Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jay Brannan • Square One

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This has been a big week for singer/songwriter Jay Brannan. First off, Jay released his first studio album in over two years, 'Always, Then, & Now'. I am still giving it a listen, and will have my thoughts about it to you soon. But Until that happens, I thought I would share another exciting part of the week, when Jay released the music video for the first single, "Square One". The song is classic Brannan, taking a smart and hard look at life as we know it, with sparse instrumentation that allows Jay's voice to truly shine. It also has his trademark self-deprecating eye, but there is also a new lightness, and maybe even a brightness from Jay. I have to admit, seeing a smile or two in the music video was a wonderful new image I could grow to love. Speak of love, I do really enjoy this song, and the music video enhances that feeling. The song will go into my July playlist, and I can't wait to hear it again. This is Jay Brannan with "Square One".



"Square One" can be found on Jay's latest release, 'Always, Then , & Now'. The album can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. You can purchase autographed copies of the album, as well as other 'bundled' goodies at Jay's online Store. To learn more about Jay Brannan, visit his official website. Be sure to check out his touring schedule, as he is currently out there playing in support of the new album. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook.

Mary Lambert • Secrets

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I first discovered the talents of Mary Lambert when she was featured on the Macklemore single "Same Love", with the chorus of "She keeps me warm" was integral to the song. I was so enthralled with the Seattle-based singer/songwriter, I couldn't wait to purchase 'Welcome to the Age of My Body', an EP that featured the song "She Keeps Me Warm". I just loved her music, and was thrilled to hear out and proud material. I also purchased her earlier EP, 'Letters Don't Talk', the four-song EP that included the stunning "My Moon".

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I was already excited about Mary's full-length debut album, 'Heart On My Sleeve', set for release this fall. But make that doubly excited, after hearing her new single, "Secrets". The song is loose, free, honest, authentic, and a great time. Ten seconds in, I was already smiling, and looking to purchase it from iTunes. There is a wonderful delicious feel to the song, and the freedom that comes from listening to it. Check it out for yourself with the official lyric video for Mary Lambert's "Secrets".



If more people cares less about their secrets, and about the secrets of others, this world would be a far better place. I guess that means the world needs to start buying the music of Mary Lambert. You can purchase "Secrets" from iTunes and Amazon. I bought it, and immediately put in in my July playlist, and started an August playlist so it could be the first song! For more about Mary Lambert, visit her official website. You can also 'like' her on Facebook, and 'follow' her on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Derek Nicoletto • Only The Lonely

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In 1982, The Motels released the single "Only The Lonely". It was the second single off the album 'All Four One'. The song was a moody ballad that manage to soar up high, thanks to the stunning vocals from lead singer Martha Davis. Davis was joined by the band, which was guitarist Guy Perry, keyboardist Marty Jourard, bass player Michael Goodroe, and drummer Brian Glascock. The song flew up the charts, and made it to the Top 10, landing at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Now, 32 years later, it is being covered by Manhattan-based singer/songwriter Derek Nicoletto.

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In the release, Derek said he recorded the song at the suggestion of a friend. The single was produced by Jamie Siegel, who also produced Nicoletto's other solo efforts. The video features Chelsea Bearce, Damon Clyde, Anne Davis Mulford, Serene Neihart Regen, Gina Kim, Memlee Miller and Derek's cat Wilson. It was shot via the 8mm iPhone app on location around New York City, including Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre, Inc. I hope you enjoy Derek Nicoletto's cover of "Only the Lonely".



This cover maintains the haunted quality of the original, but Nicoletto still manages to put his own distinctive spin on it. I know I had to have it the minute I watched the video, and I bought it! You can purchase Derek's cover of "Only the Lonely" from iTunes. To learn more about Derek Nicoletto, check out his official website. You can also "follow" him on Twitter and "like" him on Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dark Monday • Elaine Stritch At Liberty

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When I learned last Thursday of the passing of iconic actress, singer and personality Elaine Stritch, I was not only sad for the loss, but also at a loss for how to celebrate her life. After all, she was 89 when she passed, having left Manhattan about a year before. Before she left, Stritch was still playing a regular gig at the Cafe Carlyle. She was last seen on Broadway in 2011 (at age 86), playing Madame Armfeldt in 'A Little Night Music', a great musical by Stephen Sondheim. So she had been performing in some form or another for the better part of 70 years, working with some of the biggest names in entertainment. From Irving Berlin to Noel Coward to Sondheim, from Ethel Merman to Kim Stanley to Bernadette Peters, and Stritch not only held her own, but shone bright. She brought a vibrancy to many roles few could equal. How can you capture that?

