Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dinah in Hollywood

Merrily, we live in a time where a number of fairly specialized labels bombard us regularly with CDs containing unreleased material of many more or lesser known artists. Once run out of this prime material, the labels in question will then, not without some malice and correctly estimating our sheepish inclination to follow this strategy without demur, produce further CDs, presenting us with outtakes, re-takes, unfinished takes, the respective artist talking between takes, giant anthologies featuring each and every take (including all the single tracks used for vocal overdubs etc. etc.), demo versions, bootlegs if available, live recordings made by someone in the concert audience (often of deplorable quality), acetate versions, re-mastered originals, mono versions converted into stereo, stereo versions mastered down to mono ... to mention only the most obvious. Of course, there will be numerous idiots around, like myself, who eagerly collect this kind of pocket-emptying money-traps which come disguised, quite innocently, as CDs, often embellished by very useful and precious liner notes (which of course, according to our distorted minds, would by and in themselves justify the purchase of any of those CDs). It's a mad, mad world.

Mercury LP # SR 61119 (1967)
However, all this pertains to today's post only insofar as I would like to point out that all this is not a new thing as such, and certainly it is not a brainchild of the CD age. It was done in the vinyl age as well, albeit less often. Mercury released, little more than three years after the death of Queen Dinah, in April 1967, an album of unreleased songs and aptly entitled Dinah Discovered ... Great Songs Never Before Re- leased (Mercury LP # SR 61119). The LP features ten songs, all »taped at a Hollywood studio on two evenings in January of 1961 with Belford Hendricks ... as conductor«. Other musicians who were present: Ernie Freeman and Joe Zawinul on piano. Now, this is certainly not Dinah's most momen- tous album. But it does contain a number of memorable songs, something easily explained by the fact that Dinah rarely, if ever, did something not worthy of being recorded straight away. And since we spoke so much about takes and re-takes above, the following quote from Patti Brown, one of Dinah's accompanists on the piano, is relevant here: »Sometimes after a record date, she'd have a few drinks and cry, listening to her own records and reminiscing. ... She always liked to listen to herself. She was such an artist. She was a "one-take" or "two-take" person. No "twenty-takes" to make a record. She'd focus right in on what was necessary« (quoted in L. Gourse, Louis' Children, p. 224). Bad news for the re-take issuing industry of today, incidentally!

If she liked to listen to herself, how much more should we, then? (Well, this is admittedly not a very convincing argument if you do not already belong to the Dinah-devoted ...). Listen to »Pagan Love Song« and »Stormy Weather« below. The first song, »Pagan Love Song«, was, as far as I see, never before or after recorded by Dinah, so it makes its appearance only on this album. A fine, up-tempo tune driven along by the band. Originally from 1929, this song is supposed to take the listener back to Dinah's childhood (I'm quoting from the LP's back cover). The second song, »Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All The Time)« on the other hand was one of Dinah's staple tunes. Recorded back in March 1954 in Chicago for the first time, it appeared on Mercury #  5906 but did not chart, in marked difference to several other of Dinah's songs in that epoch. She also recorded it again in December 1961, to be released on two of her »Golden Hits« albums. »Don't know why ...« are the words with which Dinah blasts the song off, and who could do it like her? »She used to say: Just bring me the bitch who could do what I can do - and do it all well« ...

Dinah Washington: »Pagan Love Song« / »Stormy Weather« from the Mercury LP # SR 61119 (1967, rec. 1961):

A photograph of Dinah Washington, from the January 12, 1961, issue of Jet magazine (that is, some days before she entered the Hollywood studio to record the songs above ... Rafael Campos, likewise pictured below, was one of Dinah's one-in- a-row husbands ... her marriage to the Dominican actor »didn't even last the time it took for a Sepia magazine article to be published on the newlyweds. By the time this big feature hit the newsstands, Rafael was on his way« ... read more here in Nadine Cohodas's 2004 interview):

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