Tuesday, November 1, 2011
My Divas, the Recording Booth and Me
On Facebook, dancefloor divas can be truly divine and accessible when Friended. The great Carol Hahn sent me inspiring words when my Mom became seriously ill; Inaya Day thanked me for commenting on her rendition of the Gershwins' "Summertime," from a concert in Germany, on Youtube; and Amber Dirks asked us to consider casting a vote for her, as a contestant, for tv's Wives of Favor. I did just that, and she sent me such a sweet, personal thanks. She is now a finalist. (Go, Amber!)
Ah, my divas, my divas! Where would I be without them? I was raised on divas (not robbery)! Singers like Patti Page & Peggy Lee (before I moved on to Patti Smith and Kiki Dee), but movie divas, too. My grandmother practically insisted I watch films, along with her, on the tv, that starred every movie with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, et al. She even took me to the movies to see "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" I remember she sadly sighed during that film, "They used to look so beautiful!" But I watched these films and I learned. It was quite a cool education, Gran.
I have a recording of myself as a kid (around age 7), with my grandfather, in a recording booth in the Jersey shore town of Keansburg, NJ. He introduced me and I burst into a show tune; a favorite of mine at the time, punching across every line. I knew every single word! The song was "Hey, Look Me Over" from the Broadway flop, Wildcat, starring Lucille Ball. Now, if you heard Lucy sing in the movie version of Mame, perhaps you can figure out what closed the show.
Lucy was a tv diva. America's cathode-ray sweetheart but one tough broad who was so intimidating, she even frightened Joan Crawford to death when she guested on The Lucy Show. (Or was it Here's Lucy?)
But I digress as usual. Because my recording booth experience in Keansburg, NJ reminds me of the cd album I listened to last night: Don Rosler's Recording Booth. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "A Coney Island of the Mind" might also be an apt title for this astounding concept album, with a slew of amazing vocalists. There are genuinely antique recording-booth moments nostalgically, poignantly laced throughout the songs. It's the aural version of earlier Fellini films, American-style, and it's ingenious and a total original.
Rosler's songs wistfully evoked, for me, moments of the music of Jacques Brel, Paul Simon, George Harrison, Nino Rota, Jimmy Webb; yet the songs also seem fresh in their ways; not merely nostalgic or homages to their collective influences. Available to download on Amazon, and available on cd (nicely packaged with liner notes; recommended format) from CD Baby, it has received rave reviews. Particular attention has been graced upon the lovely song, "Doris from Rego Park," posted below.
The only thing missing from Rosler's Recording Booth is my Live from Keansburg rendition of "Hey, Look Me Over!" Get with it, Don!