Various Artists

Heart Beats: Sirens of Song - Classic Torch

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Rhino's Sirens of Song: Classic Torch Singers is an excellent collection of late-night, lovelorn vocals by some of the best singers of the century -- and yes, all of them are female, since a strict definition of torch singing (not to mention sirens) excludes males. The collection leads off with "Cry Me a River" by Julie London, the prototypical torch singer (but by no means the best) and, from there, picks excellent features for Sarah Vaughan ("Black Coffee"), Billie Holiday ("Stormy Blues," a cracked vocal from her last few years of life), Ella Fitzgerald ("I'm Getting Sentimental Over You"), Dinah Washington (the transcendent "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes"), Carmen McRae ("I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"), and even Edith Piaf (with a latter-day English version of "La Vie en Rose"). The compilers also excelled by choosing tracks by a trio of excellent R&B chanteuses: Etta James, LaVern Baker, and Ruth Brown. Also included is an excellent essay on the history and art of torch singing by Norma Campbell Edwards.

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