Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Julie London LP Remasters on Analogue Productions
Funny how I've gravitated to the older performers, the ones my parents also love, in the last few years. In 2014 I obsessed about Harry Belafonte, last year it was Dean Martin and now I'm trying to get all the Julie London I can. A lot of this has to do, of course, with the Analogue Productions reissues that have featured these three artists--in each case I was mightily impressed with the realistic sound quality and made albums such as Dream with Dean and Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall a permanent part of my demo stash for trade shows.
Here's the thing, though. I've known about Dean and Harry for years. I've owned plenty of their recordings. But Julie London has always been sort of an unknown quantity to me. I mostly knew her from her appearances with Bobby Troup in the '70s TV show Emergency!. The only reason I knew who they were because my mom would get excited every time she saw them hanging out at the nurse's station. "They're famous! They're married in real life! She's a singer and he's a band leader!" Okay, Mom. Whatever.
But there have been inklings over the years that they were much more than Dixie McCall and Dr. Joe Early over at Rampart General. First, Troup was hilarious in his small role in the film M*A*S*H. ("Goddamned army jeeps!") Then there was that scene in the film V for Vendetta where V is playing "Cry Me a River" for Evie in his underground hideout. Nice song, I thought. Then I noticed that audiophiles were beginning to talk about some of Julie's records, and how great they sounded. So when Chad Kassem started remastering them for AP, I knew I had to check them out.
First up was Julie Is Her Name, Vol.2. I wanted to start with Vol. 1, but it didn't look like Chad had tackled that title. Perhaps it's because it was a mono recording, but that hasn't stopped Chad before since he's the master of mono reissues. All I know is that pristine copies of the 1955 debut are very pricey, and they are not reissues. So I purchased Vol. 2 at Chad's booth at the Newport Show, ran back to my exhibit room and was almost through the first side when the record started skipping. I couldn't see what was causing the skip, but it appeared to be some sort of hard obstruction in the groove. I went back to the booth to trade it out for another copy, and wouldn't you know it--they were out. So I had to go with Julie's Latin in a Satin Mood, which is still a hell of a consolation prize.
I was a little bummed since we were all loving Vol. 2 so much. But stuff happens in the world of vinyl. So as soon as I got home I re-ordered it online. I'm so glad I did, since this 1958 recording is a sonic benchmark for female voice recordings. Forget Krall. Forget Barber. Forget Warnes. Julie's voice on this album is so present, so tangible that it's eerie. Remember how I raved about Dean Martin's voice on the Dream with Dean reissue? This is just as good.
Like the Martin recording, V2 features very simple and spare arrangements--we just get Howard Roberts on guitar and Red Mitchell on bass. But Julie's voice is so front and center that you won't find yourself wishing for anything more. This is a fantastic-sounding album, period. When I play it for people, they say "that sounds great." Every single one.
Latin in a Satin Mood is no slouch, either. Julie's voice is just as breathy and sexy and clear and sweet and romantic on this 1963 release. The only reason why this LP isn't quite the same masterpiece--and it certainly has nothing to do with the remastering job--is because the arrangements are little more complex and there's a slightly noticeable barrier between Julie's naked voice and the much larger orchestra behind her. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. What that separation creates is more of that "window into history" sound that enjoy so much in order recordings. I want there to be a tinge. I want to be reminded that I was a year old when this recording was captured in the studio. I want to feel each and every one of those year passing by as I listen.
Will Analogue Productions release more of Julie's catalog? I hope so. I'll buy a mono version of Vol. 1 in a heartbeat. I don't see anything on the Analogue Productions Acoustic Sounds website, but I'll keep my eye peeled.