2003 that somebody finally came up with the idea of collecting ALL her Brunswick recordings, and so the great 2 CD collection “The Complete Barbara Acklin on Brunswick Records” contains all her 5 albums for that label and some songs that had been released as singles. It’s a great document on a much underrated singer, chronologically guiding you through her career 1968-73. Strongly recommended!

Get this! It contains absolutely everything Miss Acklin recorded as a solo artist from 1968 up to 1973, great collection!

She switched label, and signed up with Capitol – for what turned out to be her last album – the 1975 “A Place In The Sun”. One track, “Raindrops” was put out as a single, and it did fairly well. It was the last time the Acklin name graced the charts. The album shows a more mature Barbara, spreading her voice on some longer tracks and also being a bit playful on “Fire love”, which surely uses the First Choice’ recent hit song “Armed & Extremely Dangerous” as its model. I always found the cover of this album to be awful! Sporting a big afro, Barbara is pictured up close, wearing no make-up and looking rather pallid. I’m sure the idea was to make it “natural”, but she comes off looking rather tired and worn….

Great music, lousy cover! Barbara Acklin’s last album came out on Capitol in 1975…

After this, Barbara Acklin faded from public view, but not from the business entirely. She kept on writing songs for others, and made live appearances here and there. She had a local radio hit in 1990 with “You’re The One”.  She was one of the headliners at the 1994 “Windy City Soul” tribute at the Chicago Blues Festival, and the audience got to see this rather neglected and half-forgotten lady sounding and looking tremendously well!

There was talk about her being in the studio recording a new album in 1998, it would have been the first new Acklin album in 23 years. Sadly, this never happened when Barbara got pneumonia, and died from it in Omaha, Nebraska in November 1998. She was just 55 years old, and it’s a very sad end indeed. If the 1998 sessions produced any result, it is to hope that the studio will release them. Otherwise we will make do with the rest of her musical legacy, which is rich in both great songs, great arrangements – and all of it given vivacity and sparkle by one of the great unsung heroines of soul….

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