Eartha Kitt

Four Classic Albums

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Eartha Kitt recorded for RCA Victor Records from 1953 to 1957, an association that produced five albums and assorted singles. The bulk of this material is contained on this two-CD set from the British reissue label Avid, which takes advantage of the 50-year copyright limit on recordings in Europe to assemble the collection, mastered from old records, without having to take the trouble to get permission or pay a licensing fee. (Sony BMG continues to claim copyright on the material in the U.S.). The first of the four "classic" albums to be included is what is referred to the as the "American version" of That Bad Eartha. It might be more accurate to describe it as the 12" LP version of That Bad Eartha, which differed considerably from the initial ten-inch LP version. Back in the early 1950s, the ten-inch LP, containing eight tracks, was the industry standard, and RCA released two Kitt albums in that format, RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt and That Bad Eartha, in 1953. By the middle of the decade, however, the 12-inch LP supplanted its shorter cousin, and RCA released an album called That Bad Eartha in 1955 in that format. Confusingly, it actually contained the eight tracks from RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt plus only four of the eight tracks from the ten-inch version of That Bad Eartha. That is the "American version" found here. Next come the 12 tracks that made up Kitt's 1955 album, Down to Eartha. After a couple of non-LP singles tracks end the first disc, the second begins with Kitt's biggest hit, "Santa Baby," followed by her 1956 album Thursday's Child and her 1958 album St. Louis Blues, then a couple of more non-LP singles tracks bring the collection to an end. In the material, Kitt establishes herself as an exotic, sophisticated chanteuse, capable of singing in many languages and styles. Several songs exploit her promiscuous gold-digger image. The St. Louis Blues tracks take a different tack, however. The album was recorded to commemorate Kitt's appearance in a film biography of W.C. Handy by the same name, and on it she sang mostly Handy-composed blues songs backed by a Dixieland jazz band. This material is not really her forte, but she handles it capably enough. Kitt did a lot more recording after this, but these are the tracks that established her persona, and her most commercially successful performances are here.

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