Jim Stewart picks out some of the more obscure oldies

Mar 2020 Jim Stewart picks out some of the more obscure oldies

Loose cannon

BETTY DAVIS: THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT’
MVD VISUAL DVD: MVD3032D

Before watching ‘THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT’ I knew who BETTY DAVIS was, as I had some singles from the 70s in my collection plus a handful of others across various Funk compilations.
But, despite knowing she was so different, I must admit to pretty much forgetting her. Betty walked her own road. Close friends with Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, she married and changed jazz legend Miles Davis’s view of both life and music, influencing much of his iconic album, possibly even the name, ‘Bitches Brew’.
She had so much creative energy, was a loose cannon, anddespite her obvious musical and artistic talent, major labels steered clear after her erratic spell at Columbia in the late sixties.
‘They Say I’m Different’ tries to find the real Davis by tracing friends, family and band members from various stages of her life. While these paint an interesting portrait, this documentary develops meaning when her own recollections are added to the story at around 10 minutes in, told through the impact of ‘crow’, a blackbird constantly breaking free of any restraints life has imposed upon her, beautifully illustrated each time to demand your attention, and the search not just to find her in the 40 years since she vanished, but to discover the reason why she removed herself from the public eye.
Her impact during her 10-year, often interrupted, career ,cannot be underestimated. As a complete package, she was simply ‘too hot to handle, liable to explode at any time,’ and the list of those obviously influenced is impressive.
The stage presence of Grace Jones owes much to Davis, Madonna’s raunchy act is a tame imitation: Beyonce’s strut copies Davis, and Millie Jackson undertook nowhere to hide lyrics after Davis had broken the barriers with classics including ‘If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up’. No misunderstanding lyrics like that, this is progressive funk hitting as hard as it comes.
Although the documentary doesn’t provide any answers, it leaves plenty of questions, and since viewing, I’ve sourced each of her original album reissues, at a price, and tried to find a biography as I need to know so much more.
An important piece of black music history that points a way, rather than provide a planned route, sadly there is very little live footage of Davis in action, but the limited amount there is shows exactly why she was described as different.
I want/need more.

High quality Tammy

TAMMY WYNETTE
‘ONE OF A KIND/WOMANHOOD/JUST TAMMY’ (3on2)
MORELLO RECORDS:
MRLL 95D (2CD Set)

Three more class albums from TAMMY WYNETTE feature on this new release from Morello Records.
Recorded in the late seventies, and still as popular as ever, Tammy was maintaining an ‘at least an album a year’ strategy without letting any of her standards slip.
This triple collection of ‘ONE OF A KIND (1977)’, ‘WOMANHOOD (’78)’ and ‘JUST TAMMY (’79)’ on a double disc set continued her successful run of charting Top Ten with every solo album. Title tracks of the first two albums were hit singles in the USA, with the amazingly named ‘I’d Like To See Jesus ( On The Midnight Special)’. But Tammy was about the overall album presentation and these score high on the Country Music Quality scale.
Going through a prolonged spell of personal turmoil at the time the selection of songs reflect the heartache Tammy was suffering, with a silver lining not that far away.
If you like your Country Music simple, open and from the heart, the 29 tracks on this set could keep you listening for hours. As someone who completely missed these back in the day, they fulfil that joy of hearing something special for the first time.

Matt made it his way

MATT MONRO ‘STRANGER IN PARADISE: THE LOST NEW YORK SESSIONS’
Universal Music: 5387616 (2CD Set)

MATT MONRO was possibly the first artist I heard to be given the accolade ‘Singer’s Singer’, who included legends including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Sammy Davis Jr within his fan-base, unique in taking what was considered an American style of singing and achieving recognition as a master of the technique.
‘STRANGER IN PARADISE: THE LOST NEW YORK SESSIONS’ combines recordings as Matt originally recorded them in 1967 but never released as such, with a 27-track bonus disc of ‘The Best Of Matt Monro’ which includes ‘Portrait Of My Love’, ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘My Kind Of Girl’, ‘Walk Away’ and ‘Born Free’, all timeless classics, each sounding as fresh and beautiful as the day they scored highly in the UK Pop Charts of the 1960s.
When I saw the tracklist of ‘The Lost N.Y. Sessions’, I felt certain I had heard Matt sing many of the songs back in the day. The title track, ‘The Impossible Dream’, ‘Sunrise Sunset’, ‘Hello Dolly’, and ‘I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her’ and I was right. Although the album of mainly Broadway songs was recorded in New York, I was unaware the tapes had gone to LA where full big band orchestrations had been created and over-dubbing the original five- piece bass, drummer, pianist and two guitar line-up with whom Matt had made the original recordings.
Capitol Records called all the shots, and despite Matt preferring the New York versions, the album was issued as a ‘classic Capitol Records Sound Big Band Album’.
Universal have gone back to the original tapes, discovering the relaxed style Matt was famous for, and with a couple of alternative versions and tracks that have remained in the vaults, and given us the album exactly as Matt intended.
It is a true work of art, and the best way I can illustrate the difference is a comparison to Tony Bennett working with Ralph
Sharon or Count Basie, I had seen Bennett and Sharon in 1965, an amazing evening, and ahead of seeing Bennett return with Count Basie in 1967, everyone said: ’Yes. But until you’ve seen Bennett with Basie, you’ve not seen the man’.
Possibly true, but I far preferred his work with Sharon: so much warmth, personal feeling and intimacy, and that is exactly what Matt, who had a lot of input into those recordings while they remained in New York, was aiming for and achieved beautifullyand artistically with this album.
Impossible not to love.

Jim Stewart 2020