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!

 

Lesley Gore – Love her by name….

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Back in September 2015, I wrote about the much awaited CD rerelease of Lesley’s 1972 album, “Someplace Else Now” (read it here: https://stianeriksen.com/2015/09/30/lesley-gore-is-someplace-else-now/)

That article contained a hope for also seeing a rerelease of her great 1976 album “Love Me By Name“.

 

Lesley Gore's 1976 album, "Love Me By Name"

Lesley Gore’s 1976 album, “Love Me By Name”

 

Well, now that waiting is over – the CD is here!! (And all you fans better be “Off & Running” once more….)

While the 1972 album placed Lesley firmly in the singer-songwriter category, this one is a much more varied collection, containing everything from light disco to beautiful ballads. The opening track, “Sometimes” finds her backed up by the very funky Johnson Brothers, and the stuttering “Immortality” shows off yet another side of her talents.

After this, Lesley released just two more albums during her life time; “The Canvas Can Do Miracles” (1982) and finally “Ever Since” (2006).

Nuff said, ’cause you are about to go get this one now….!

 

 

 

Coming soon – an in-depth look at Connie Francis

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

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

 

A young Connie in the late 1950s

A young Connie in the late 1950s

 

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

 

Connie photograped in 1985

Connie photographed in 1985

 

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

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

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

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

 

Connie Francis in 2016

Connie Francis in 2016

Looking back at 2016….

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The first thing that strikes me when looking back at 2016, is that some of the stuff I said I was going to write about didn’t happen…. This is due to too much else going on, and thus some announced articles are still in the can, but will be published in due time.

The musical year 2016 has already been called the worst ever; nothing to do with records published but due to the fact that we have lost so many great talents these last 365 days.

January got off to a terrible start – when I woke up to the news that Natalie Cole has passed away last new years eve. During this year we lost musical greats such as David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen and George Michael… The movie and entertainment business wasn’t spared either – during the last two weeks of December, three great ladies all left us: Zsa Zsa Gabor (at age 99), then Carrie Fisher and the next day her mother Debbie Reynolds….

 

Glenn Frey: Founding member of the Eagles and solo artist

Glenn Frey: Founding member of the Eagles and solo artist

 

I was especially heartbroken by news of Natalie, Glenn and George – they were all artists I have listened to for years, I own every record they ever made, and I am so sorry there will be no more music from any of them.

 

Gone way too early; George Michael (1963-2016)

Gone way too early; George Michael (1963-2016)

 

Despite growing up in the 1970s, I was never a big fan of sci-fi movies, and so I have actually never seen Star Wars, and my affection for Carrie Fisher is based on all other aspects of her career except Princess Leia. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds is much more up my alley – a classic pop singer who acted in movies, shows and made some really great records in the 50s and 60s.

 

Mother & daughter, they died one day apart: Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) & Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

Mother & daughter, they died one day apart: Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) & Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

 

As for Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) – she’s in a league all of her own. Her beauty, quick remarks and her 9 husbands are all part of her legacy, she is a celebrity of the highest order, and known much more for being just that than for any of the many movies she appeared in.

 

The glamourous Gabors: Eva, Magda, mother Jolie and Zsa Zsa

The glamorous Gabors: Eva, Magda, mother Jolie and Zsa Zsa

 

She certainly has the genes of the rest of her family; her glamorous mother Jolie (1896-1997) lived to be a hundred. Her equally glamorous sisters Magda (1915-97) and Eva (1919-95) both lived long and gilded lives. These three sisters and their mother have made more headlines than any other acting family ever, and they continue to be a source of humour and joy years after their passing… They just don’t make’em like that anymore!

I hereby wish all my readers a Happy New Year – keep checking back in during 2017 also!

 

 

 

Christmas gifts – a hot tip

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

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

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

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

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

Janie's first 4 albums 1978-80

Janie’s first 4 albums 1978-80

 

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

 

Janie's next 4 albums (1981-84)

Janie’s next 4 albums (1981-84)

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

HOT (the female trio, not the condition)

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

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

 

hot-gold-record

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

 

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

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

 

Coming up – a closer look at Maxine Brown

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

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

 

Maxine Brown, ca. 1963

Maxine Brown, ca. 1963

 

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

 

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

 

Maxine on stage, 2013

Maxine on stage, 2013

 

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