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.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the list of songs displaying empathy between the jilted and their replacements is a short one.  I Could Have Told You is one of the few and I like the fact that this particular version is laced with a certain amount of satisfaction that her successor is going through just what Carmen experienced.  Not to mention the fact that she’s, clearly, still pretty mad about the boy herself.  Carol Sloane, Arthur Prysock and Esther Phillips (does anyone do rueful better?) also recorded great versions.

The album is a real rarity.  Recorded in 1973, here is Carmen accompanying herself on piano in a Tokyo Jazz club.  Another recording that sat in the vaults for decades, it’s just wonderful and makes one regret that she didn’t record more like this.  She’s in particularly good voice here, her playing is spare and apposite and her emotional engagement is total.  A gem.

 

OK, so we’re back after a break with a real doozy.  This might just be Frances Ethel Gumm’s finest hour.

Her last significant movie, I Could Go On Singing, featured a live recording of this 1938 Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson masterpiece with pianist Dave Lee.  It was presumably a last minute (albeit inspired) idea since she had already pre-recorded the number in an arrangement by Mort Lindsey.  This version went unreleased for more than 40 years and yet it is completely extraordinary – better, I would venture, than the version that ended up in the movie.

There are actually two versions of this ‘alternate take’ knocking around – a second one appears on a beautifully remastered 2011 compilation from First Hand Records – The London Studio Recordings – but, for me, this one just has the edge.

 

Considering how many of her songs have been recorded by others – and her enduring presence in the pop firmament – Jackie DeShannon has had relatively few hits.  There were only two biggies – What The World Needs Now (which, of course, she didn’t write) and Put A Little Love In Your Heart.  She also released the original versions of Needles and Pins and her own When You Walk In The Room though both were much bigger hits for the Searchers.  She recorded prolifically, particularly in the 60s and 70s, and was a significant interpreter of other people’s songs as well as her own.

New Arrangement is one of the best of her later albums, a one off for Columbia in 1975.  Several of the numbers were picked up by other artists (Rita Coolidge recorded I Wanted It All and The Carpenters a beautiful version of Boat To Sail).  Most notably, Kim Carnes scored big with Bette Davis Eyes.  For my money, shorn of the slightly affected melodrama of Carnes’ version, the original is better.

There isn’t a duff song on the album.  The title track, a wry tale of a sexually ambivalent artist, is typical of the lyrical concerns of an LP that largely eschews introspection or confessional in favour of witty observation.  I particularly like the line 'You have lunch with your backer - her husband knows you well'.  On the downside, it’s from the time when orchestrated pop was starting to go mad for synthesisers and, as here, the keyboards can be a tad intrusive.  But at least producer Michael Stewart still remembered to employ a string section - and get Nick DeCaro and Jimmie Haskell write them some decent arrangements.

New Arrangement is out of print on CD but easily downloadable and well worth your notice – especially if you think Jackie DeShannon’s main contribution to pop music is covering Bacharach and David songs and having her misses turned into hits by Merseybeat groups.

 

I’m still surprised by the number people who haven’t come across Jimmy Scott.  He was a huge influence on many jazz and soul singers.  The singing of Nancy Wilson, in particular, owes a very obvious debt to Scott.

Kallmann's syndrome – a hormonal condition that blocks the onset of puberty – resulted in Scott’s unique, high pitched voice but, while this is beautiful in itself, it is his deep emotionalism and, specifically, languid phrasing that really defines his appeal (perhaps its most discussed feature is his extraordinary ability to hang behind the beat). He is a pure ballad singer who, like Billie Holiday, is able to access the pain of a life full of tragedy and injustice to empower his interpretations.

David Ritz’s excellent biography, Faith In Time, lays bare a life of quite extraordinary struggle and bad luck – despite which Jimmy, apparently possessed of an almost superhuman ability to resist bitterness, remained optimistic and was able to enjoy the success that finally came his way towards the end of his life.

Perhaps the defining moment of his early career was signing with Herman Lubinsky’s Savoy record label.  He made some fine recordings for Savoy – including perhaps the definitive version of When Did You Leave Heaven and a gorgeous rendition of I’m Through With Love (yes, the one that Marilyn sings in Some Like It Hot).  Despite failing to promote Scott’s recordings, Lubinsky then maliciously prevented him from recording for other labels for the best part of a generation.  Ray Charles recorded Scott in 1963 (the now legendary Falling In Love is Wonderful album) but Lubinsky effectively prevented its release.  He did the same when Jimmy recorded an extraordinary album for Atlantic in 1969, The Source.  Produced by Joel Dorn it featured the likes of Junior Mance, Ron Carter and Bruno Carr with sax solos from Fathead Newman and charts by Arif Mardin and Bill Fischer which, finally, gave Jimmy all the room he needed to stretch out and show what he could do.

Although some of Jimmy’s later recordings are terrific, The Source is without doubt the greatest of his career.  Once again however, Lubinsky intervened.  The album was pressed but quickly withdrawn (becoming a collector’s item in the process) and only finally reappeared in 2001.  It is a tragedy that Scott was not more widely recorded at what was, undoubtedly, the peak of his powers.

Our Day Will Come is atypical of the album and, indeed, much of Jimmy’s oeuvre.  Many of the songs (Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, Day By Day etc) are deeply sad and even here a song which is usually upbeat acquires extraordinary poignancy.  Scott also eschews some of the more dramatic effects (or affectations depending on your point of view) which some find profoundly affecting and others simply trying – notably long, high, anguished notes drained of vibrato (Nancy Wilson incorporated them wholesale into her singing - with, it should be noted, full credit to her idol Jimmy).  Consequently, many find this track more approachable than some of the others.  I think it’s beautiful.