Bette Midler – It’s The Girls

Bette Midler - It's The GirlsBette Midler – It’s The Girls! (Warner)
Released – November 4, 2014

Bette Midler’s first studio album in eight years; a tribute to girl groups, covering material from the 1930s (Boswell Sisters and “It’s The Girl”) to the 90s and TLC’s “Waterfall.”

Some of the takes, presumably orchestrated by Ms. Midler and veterans Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray,” Dionne Warwick, Harry Connick, Jr.) and Scott Riesett (Harry Connick, Jr., Mariah Carey) are fun twists – like a countryfied version of the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and a raucous “Too Many Fish In The Sea” that evokes not the Marvelettes, but rather The Weather Girls, and “It’s Raining Men.”

Great fun, lush orchestrations. No worries about Ms. Midler losing her edge – the brassy cabaret attitude, and the sly wink are still there.

Bette MidlerThe Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” is the single from this disc – others added at 62nd Street Radio include “Baby It’s You, and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (Shirelles), “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” (Andrews Sisters), “Mr. Sandman” (Chordettes), “One Fine Day” (Chiffons), and “Teach Me Tonight” (DeCastro Sisters).

The album kicks off a tour that begins in the spring – ticket holders are promised a copy of the album.

Good to hear Ms. Midler in a studio again. Very highly recommended.

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Eve Haslam – Beautiful Love

Eve Haslam - Beautiful LoveEve Haslam – Beautiful Love
Released – August, 2014

From small-town New York to Las Vegas, by way of North Carolina and Vermont; to jazz by way of classical, to recording artist and Vegas act by way of calling a Jeep home.

It seems fair to say that Eve Haslam has lived quite a life, which she brings to her work as a vocalist; a depth of emotion that those without that resume couldn’t muster. Combine that with pinpoint control, and…well, it’s quite a package.

Backed by only piano (Bill Covington) and bass (Shannon Hoover), Ms. Haslam is framed nicely in this set of eleven love songs.

Eve Haslam, Photo by Matt RoseFavorites include Ellington’s “Solitude,” along with the Mercer/Mancini classic “Moon River,” and the original “Bossa Nova Sundays,” written by North Carolina artist Matthew Briendel.

“It’s time to follow my career to the next natural platform and after two years of researching, Las Vegas has been the obvious choice,” Ms. Haslam writes. We should all have such boldness to grab life by the horns. Talent aplenty, but it’s the story behind it all that gives that velvety voice a voice.

I have no doubt that what happens to her will stay (and thrive) in Vegas. This album is very highly recommended.

The three tracks mentioned above, and in bold have been added to the playlist at 62nd Street Radio.

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I continue to be impressed with the work of Jeremy Fox – whose album, “With Love,” currently has several tracks in heavy rotation at 62nd Street Radio.  Kate Reid is one of my favorites.  Here she is – with Mr. Fox conducting at the University of Miami.  When it all comes together like this (Sergio Mendes’ “So Many Stars”), it makes me want a cigarette afterward, and I haven’t smoked in years.

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Cat Conner – Cat House

Cat Conner - Cat House Cat Conner – Cat House (Cat Tales)
Released – October 14, 2014

If you’re hooked in the first ten seconds or so, you’ll stick around for the rest of the song. That’s my experience. So, hooked I was – first by John Chiodini’s slick guitar on the first few bars, then by Cat Conner’s luxurious vocal, then by her effortless way with the lyric, on the first track, “Everything I Love/Everything I Desire.”

I kept sticking around, and things just got better and better.

The whole album has an easy aura of a bunch of pros having fun, and a band that sounds bigger than they are. Mr. Chiodini, who also wrote most of the arrangements, is joined by Gene Cipriano on reeds, Tom Ranier on piano, drummer Joe LaBarbera, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ron Stout on trumpet, and Dick Cat ConnerNash on trombone.

Favorites include the classic “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” and a little-heard Cahn-Van Heusen tune, “Come On Strong.”

Refreshingly straight-ahead, and highly recommended.

62nd LogoHighlighted tracks have been added to the radio playlist at 62ndStreet.com.

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One of the discs that has made it into heavy rotation at 62ndStreet.com is by Jeremy Fox, a jazz educator who released his first album, “With Love,” earlier this year.  Mr. Fox has made a living coaching vocalists, and he enticed a number of outstanding artists to join his orchestra on this disc, including Kate Reid, Lauren Kinhan, and one of my favorites, Kate McGarry, with “All My Tomorrows.”

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Marlene VerPlanck – I Give Up, I’m In Love

Marlene VerPlanck - I Give Up, I'm In LoveMarlene VerPlanck -
I Give Up, I’m In Love (Audiophile)
Released – October 7, 2014

Indulge me on a little marketing trip down memory lane.

There was a time when Budweiser was the big beer, not some watered-down “lite”or “light” beer. But if Budweiser was the every day beer, weekends were special.

Say it with me – weekends were made for Michelob.

Michelob was brewed just a little longer, was just a little smoother, and had a gold label on its distinctive bottle. So just like Ed McMahon urged us to “Pick a pair of six-packs” when it came to Budweiser, the Friday paycheck went to a cold six of Michelob on the way home.

One of the voices that sold weekends was Marlene VerPlanck, who – after stints with the big bands of Charlie Spivak, Tex Beneke and the Dorsey Brothers, became one of the busiest studio singers in the country. In addition to Michelob weekends, she was the voice of “Mm-mm good” Campbell’s Soups, and on-your-side Nationwide Insurance.

It’s several years later, and Ms. VerPlanck is not only still busy working, she’s still making outstanding music with the big bands. “I Give Up, I’m In Love” is a solid piece of work, with an eclectic choice of standards and would-be standards just a block or so off the main street. Favorites include the Rodgers-Hart classic, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” from the musical 1939 Musical “Too Many Girls,” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” from the 1936 Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.”

Marlene VerPlanck - Loves Johnny MercerAll of this got me buying records from the 60s and 70s, and the best of those that I found was the one generally considered to have gotten Ms. VerPlanck out of the commercial studio, and back to a solo career – 1979’s “Marlene VerPlanck Loves Johnny Mercer.” With a backing group that includes the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli – this one’s well worth it to hear Ms. VerPlanck caress Mercer classics like “Charade,” along with “That Old Black Magic,” and “Fools Rush In.”

“I Give Up, I’m In Love,” with Warren Vache on coronet and Glenn Franke’s Big Band featured on several tracks, is highly recommended, but go ahead and spring for the other one, too. “Loves Johnny Mercer,” with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, is very highly recommended.

62nd LogoHighlighted tracks have been added to the radio playlist at 62ndStreet.com.

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And yes, here’s the Michelob commercial, and although there are no credits, it’s the only one I found with a female voice, and so I’ll figure this must be Ms. VerPlanck.  Fun facts – the blonde in the commercial is future Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd.  And the voice – yeah, that’s Charlie – John Forsythe.

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