Sunday, February 10, 2013

Let's Find a Cozy Spot

Original Facebook post here.

Today's formative-album replay: Doris Day and the Page Cavanaugh Trio, Vol. 2, 1952-53. One should never be glad for a car accident, but here's one exception: the crash that scotched young Doris Kappelhoff's ambitions to be a dancer and made her seek another outlet. I won't argue that in turning to singing she became one of the mid-20th-century's essential vocalists, but on a few intimate recordings--this one and a record with Andre Previn simply called Duet--she makes a pretty compelling case for herself as a first-rate standard-bearer. (My brief but memorable Doris Day phase, I'll note briefly, was thanks to the revelatory USC film professor Drew Casper.) There's just the slightest grain in her otherwise vanilla Midwestern voice, some melted butter on the white bread--enough to evoke, from a certain angle, the great Ella Fitzgerald. And the relatively sparse backup (though not always strictly a trio) keeps the sound earthbound, so that when she leans into the soaring big notes they're nicely silhouetted and framed, not slathered in syrupy strings.

Yes, she should probably be voted off Great American Songbook Island for singing "It's wonderful" rather than " 'S Wonderful," a faux pas more egregious than Bono's mangling of the chorus of "Helter Skelter," but I'm prepared to forgive that in return for her cozy, secure, unfussy renditions of a handful of other standards, as well as lively turns on a series of less-common gems ("Just You, Just Me," " 'Sposin'," "Light Your Lamp"). I have little to say about her better-known acting career, except to note that her roles in Love Me or Leave Me and Calamity Jane led to one great and one decent soundtrack album, respectively, and that though she was quite fine in her most important role, in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, that film also happened to give the world her cloying signature tune, "Que Sera Sera." I'd rather draw a curtain on that Doris Day, and take another spin with this sly songbird.

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