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The Total, Vol. 1

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Album Review

This compilation was put together to showcase Lee Wiley as a young singer; the LP was assembled from various airchecks collected by the vocalist with a few tracks added by a private collector. It is surprising how mature she sounds, as she was only between 17 and 21 years of age on all 14 tracks. Though she eventually progressed from the commercial bands that backed her during this period to jazz bands, her renditions of standards like "Three Little Words," "I'm Coming Virginia," and the spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" all merit praise. Wiley composed "The South of My Soul," though it is unfortunately incomplete. While none of the musicians backing her is positively identified, other than bandleaders like Paul Whiteman and Freddie Rich, the focus is rightly on the singer herself. Considering the vintage of the source material, the sound is stunning. This Totem LP is long out of print, though some of the tracks may have since appeared on various CD anthologies put out by other labels.


Born: 09 October 1910 in Fort Gibson, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

Her husky, surprisingly sensual voice and exquisitely cool readings of pop standards distinguished her singing, but Lee Wiley earns notice as one of the best early jazz singers by recognizing the superiority of American popular song and organizing a set of songs around a common composer or theme -- later popularized as the songbook or concept LP. She was also a songwriter in her own right, and one of the few white vocalists with more respect in the jazz community than the popular one. Even more tragic...
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The Total, Vol. 1, Lee Wiley
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