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The Music of Harry Warren

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Album Review

Early recordings of Susannah McCorkle exposed her vulnerabilities, as she sang classic show tunes composed by Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg, and in this case Harry Warren. As the ultimate little girl blue in the tradition of Peggy Lee, McCorkle steadily gained a considerable following in New York City's cabaret circuit that would expand — nationally and internationally over time — up until her tragic suicide at age 55 in 2001. This reissued recording shows her as an imperfect singer in a flawed world, yet she still shines time after time with the adorable exuberance of youth and a keen ear for the great lyrics Warren wrote in the golden age of American popular songsmithing. Alongside pianist Keith Ingham in duo, trio, and quartet settings, McCorkle gives these tunes a good go, has fun doing it, and never maintains or dips below a level of being sanguine or sappy. McCorkle is actually quite delightful for the most part, and on songs like "With Plenty of Money and You," "I Take to You," and "42nd Street," she exudes the carefree, girlish personality her voice extends. She is also capable of rendering heartfelt regret during the patient and calculated "There Will Never Be Another You," acts conversely corny on the klezmer-inflected "The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish," goes into utter disappointment for the torch song "You Let Me Down," and adopts a sly, moving-on attitude in the wordplay of "Remember My Forgotten Man." Where Warren's lyrics always tell a story, there are many chapters on this well-programmed disc that represent a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs that every romantic uptown city girl endures. Perhaps McCorkle is consistent in emoting these feelings throughout the album, but lapses at times, overemphasizing to the point of unnatural phoniness. She's far too flat in her intonation on "Lullaby of Broadway," and painfully so during "The Gold Digger's Song," but she generally toes the line for tunefulness. There's also a downhearted "Me and the Blues" that Mildred Bailey originally performed with pianist Ellis Larkins, done convincingly by the then thirtysomething McCorkle. Clarinetist Bruce Turner shows up on a few tracks, adding to the old-time quality of Warren's stage songs, written from 1932 up to 1946. It's important to note that such singers as Betty Grable, Wini Shaw, Ginger Rogers, Joan Merrill, Alice Faye, Ruby Keeler, and Helen Forrest did these numbers well before McCorkle was born. Though the material is not of her generation, Susannah McCorkle offers faithful renditions of this vintage standard fare, adding a twist and turn here and there, while paying homage to a previous generation of swing-oriented music blessed by hummable melodies and witty, prosaic drama wrapped up in a warm, wholesome, smiling face. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: January 1, 1946 in Berkeley, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

One of the finest interpreters of lyrics active in the jazz world during the 1980s and '90s, Susannah McCorkle did not improvise all that much, but she brought the proper emotional intensity to the words she sang; a lyricist's dream. She moved to England in 1971 where she worked with Dick Sudhalter and Keith Ingham, among others, performing at concerts with such visiting Americans as Bobby Hackett, Ben Webster, and Dexter Gordon. McCorkle sang at the Riverboat jazz room in Manhattan during 1975 (gaining...
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The Music of Harry Warren, Susannah McCorkle
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