This is a look at some bluesy-jazzy wimmin singers and musicians who rock my world, musical foremothers whose voices echo as strongly today as they did decades ago. Crooners, shouters, songwriters and bandleaders, sirens and songbirds of years gone by... Let's get hep!
Kitty Kallen "The Kitty Kallen Story" (Sony, 1992)
As the sultry songbird on the steamy WWII Harry James chart-topper, "It's Been A Long, Long Time," Kitty Kallen was one of the best-known and most adored big band singers. She did alright for herself as a solo artist as well, racking up several Top 40 hits until a bout of psychosomatic mic fright left her unable to sing for several years in the late 1950s. Later, after a brief early '60s comeback, other health problems permanently prevented her from continuing as a performer, sadly sidelining one of the purest voices American pop had heard in its formative heyday. This 2-CD set covers the breadth of Kallen's career, starting with her best-known hits from the early '40s, then topping those off with a perhaps-too-generous helping of later recordings, including several remakes of wartime favorites, rearranged in the '50s and '60s. This collection is definitely too light on her early work, but still pretty nice for anyone who wants to appreciate Kallen as a stylist in the pop vocals era, and it generously gathers material from several different labels. A nice set, certainly worth checking out, especially with the inclusion of some highly informative and entertaining liner notes that feature extensive interview quotes from Kallen herself... who was quite a character!
Kitty Kallen "Band Singer" (Collector's Choice, 2001)
If you felt miffed by the dearth of older, classic Kallen crooning on the Story collection reviewed above, then check this puppy out... It's got all her early recordings with the Jack Teagarden and Harry James' bands, made for the Columbia label in the early 1940s, when she was clearly at her peak, and even has alternate takes of "Long, Long Time" and "I'm Beginning To See The Light..." A fan's delight! Sadly, her recordings with Artie Shaw and Jimmy Dorsey aren't also included, but nonetheless, this disc is probably the single best Kallen collection out on the market today. Recommended!
Helen Kane "Boop-Boop-A-Doop" (ASV Living Era, 2004)
Helen Kane "The Boop-Boop-A-Doop Girl" (Bygone Days, 2009)
Helen Kane "Betty Boop Best Of" (Master Classics, 2009)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Jo Ann Kelly" (Epic, 1969)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Jo Ann Kelly" (Blue Goose, 1972)
An important forebearer of Bonnie Raitt (and pretty much all female blues revivalists who came in her wake...), acoustic guitarist Jo Ann Kelly is one of the forgotten greats of the British blues revival. Kelly was kicking around in the early 'Sixties, along with John Mayall, Eric Clankton, and all those other dudes. She had a marvellously growly, dangerous voice, with phrasing swiped directly from Memphis Minnie's old repertoire, and she could pick like the devil herself. These are two of her best, and best-known, albums -- she's also enjoyed several great CD retrospectives and reissues in recent years, all of which are worth looking for. Sure... her uptempo country blues style gets to sounding a little repetitious after a while, but it's still awesome music. (You might also want to check out this German fan page, which has a more complete discography...)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Key To The Highway" (Moon Crest, 2000)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Talkin' Low -- Rare Unissued Recordings: 1966-1988" (Moon Crest, 2000)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Tramp 1974: Rare & Unissued Recordings, Vol. 3" (Moon Crest, 2001)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Blues & Gospel: Rare And Unreleased Recordings" (Blues Matters, 2004)
Jo-Ann Kelly "Do It & More" (Manhaton, 2008)
The King Sisters "Swingin' On A Star" (Collector's Choice, 2001)
For those who found the Andrews Sisters sound too rough-hewn and not "pop" enough, came the King Sisters, the Salt Lake City siblings who were the vocal centerpiece of Horace Heidt and Alvino Rey's prewar bands. This disc gathers some of their wartime 1944-45 Armed Services recordings, made after Alvino Rey had actually enlisted disbanded his orchestra... It's an able recap of their repertoire along with plenty of popular hits of the day, such as the title track and Bobby Troup's "Route 66..." Not as jazzy as other big band-era vocal groups, but a fair glimpse of things to come in the postwar vocal world.
Christine Kittrell "Call Her Name -- The Complete Recordings: 1951-1965" (Bear Family, 2010)
More Swingin' Gals -- Letter "L"
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