12 Songs, 35 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Set in ‘20s Kansas City, the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues starred Jack Webb as a bandleader trying to keep his group together amid pressure from local gangsters. In a show-stealing performance, Peggy Lee appeared as the crime boss’s singing moll. Her portrayal of an abused alcoholic singer won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but her presence was felt even more strongly on the soundtrack, which featured nine new recordings (in addition to three gems by Ella Fitzgerald, who appeared in the movie as a fellow nightclub performer). The moll's peeling confidence and hoarse voice is contained on “Somebody Loves Me,” “I Never Knew,” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The overlap between the character’s experience and Lee’s autobiography reaches a climax on “He Needs Me,” an anthem for any woman who's ever been caught in a thankless relationship. For all the enjoyment she brings to these sad performances, the strangest, most haunting performance is “Sing a Rainbow,” which Lee’s character performs from an insane asylum in the film.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Set in ‘20s Kansas City, the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues starred Jack Webb as a bandleader trying to keep his group together amid pressure from local gangsters. In a show-stealing performance, Peggy Lee appeared as the crime boss’s singing moll. Her portrayal of an abused alcoholic singer won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but her presence was felt even more strongly on the soundtrack, which featured nine new recordings (in addition to three gems by Ella Fitzgerald, who appeared in the movie as a fellow nightclub performer). The moll's peeling confidence and hoarse voice is contained on “Somebody Loves Me,” “I Never Knew,” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The overlap between the character’s experience and Lee’s autobiography reaches a climax on “He Needs Me,” an anthem for any woman who's ever been caught in a thankless relationship. For all the enjoyment she brings to these sad performances, the strangest, most haunting performance is “Sing a Rainbow,” which Lee’s character performs from an insane asylum in the film.

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Ratings and Reviews

Kevin in Hartford ,

Great album

"Pete Kelly's Blues" was a 1955 movie set in the 1920s, so this soundtrack album has the sound of two eras -- '20s songs with '50s arrangements. But that doesn't mean it's a mess. On the contrary, it's wonderful. The only blemish is the hiss on Ella Fitzgerald's tracks. Decca had Peggy Lee under contract at the time, but not Ella, so while Peggy could go back into the studio afterward to record pristine versions of her songs, Decca was forced to buy the tapes of Ella's soundstage performances from Warner Brothers. Rent the movie, by the way. Both singers turn in great performances, and it's a hoot watching Jack Webb as a jazz musician.

billystamps ,

Does not get much better

Two ladies at the height of their powers--Fantastic -

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