Afternoon Listening

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saw the Brando/Sinatra "Guys and Dolls" (1955) last night -- since I seem to be on a kick for Broadway musicals now.

As other reviewers have noted -- the casting is a bit unusual -- since the romantic leads (Brando and Simmmons) are actors who can also sing -- while the great singer, Sinatra, is left with the novelty songs. (though everyone agrees that the Broadway actors who fill out the cast are amazing -- and they give the show the lively background on top of which the story is told -- especially Michael Kidd, the choreographer --whose whacky, naughty chorus dances are so enjoyable)

But the big moment for me -- both dramatically and vocally -- had to be Jean Simmons singing "If I were a bell".

God, I love that song ! -- and I've finally discovered its original setting: as that delicious moment when the ingenue awakens to sexual desire. "If I were a bell, I'd be ringing" .. indeed !

So I was a bit surprised to discover that Jean Simmons had no more of a singing career than Marlon Brando -- and she was primarily a movie (and later, television) actress.

She really carried the colorful emotion of that moment in song (and it didn't hurt that it was preceded by some rather acrobatic fight scenes in a seedy Cuban bar)

I was hoping I'd find an album of her just singing -- but, alas, it was not to be.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I thought I had written about Patty Griffin early last year -- but I'm afraid that post got lost into the black hole of cyberspace.

Anyway -- I love this album ("Impossible Dream")-- almost every song -- since the lines seem so well written -- and she sings each one with such conviction.

(that's a beef I have with so many folk singers with beautiful voices: the lyrics just seem to be an excuse --rather than the reason -- for singing)

Her characters are such ordinary-desparate people -- but their condition feels so poignant ! Here's some lyrics from favorite song (the one that chokes me up --just about every time -- as it builds up to its climax of despair)

"and the sky turns to fire
against the telephone wire
and I'm getting tired
of all these useless desires"

O.K. -- I'm a sucker for Patty Griffin -- and as I now listen to an earlier album -- "Living with Ghosts" -- I realize I should be writing about that one too -- indeed -- maybe I will ! -- as I compare Patty singing her "Let him fly" with the way Natalie Maines carries it for the Dixie Chicks in "Fly"

Patty shows (personal) sadness while Natalie shows (crowd pleasin') anger -- and I guess I prefer the sadness. (it's fun working in a used record store)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We saw the film version of "Dreamgirls" last night -- and were blown away by the lead singer -- Jennifer Hudson -- who clearly carried the two-hours of that ponderous soap opera on her amazing/emotive voice.

If the singing voice can ever be considered a dangerous - heart-breaking weapon -- she's got one.

(and I felt sorry for Beyonce -- who faithfully delivered the mediocrity that her role called for)

And as if to continue the story of show-business mendacity and diva intransigence -- from the big screen to real life -- the Dreamgirls website doesn't even mention her name -- while Hudson's website doesn't mention "Dreamgirls" -- even though each was indispensible to the success of the other.

Will she ever make a record album that I like ? Maybe -- but probably not -- so much depends on the material and production that she gets -- and it's doubtful she'll get the autonomy of a singer like Norah Jones.

I just read the Rachael Abramowitz (Chicago Tribune) interview with director, Bill Condon -- who told how Hudson was selected from among 750 actors under consideration -- and referring to her climactic song, said "that song has to rip your guts out because it has to feel so real".

And that's exactly how it felt to me - and presumably to the rest of the audience -- who applauded at the end (of the song -- not the movie)