Liza Minnelli

Foursider

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The Liza Minnelli number in A&M Records' Foursider series of two-fer double-LP compilations (later reissued as a single CD) is a condensation of Minnelli's five-year sojourn at A&M, 1968-1972, drawn from the studio albums Liza Minnelli (1968), Come Saturday Morning (April 1970), New Feelin' (December 1970), and Live at the Olympia (1972). The first side of the first disc in the original LP package (tracks one through five on the CD version) reduces Live at the Olympia to about eighteen-and-a-half minutes, beginning with the "Introduction" opening medley and ending with the closing number, "Cabaret," the title song from Minnelli's then most recently released film, which has became a signature song for her. Like the other record labels that have handled the singer (Capitol came before, Columbia followed), A&M didn't know quite what to do with her. Although only in her twenties, she does not fit comfortably in the rock world, but the market for middle-of-the-road performers is diminishing quickly. The confusion can be experienced at the outset of this collection in that "Introduction," which, incredibly, includes excerpts of both "Consider Yourself" from the British musical Oliver! and the Doors' "Hello, I Love You." Minnelli is a much better fit for the former, but it is songs like that latter that were selling records in the late '60s and early '70s. Live at the Olympia is actually the best of the A&M albums since it displays Minnelli's talents as a stage performer and presaged the essentially similar but much more successful Liza with a "Z" album that followed on Columbia only a few months later. (Here, the song "Liza with a 'Z'" [aka "Say Liza"] is sung in French, a nod to the audience at the Olympia in Paris.) The three studio albums, which provide the material for the second, third, and fourth sides of Foursider (tracks six through 19 on the CD) contain a mixture of pre-rock standards ("My Mammy," "Nevertheless I'm in Love with You") and covers of soft rock hits (Sonny & Cher's "You'd Better Sit Down, Kids," John Denver's [by way of Peter, Paul & Mary] "Leavin' on a Jet Plane"), as well as "Come Saturday Morning," the theme song for Minnelli's film The Sterile Cuckoo. The strangest tracks come from New Feelin', an album that tried to split the difference in marketing Minnelli by recording pre-rock standards in funky soul-rock arrangements à la Aretha Franklin or Dusty Springfield. The bizarre results can be heard here in Minnelli's renditions of "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Lazy Bones," "The Man I Love," and "God Bless the Child," as well, equally unfortunately, as another of her signature songs, "Maybe This Time," a tune she introduced earlier and that was later interpolated into the movie version of Cabaret. The Liza Minnelli Foursider, to give its full title, is about as good a sampler as could be assembled from the limited resources available, and it does feature some of the songs with which Minnelli is most identified, albeit not in ideal versions.

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