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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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MAXINE SULLIVAN

It’s Wonderful

Proper Records PROPERBOX 130

 

 

 

 



CD1

1. Stop! You're Breaking My Heart
2. Loch Lomond
3. I'm Coming Virginia
4. Annie Laurie
5. Blue Skies
6. Easy To Love
7. The Folks Who Live On The Hill
8. Darling Nellie Gray
9. Nice Work If You Can Get It
10. It's Wonderful
11. Dark Eyes
12. A Brown Bird Singing
13. You Went To My Head
14. Moments Like This
15. Please Be Kind
16. It Was A Lover And His Lass
17. Dark Eyes
18. Spring Is Here
19. Down The Old Ox Road
20. St. Louis Blues
21. L'amour Toujours L'amour
22. Night And Day
23. Kinda Lonesome
24. It Ain't Necessarily So
25. Say It With A Kiss
26. I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair
 CD2

1. I'm Happy About The Whole Thing
2. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes
3. Corn Pickin'
4. Jackie Boy
5. Turtle Dove
6. Sing Something Simple
7. Ill Wind
8. The Hour Of Parting
9. If I Had A Ribbon Bow
10. Who Is Sylvia?
11. Molly Malone
12. Barbara Allen
13. Oh! No, John
14. Calm As The Night
15. The Heart You Stole From Me
16. Last Night The Nightingale Woke Me
17. The Lass With The Delicate Air
18. You Mean So Much To Me
19. Midnight
20. What A Difference A Day Made
21. Just Like A Gypsy
22. My Blue Heaven
23. The Same Old Story
24. Kentucky Babe
25. Ma Curly-Headed Baby
 
CD3

1. When Your Lover Has Gone
2. My Ideal
3. Beside The River Clyde
4. How Do I Know It's Real?
5. Behavin' Myself For You
6. I Carry The Torch For You
7. The Story Of Our Love Affair
8. Confession Is Good For The Soul
9. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye
10. This Heart Of Mine
11. I'm The Caring Kind
12. Looking For A Boy
13. Mad About The Boy
14. I Must Have That Man
15. I Can't Get Started
16. Skylark
17. Come Rain Or Come Shine
18.Miss Otis Regrets
19. Taking My Time
20. Summertime
21. Legalize My Name
22. Cry, Buttercup, Cry
23. Restless
24. Piper In The Glen
25. Boogie Woogie Maxixe
CD4

1. Molly Malone
2. If I Had A Ribbon Bow
3. A Brown Bird Singing
4. Ah! Sweet Mystery Of Life
5. The Folks Who Live On The Hill
6. I Didn't Know About You
7. Loch Lomond
8. I'm Coming Virginia
9. Oh! No, John
10. Wraggle Taggle Gypsies
11. St. Louis Blues
12. When Your Lover Has Gone
13. Memories Of You
14. Ain't Misbehavin'
15. Mound Bayou
16. Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now
17. S'posin'
18. Stompin' At The Savoy
19. Honeysuckle Rose
20. Christopher Columbus
21. Blue Turning Grey Over You
22. How Can You Face Me?
23. My Fate Is In Your Hands
24. Massachusetts

This four-CD boxed set carried me back to a simpler and more innocent age – even earlier than my childhood memories. Can you imagine today’s teenagers rushing out to buy slightly jazzy versions of folk songs like It Was a Lover and His Lass or A Brown Bird Singing? Can you imagine any modern songwriter penning a song with naïve lyrics about "I’ll be savin’ myself, behavin’ myself for you"? And can you think of one of today’s female vocalists who sings in tune with a clear, pure voice, without artifice or affectation? (Maybe there are a few, but not many.)

All these qualities are to be found on this collection of 100 tracks recorded between 1937 and 1956 by vocalist Maxine Sullivan. The straightforward simplicity of her singing meant that her style didn’t identify her in the way that the sound of (say) Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday made those vocalists distinct. Maxine’s delivery throughout these four CDs singles her out as a singer of quality, with perfect intonation and instinctive jazz phrasing. She is probably best known for the second track on this collection, Loch Lomond, which has backing arranged by Claude Thornhill. The success of this recording determined the path she was to take in many subsequent sessions: performing folk songs or classical pieces with jaunty jazz accompaniment. This explains tracks like Annie Laurie, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, Who is Sylvia? and Beside the River Clyde (which tries to repeat her Loch Lomond success with a song based on Auld Lang Syne).

As suggested above, some of the tracks have dated noticeably – particularly those like the wartime "Behavin’ myself for you" song previously mentioned and many that are backed by stodgy big bands. As with a Sarah Vaughan album I reviewed earlier this year, the jazziness in a singer’s voice is best brought out by accompaniments from a small group of jazz musicians. So the best tracks are mainly those that Maxine recorded with her husband, bassist John Kirby, and his sextet fronted by Charlie Shavers, Russell Procope and Buster Bailey. Every Time We Say Goodbye and This Heart of Mine benefit from backing by a small group led by Teddy Wilson, while the six tracks starting with Skylark have delicate accompaniments from the Ellis Larkins Trio. The last 12 tracks (all with lyrics by Andy Razaf) are lifted by the presence of Charlie Shavers’ bubbling trumpet in the backing sextet.

There are many marvellous songs sympathetically interpreted by Maxine, which include such neglected numbers as It’s Wonderful, Moments Like This, This Heart of Mine and My Ideal. In fact her singing is impeccable throughout the collection – it is only the accompaniments which are sometimes ill-suited for a jazz singer. Maxine’s consistency means that it is inadvisable to listen to all 100 tracks at a sitting but, heard in moderation, they build up a picture of a singer who deserves to be remembered – and listened to.

Tony Augarde



 



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