Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Queen Re-Issued ... Again

It seems that things, when they come, they come in a bunch. A few weeks ago I stumbled across the newly released 12-CD box of Leontyne Price's albums of songs and spirituals. Now, more recently, I came across a new 4-CD box of some of Dinah Washington's most famous LPs, released by the Real Gone Jazz label. The box fea- tures eight remastered albums on 4 CDs and is part of the huge re-issue programme by Real Gone Jazz.

From Ebony, march 1964 issue
Of course, this is not spectacular news; we have the Complete D.W. On Mercury Collection, and several of Dinah's Mercury albums have been re-issued separately on CD more than once. But still, I paid about $14 for the box and this is, after all, a bargain (each one of the former separate re-issues of Dinah's LPs is priced almost as high!). However, there is no booklet (just scarce info about the personnel on the back), and the CDs do not come in repros of the original sleeves (as do, for example, the CDs in the Leontyne Price box). And the selection of the albums seems somewhat erratic, probably they went after some criterion of popularity.

Not included in this 4-CD box is Dinah's 1959 LP The Queen! (Mercury LP # SR 60111, released in autumn '59). This LP does contain a number of jazzy ballads and big band-blues tunes. It wasn't produced with much care, if we are allowed to deduce this from the fact that the song title of »Show Time« is given as »Show Place« in Martin Williams's notes on the back cover - and that's what the lyrics of the song actually say! (However, on the label of side 1 and on both sides of the sleeve we find it listed as »Show Time«). And Williams's comment that Dinah »sounds like she just walked out of a Baptist church, stopped by the Brill building just long enough to pick up a copy of a tune, and started to wail« is way over the top. Throughout his entire notes Williams really is keen to put Dinah in the gospel mould, noting that she »did beat the funky players to a kind of direct gospel-jazz« and referring to her being »almost raised on religious music« ... hmmm, don't start wondering what it could possibly mean for someone to be raised »almost« on religious music!

More sensible and closer to the truth is Billboard's short review in the Oct. 5, 1959, issue (p. 28): The Queen has a package here of much vocal craftsmanship. There are four blues ... and a number of ballads and sophisticated songs ... The backing is tastefully smart jazz. For those who are fond of wonderful phrasing and sensitive vocal nuance, here it is. Well yes, this about sums it up. You can listen to two songs from this album, »Show Time« (!) and »Trouble In Mind«. The latter song is famous enough but easily bears being played one more time. Both tunes were recorded with the Eddie Chamblee Orchestra at Universal Recorders, Chicago, on January 20, 1958.

Dinah Washington: »Show Time« / »Trouble In Mind« from the Mercury LP # SR 60111 (1959):

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