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Monday, September 9, 2013

Brenda Lee: Sincerely, Brenda Lee


1) You Always Hurt The One You Love; 2) Lazy River; 3) You've Got Me Crying Again; 4) It's The Talk Of The Town; 5) Send Me Some Lovin'; 6) How Deep Is The Ocean; 7) I'll Always Be In Love With You; 8) I Miss You So; 9) Fools Rush In; 10) Only You (And You Alone); 11) Hold Me; 12) I'll Be Seeing You.

The first big misstep in Brenda's career — and it's not even as if the times themselves were pres­sing her into taking it. The musical climate, in early 1962, was much the same as in late 1961, and Brenda's team of musicians, arrangers, and corporate songwriters had not changed much, either, but all the same, someone came up with this ridiculous idea of recording an album consisting of nothing but old Tin Pan Alley stuff, increasing the old quota of about 20-30% to a baffling 100%. Most likely, in an age where people still regarded rockabilly and dance-pop as passable kiddie stuff (not entirely without reason), this move was to signalize «maturation» — and if it was im­possible to market Brenda as the next Peggy Lee, well, then she'd at least have to be the next Doris Day. Not Doris Day? Okay, how about the next Connie Francis?

If you like Brenda Lee in general (like I do), and if you honestly cherish pre-rock'n'roll era pop standards in general (like I don't), Sincerely will be right up your alley. From a general point of view on how these songs should be sung and played for maximum effect, Brenda and her band do a competent job — nothing but sheer professionalism from everybody. But the girl did not make the original grade with ʽFools Rush Inʼ: she made it by taking a rowdy Hank Williams song and rowdying it up even further, and this is why she stood out in the first place. When, on the other hand, she tries to convince us that ʽYou Always Hurt The One You Loveʼ, she is doing no better (and no worse) a job than a whole army of her good-looking colleagues in the same business.

The only song on the entire album that is still sung with faint echoes of her «pirate voice» is Hoagy Carmichael's ʽLazy Riverʼ — unquestionably the album's highest point, especially since Brenda's delivery stays happily ignorant of the sentimentalism that one should naturally expect to be packed together with these lyrics: she mouths those "rub away your troubles, dream a dream with me" in such a commanding tone, you'd be all the wiser to quickly take that advice, or else you'll get your ass whupped with that trombone solo — it means real business.

The lack of sugary sentimentalism is the only saving grace that lets one live through the other eleven ballads — but even so, it gets so monotonous so early on that it might be hard discerning where one song stops and the next one begins: that refreshing diversity that made All The Way so easily digestible no longer exists in the confines of this particular formula. Fortunately for us all today, the general public back in 1962 was not particularly impressed, either, and the album seriously dipped in the charts as compared to its predecessor — or, perhaps, this was simply the result of the decision not to put out any accompanying singles. I mean, even in the «saggy» little period between Chuck Berry and the Beatles, a cover of Doris Fisher or Hoagy Carmichael was probably not anybody's best bet for a jukebox attraction. Not a «bad» record altogether (at this time in history, Brenda and her band were physically incapable of putting down a proverbially «bad» record), but a relative thumbs down all the same.

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