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Down to Eartha

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Album Review

Eartha Kitt enjoyed the success of a novelty act in 1953, as the South Carolina-born, black-skinned, French-style chanteuse fascinated nightclub patrons, leading to a hit single with "C'est Si Bon" and two successful LPs. By the end of the year, she was virtually parodying herself on her biggest hit, "Santa Baby," and thereafter record buyers figured they'd gotten the joke. Kitt struggled to sell any records in 1954, and by the time RCA packaged some of her failed single tracks with other recordings for her third album, Down to Eartha, in 1955, her days as a significant recording artist were over. That was not to say, however, that she wasn't making interesting recordings. RCA had tried to give her something of an upbeat, almost R&B appeal on the 1954 single "(If I Love Ya, Then I Need Ya) I Wantcha Around," penned by novelty songwriter Bob Merrill, and a 1955 45, "My Heart's Delight." More characteristic of this transplanted Parisian were "Do You Remember," "Apres Moi," "Mambo de Paree," and "Hey Jacque." "The Heel," meanwhile, was an up-tempo chanson of a kind that would make a success of the musical revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris a decade hence. Among the tracks that hadn't appeared before, "Looking for a Boy" was a coyly rendered Gershwin tune; "I've Got That Lovin' Bug Itch" was another pop song that sounded made for the hit parade; "Oh John! (Please Don't Kill Me)" was a macabre number from the pen of future Broadway lyricist Fred Ebb; "Strangers in the Starlight" was a sedate tango with a mature theme; and "The Day the Circus Left Town" was a tricky art song. Kitt negotiated the material well, but the album as a whole was a catchall rather than a clear statement.


Born: 17 January 1927 in Columbia, SC

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Eartha Kitt epitomized the idea of the sex-kitten chanteuse, rising to fame with a nightclub act centered on her slinky stage presence and her throaty purr of a voice. As much as she enjoyed vamping it up, she also projected the image of an exotic international sophisticate, especially since she sang in several different languages. She brought a definite zest to her torch songs, and favored lyrics that painted her as the Material Girl of her time. Kitt's persona was so vivid and well-developed that...
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Down to Eartha, Eartha Kitt
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