Gisele MacKenzie

Hard to Get: The Best of Gisele MacKenzie on RCA

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Gisele MacKenzie's career flourished during the time when pop music was making the transition toward rock & roll and teen pop, which is reflected in several of her recordings. Her biggest hit, "Hard to Get," is purely a traditional pop song, but "Pepper Hot Baby" is a pop/rock hybrid -- it packs a mild rock rhythm with its big-band arrangement. MacKenzie covered the Charms' R&B hit "Two Hearts" (as did Frank Sinatra in 1955) and Pee Wee King's country hit "Slow Poke," but these recordings are outliers in a set of music dominated by classic pop. Hard to Get compiles MacKenzie's X and Vik recordings, which means that the title track is the only Top 40 hit in view ("Pepper Hot Baby" and "The Star You Wished Upon Last Night" were minor chart items). Oddities include French-language versions of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" and "Tell Me That You Love Me." In the early '50s, MacKenzie waxed several substantial hits for Capitol that are not included, so the anthology seems to be aimed at those who enjoyed the Top Five hit "Hard to Get" enough to invest in an entire disc of unknown recordings. Luckily, the strong performances and variety of material make for an engaging listening experience, but Hard to Get tells only half of the Gisele MacKenzie story.

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