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Well, the woman herself captured her life in a way only she could when she appeared in the one woman show 'Elaine Stritch At Liberty', which combined songs, stories, and bravura in a brilliant way. The show took the world by storm in 2002, earning Stritch a 2002 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event as well as the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. In 2004, a documentary was made about the show, and after broadcast, earned Elaine the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. In the show, she tells many stories about dates with Ben Gazzara, Gig Young, and a very handsome Rock Hudson. She speaks about doing summer stock, working with George Abbott, and phone calls with Noel Coward. And she talks about her drinking. And she sings. In other words, no one celebrates Elaine Stritch better than Elaine Stritch. This is a full-length 'Elaine Stritch At Liberty', running just over two hours.



I hope you enjoyed the show. Rest in peace, Elaine Stritch. I am sure no matter where you are, there is an large appreciative audience giving you a standing ovation. You can find the 'Elaine Stritch At Liberty Original Broadway Cast album' from iTunes and Amazon. You can also order the DVD from Amazon.

Elaine Stritch & Russell Nype • You're Just In Love

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Russell Nype and Elaine Stritch. 

When 'Call Me Madame' opened on Broadway in 1950, Ethel Merman sang the song of composer Irving Berlin. The show was directed by George Abbott. Legend has it that during out out-of-town tryouts, everyone knew the second act was not as tight as it could be. It was said Merman was interested n singing a song with young costar Russell Nype. The next day, Berlin showed up with "You're In Love" written, ready for Ethel and Russell to try it out. the song went into the show. The understudy for Merman during the Broadway run was the amazing Elaine Stritch. When it closed, and the producers began putting together the National Touring Company, it was decided that if Merman wouldn't join, then it was time for Stritch to take the lead role. This is a clip of Elaine Stritch and Russell Nype singing "You're In Love", promoting the tour of 'Call Me Madam'.



Rest in peace, Elaine.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jim Bailey as Phyllis, Peggy, Barbra & Judy

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Jim Bailey as Jim Bailey photo Jim_Bailey_1973_zps4f464ac1.jpg Jim Bailey & Phyllis Diller photo jimandphyllis_zps29a9d78b.jpg

In many ways, I am totally surprised there is essentially one drag queen star at the moment, the lovely RuPaul. I remember back to my youth, not only were there several drag queens, although they were often billed as 'illusionists' at the time, all performing on stage and on television. There was the amazing Charles Pierce, and the fantastic Craig Russell, and both could be seen on variety shows, and touring all the time. And then there was Jim Bailey, the boy from Philadelphia who was truly remarkable on many levels. Not only could he use makeup well enough to look like several stars, he also had the ability to sound like them as well. For Bailey, there was not going to be any "lip-sync for your life' moments, as he just belted the songs out on his own. One of Jim's earliest successes was his impersonation of comedian Phyllis Diller, which caught the eye of many. That would include Diller herself, who befriended the young performer, and gave him tips. Here is Jim Bailey as Phyllis Diller doing some comedy as part of the show 'Here's Lucy'.



That episode aired in November of 1972. It is said Lucy had seen Bailey performing in Los Angeles, and decided she had to have him on her shows. The two continued to be friends until her death in 1989. Phyllis Diller was not the only star Bailey had in his repertoire. It seems he was particularly fond of the vocal stylings of Miss Peggy Lee. I must admit, few could sing like Miss Lee did, for she had such a distinct and stunning flair. This is Jim Bailey as Peggy Lee with "Fever".



