Helen Merrill

Helen Merrill with Strings

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Helen Merrill recorded her well-received, self-titled debut with Clifford Brown for the Emarcy label in 1954. Her second album, 1955's HELEN MERRILL WITH STRINGS, was the Chicago-based label's attempt to enhance her commercial appeal with full-string arrangments, shorter songs, and a highly romantic concept. While Merrill ultimately bucked the commercial orientation, WITH STRINGS is an unmitigated artistic success. The strings are tastefully scored, the songs are classics or soon to be ("Anything Goes," "Wait Till You See Him," "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year"), and Merrill's delivery is by turns emotional, haunting, and highly musical. Highlights are "When I Fall In Love," where she outdoes Doris Day at her own romantic game, and the exotic opener, "Lilac Wine," which competes with Eartha Kitt's as the definitive version.

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