BRENDA LEE: BYE BYE BLUES (1966)
1) A Taste Of Honey; 2) Good Life; 3) Flowers On The Wall; 4) Shadow Of Your Smile; 5) Remember Me When; 6) Softly As I Leave You; 7) Bye Bye Blues; 8) Make The World Go Away; 9) September In The Rain; 10) Rusty Bells; 11) What A Difference A Day Made; 12) Yesterday.
The funniest part about observing this stage of Brenda's career is the emergence of this «alternate music universe», reflected in her (or, rather, her producers') selection of contemporary material. In this alternate universe, the Beatles were masters of torch balladeering, competing with Sanremo Festival pros over the amount of tears they could wring out of the eyes of the audience (so who's the winner, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: ʽYesterdayʼ or ʽSoftly As I Leave Youʼ?); the «teen pop» singles market was most effectively represented by The Statler Brothers (ʽFlowers On The Wallʼ — who needs Bob Dylan when you can just as effectively cover all the serious problems of the world by "smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo"?); and the latest, trendiest, most cutting-edge achievement in the world of Western music was recognized as the Love Theme from The Sandpiper (ʽThe Shadow Of Your Smileʼ).
As much as we'd like to snicker on the issue, though, the era is not so remote yet as to become completely shrouded in myth — and yes, it is important to remember that there were many people in early 1966 who did live in that alternate universe; in fact, most people over 30, and plenty of those under, probably did. The problem with Brenda Lee was that most of those people, if they really needed the love theme from The Sandpiper, could just stick with the original, and usually did; there was little that Ms. Lee or her faceless, string-dependent backing band could add.
Amusingly, the only single from the album (which, formally, preceded it in late '65) was ʽRusty Bellsʼ, a lush ballad with a «message»: "Rusty bells, rusty bells, pity those who've gone astray, ring again and help them find the way" — nothing less than a socially conscious statement, so the people behind the lady must have felt some sort of tinkle, that, perhaps, in the era of ʽLike A Rolling Stoneʼ and ʽA Change Is Gonna Comeʼ, something is required from time to time even from the high priests of the schmaltz variety. It didn't work; the single stalled at No. 33 and marked the next-to-last time any of Brenda's singles would get in the Top 40.
Other than that, the only salvageable tracks are: (a) an interesting jazzy take on ʽA Taste Of Honeyʼ, with powerful brass backing overriding the strings for once, and (b) a few decent takes on oldies — the title track and ʽWhat A Difference A Day Madeʼ show a bit of pensive depth that the saccharine-riddled «contemporary material» covers replace with shallow romantic glitz. In other words, this is where the superiority of the pre-war Songbook over the post-war Songbook is established quite transparently. Well, there must be some meaning to the process of relistening to these records more than fifty years on.