Lena Horne

Feelin' Good/Lena in Hollywood

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This two-fer CD from DRG Records combines the contents of successive LPs that Lena Horne recorded for United Artists Records in the mid-'60s, Feelin' Good and Lena in Hollywood. Feelin' Good was a typical effort, as she and arranger/producer Ray Ellis surveyed the then-current state of pop and show music to find some new items for her repertoire. They focused in on the just-opened (on Broadway, that is) Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd for the opening track "On a Wonderful Day Like Today," as well as the album's title track and the song from the show that had already become a standard (and a hit for Tony Bennett), "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)." The Great White Way also provided source material in the 1965 Richard Rodgers show Do I Hear a Waltz? with "Take the Moment" (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) and the title song from Frank Loesser's Broadway-bound (but, as it turned out, never-arrived) musical Pleasures and Palaces. Horne and Ellis also turned to some recent hit parade material for covers, including "I Wanna Be Around" (Bennett again), "Willow Weep for Me" (a 1932 copyright just successfully revived by Chad & Jeremy), "The Girl from Ipanema" (Stan Getz with Astrud Gilberto), "Softly as I Leave You" (Frank Sinatra), and "And I Love Him" (aka "And I Love Her," the Beatles). To this material, Ellis applied neo-swing big-band arrangements, and Horne applied her characteristic vocal attitude and punch. It wasn't enough to make listeners forget the sometimes definitive recordings of these songs done earlier by others, but Horne was, as usual, a powerful enough musical personality to stake her claim to them stylishly and confidently. Lena in Hollywood found her in familiar territory, singing songs associated with motion pictures. Some, such as "In Love in Vain," the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II song from Centennial Summer, and Kern and Dorothy Fields' "A Fine Romance" from Swing Time, were standards of decades' standing, while others were recent. Horne treated them all with the same enthusiasm, shining especially on uptempo numbers like Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's "It Had Better Be Tonight" from The Pink Panther. Ellis' charts were sometimes surprising, notably the unusual arrangement of "Singin' in the Rain" that kicked the album off (but is track 13 here). The result was a typically classy effort for Horne.

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