Liza Minnelli

It Amazes Me

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Still only 18 years old, Liza Minnelli went back into the recording studio in December 1964 to make It Amazes Me, her second album for Capitol Records, following Liza! Liza!, which had been released in September. Once again, she was accompanied by arranger/conductor Peter Matz (whose name and credits would be displayed prominently on the LP cover). The result, not surprisingly, was another collection of recordings that found her sounding not just like Judy Garland's daughter, which she was biologically, but also like Barbra Streisand's little sister, which she was in spirit, particularly due to the connection with Matz, who was also Streisand's arranger/conductor. As with Streisand, Matz's tastes came through in the material and the way it was treated. He liked the great Broadway songwriters -- Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin -- but focused on their more obscure songs. And he loved Harold Arlen, who got three selections. For Streisand's debut album, Matz had picked "A Sleepin' Bee" from the 1954 Arlen/Truman Capote musical flop House of Flowers; for Minnelli, he chose "I Never Has Seen Snow" from the same show. (Here, it got its grammar cleaned up and was called "I Never Have Seen Snow.") There was also a deliberate attempt to present the artist not only as a great singer, but also as a bubbly personality, again à la Streisand. On "I Like the Likes of You," Minnelli was encouraged to pretend the performance was being thrown together and rehearsed, complete with false starts, even though it was probably written exactly as she sang it. And Matz mixed up his arrangements, with strings here, brass there, and such oddities as bongo drums on Rodgers & Hart's "Wait Til You See Him" (no doubt a reference to the Peggy Lee version of another Rodgers & Hart song, "Lover") and an acoustic guitar opening to "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Minnelli adapted herself to all of this, but she sounded most at home on the contemporary songs that didn't come from shows (even though they were written by Broadway teams), such as the title song, contributed by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, and, particularly, Kander & Ebb's "Plenty of Time." Minnelli, who was preparing to open in the first Kander & Ebb Broadway musical, Flora, the Red Menace, when It Amazes Me was released in March 1965, had a demonstrated affinity for their work, and she inhabited the story-song that was "Plenty of Time" in a way that sounded truer than her dutiful interpretations of Matz's favorite Arlen tunes. But the overall LP was another strong effort from a young but clearly talented performer.

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