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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Solid Seasonal Songbirds

One thing I can say about England's The Puppini Sisters is that they sure know how to serve up camp with class. In the girl-group tradition of the Boswell and the Andrews Sisters in terms of their style, The Puppinis are actually not sisters at all; at least not by blood. But they carry on the swing and big-band tradition. Their latest outing is Hollywood. Sisterhood is, obviously, very powerful as they harmonize their way through songs from popular movies, concentrating largely on the American cinema, circa 1950s through early '60s.

They come out swingin' with the big-band richness of "Hollywoood," an original song displaying their delightful harmonies. It immediately made me relax, feeling this would be a completely enjoyable and professionally proficient experience, and my hunch was proved right.

Part of the Puppini magic lies in the fact that everything they cover gets a distinctly 1930s/40s treatment, whether it's "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" or Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" or The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." On last year's grand Christmas cd, they did an incredible swing makeover of Elton John's "Step Into Christmas." The gals are smart, sassy and full of serio-comic irony. There's a sly sweetness to their endeavors.

So much I admired on "Hollywood": A bang-up production by Fred DeFaye, the ingenious use of the theremin (frequently reserved for adding eerie effect to sci-fi and horror film scores) on "Moon River," and an exquisite choice of songs generally.

You can download "Hollywood" from Amazon.com, but you can buy it at stores (Barnes & Noble, for example) & get the very nice booklet of liner notes and artwork.

An exquisite choice of songs has, certainly, always been the forte of romantic balladeer Judy Collins' albums for decades. Her latest cd, "Bohemian" is not any exception.
Judy's in fine form on her newest cd, from her Wildflower label. Her crystal-clear voice is ageless as she croons to us soothingly like Mother Earth herself.

She opens with a haunting, self-penned tune entitled "Morocco" and follows that by including a Joni Mitchell song, "Cactus Tree." Judy has famously covered Joni before ("Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning") and so it's touching to have her dulcitly interpret Ms Mitchell once more. Collins has sung this live for years but here she is joined by Shawn Colvin and the harmony is oh so sweet.

Other Collins favorites like Jimmy Webb, Woody Guthrie and Jacques Brel are embraced on this cd and interpreted with great heart and voice. Collins' songs about her son, Clark's suicide ("Wings of Angels") and her mother's death from Alzheimer's ("In the Twilight") are beautifully heartbreaking, as is Collins' final number, "Big Sur." The 72-year-old singer therein reflects on her mortality:

"Please pray for me, you padres of the ocean/
pray I find my heart among the waves./
For freedom's left me panting for the bondage,/
and you can see the life beyond the grave."

Again, available for download but the cd comes with a pamphlet of recommended liner notes, art & credits you might want to have.

2 comments:

  1. I love Judy Collins too much....'nuf said. And the Puppini Sisters are one of my new faves. I created a pandora station with them and Bam! Music to big band dream to. It makes me want to curl my hair a join a girl band!

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