Of course, I don't know if there were any drag queens performing in the 1970s who didn't do Barbra Streisand. With her dressing style and her quirky mannerisms, it was like she was asking to have the queens do her. And for as long as I sent to drag shows, it is tough to remember when I didn't see a queen with long nails and crossed eyes lip syncing to a song. Of course, Bailey took it a step further, when he not only looked like her, but sounded like her as well. In February of 1971, Bailey appeared on the 'Carol Burnett Show', where he performed as Streisand. This is Jim Bailey as Barbra Streisand singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" with Carol Burnett.



But Bailey was perhaps best known for his impression of the iconic performer, Judy Garland. It was said that when Bailey was performing in Los Angeles, the list of luminaries in the audience was impressive. One night in the mid-1960s, while performing his Judy impersonation, Judy herself got out of her seat to join him on stage, and they sang "Bye Bye Blackbird", and the crowd loved it. I can't say for sure that is true, but it should be. It was also said that Judy had a great time, and the two became friends up until Garland's passing in 1969. This is Jim Bailey as Judy Garland with "The Man That Got Away".



It should come as no surprise Judy befriended a drag queen, for the diva loved her gays. She even married Liza off to one, Peter Allen! And, lest we forget, Judy's passing is one of the contributing factors to the Stonewall Riots, when the drag queens fought back against the Police in Greenwich Village less than a week later. And speaking of Judy and Liza, in 1973, she teamed up with Bailey to reproduce the show she and her mother did at the London Palladium. They performed it at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, and it was a tremendous success. To learn more about Jim Bailey, visit his official website.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blues in the Night...

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Mamie Smith photo MamieSmith_zps6ecfb617.jpg Memphis Minnie photo MemphisMinnie1_zps7d06c13b.jpg
Clockwise: Bessie Smith, Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey, Memphis Minnie, and Mamie Smith.

Normally, Saturday night is Torch night here at Soundtrack to my Day. But this weekend, I thought I would change things up just a little bit. I thought I would reach back to the same time I often do, but come out with a slightly different sound. Instead of the Jazz standards I often look to post, I went back to the 1920s and 30s, and went to the Blues. During that time, women were just starting to sing Blues, up until then reserved for men, at least according to the record companies. And I will start with a favorite of mine, the amazing Bessie Smith. I decided to share with you a sexy little number written by Clarence Williams, Dally Small, and Tim Brymn, and recorded by Bessie in 1931. I just find it too much fun, yet so delicious, in all the right ways. This is Bessie Smith singing "I Need A Little Sugar in My Bowl".



Next up, I am so happy to share with you the talents of one Gertrude Rainey. Early in her career, Rainey was billed as a 'Coon Shouter', referring to her style of Blues singing. She started recording in the mid-1920s, and quickly became a popular artist. But by the end of the decade, styles had changed, and Rainy was dropped by her record company. And while married, some of her songs had lesbian messages, and it was generally accepted she was a lesbian herself. She continued to tour the country, retiring in 1934 to her hometown. There, she ran two theaters. In 1939, she died of a heart attack. In 1923, Rainey began her recording career, her first single being "Bad Luck Blues". In 1924, Ma Rainey recorded "Honey, Where You Been So Long", released that same year.



Up third, we have a remarkable woman to be sure. Mamie Smith performed in vaudeville, using her talents as a singer, dancer, actor, and pianist to full advantage. But in 1920, Mamie did something no other African American woman had done to date. She made a Blues record, recording "Crazy Blues", and if being first weren't significant enough, the record went on to sell over a million copies in less than a year. This made it possible for other ladies, including the two above, to enter the recording studios. This is Mamie Smith with her impressive recording of "Crazy Blues".



Finally, the last entry is a woman I discovered for this post, Memphis Minnie. Born in 1897, Minne started playing guitar at the age of 8. She loved it, and when she turned 13, she ran away from home to play for money on Beale Street in Memphis. Soon she was touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus. When she returned to Beale Street, she tried to make it work as a musician, but as most woman knew, she wasn't being paid as much as the men, and needed to supplement her income with prostitution. Later in the 1920s, she recoded with her then husband, Kansas Joe McCoy. Together, they were quite successful, recording with several different record labels. They divorced in 1935, and the following year, Minnie released a new single, one she apparently related to all too well. This is Memphis Minnie singing "I'm A Bad Luck Woman".



Enjoy your weekend!

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