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Monday, October 28, 2013

Brenda Lee: Too Many Rivers


1) It's Not Unusual; 2) Call Me Irresponsible; 3) Too Many Rivers; 4) Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me); 5) Whispering; 6) Stormy Weather; 7) Hello Dolly; 8) Unforgettable; 9) Everybody Loves Somebody; 10) No One; 11) Truer Than True; 12) Think.

Country songwriter Harlan Howard provided Brenda with the hit for this album — the title track rose to No. 13 on the charts, her highest achievement since ʽAs Usualʼ two years before. As far as generic country balladry goes, ʽToo Many Riversʼ is hardly the worst kind: if only they'd thought of a better set of clothes for the song than the usual lush strings and cloudy aah-oohs... but the days of curiosities in guitar, sax, and keyboard arrangements were long gone by then. Still, a rockin'-horse country song for a hit is always better than a glob of syrup.

Other than that, let's see: Tom Jones... Judy Garland... Shirley Bassey... Nat King Cole... Dean Martin... Hello Dolly... a couple pre-war standards... well, you get the gist. And you do know that you are in general trouble listening to Brenda's mid-1960s albums, and in double trouble when ʽHello Dollyʼ turns out to be one of the highlights — but somehow, done in a fast tempo, rock-and-roll style, oddly enough, it is (at least, I'd certainly take it over Streisand, but then again, I'd take almost anything over Streisand, so forget it).

But altogether, if the previous two albums might seem like the last twists and twitches of agony, curious to watch from a sadistic perspective, this one is rigor mortis setting in — Vegas stuff, regurgitation of the «Songbook», schmaltz and glitz all the way. No doubt, somewhere in the world there may hide a genuinely devoted fan or two, or three, that could secretly wish for a complete set of Songbooks from Brenda Lee the way we got them from Ella — then again, there might also be some people out there who'd like their refrigerators to play their CDs, and their CD players to press their pants. What Brenda does on this, and many other, records, is not fundamen­tally different, and deserves nothing other than yet another thumbs down — although stealing the title track and ʽHello Dollyʼ for your playlist would be a merciful gesture.

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