I have an embarrassingly large CD and record collection – spread across two flats (not both mine, in case you were wondering) and occupying everything from shelves to suitcases. Courtesy of YouTube, I thought I’d share some of the choice items – particularly some of the less well known ones.  Think of it as a slowly evolving, digital mixtape...

There’ll be a new song most days (at least that’s the plan) so keep checking back and please post your comments and suggestions as well.

Mirrors easily ties with Sea Shells (a collection of arts songs and Chinese poetry) as Peggy Lee's most surprising album.  Written and produced by Leiber and Stoller, the album features material which no one familiar with either their or Lee's catalogues could have anticipated.  Peggy had previously scored with the writers' I'm A Woman – and recorded their Is That All There Is? (against the wishes of her record company) in 1969.  She won a Grammy award for her trouble on the latter so their union was widely anticipated – not least by A&M who pushed the boat out on everything from the arrangements (mostly by Johnny Mandel) to the cover art by Hans Albers and David McMacken which was judged to be everything from impossibly glamourous to akin to a death mask.

The songs encompass murder, drug addiction, mental illness, aging and, less unusually for a singer of Lee's era, love and a certain amount of sex. But even the love songs are unconventional (as this one illustrates).

Lee was, by all accounts, difficult to work with at this point in her career (see James Gavin's excellent biography Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee for an account of the recording sessions) and more or less disowned the album after it proved to be less than successful – much to the disappointment of its composers.  As with all such things it has been revaluated over time but critical opinion still places it somewhere between a masterpiece and a curate's egg.  See what you think.

 

Lalo Schifrin and Gene Lees' The Right To Love has been recorded by Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and, perhaps most notably, Nancy Wilson (on her Lush Life album). Schifrin is best known for his film scores – although he also worked extensively with Dizzy Gillespie – and Lees was something of a polymath who wrote the English lyrics for Jobim's Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars). The Right To Love enjoyed a new lease of life when K D Lang recorded it and it became something of a gay rights anthem.

Rebecca Parris is another hugely underappreciated talent.  A Beautiful Friendship is one of her rarer albums and also contains a glorious version of All My Tomorrows - you can find her singing it live with the Kenny Hadley Big Band on YouTube. This track is its equal.

 

Formed as a quintet in 1987 and slimming down to a quartet in 1994, New York Voices may be slightly less well known than The Manhattan Transfer but they have trod a similarly diverse path while following firmly in the great jazz group tradition of Lambert Hendricks and Ross, Singers Unlimited and before them, the Pied Pipers and the Mel-Tones.

Silence of Time comes from their third album, What's Inside, and is written by original group member Caprice Fox. It's beautiful – and fiendishly difficult to sing!

 

There are very few recordings of this one. It comes from the musical No Strings for which Richard Rodgers wrote words as well as music. The score also features The Sweetest Sounds.

Coleman Hawkins' and Billy May made instrumental versions during the 60s mini-mania for 'jazz versions' of Broadway scores. Hawkins' version is on YouTube well worth a listen but it won't allow you appreciate Mr Rodgers lyric-writing abilities.

Of the vocal versions I know, Chis Connor's is way too cool for the material and Ethel Ennis' poppy take doesn't make the most of the melody. It would have been perfect for a young Johnny Mathis but he seems to have passed it by.  Julie Andrews rediscovered it in 1996 and her sincerity (and all those lush strings) suit the song's shamelessly romantic tone to a T.