Jane Russell

Let's Put Out the Lights

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At the age of 25 in 1946, Jane Russell was a big movie star without many movies to justify her status. She had been signed to a seven-year contract by Howard Hughes at 19, and Hughes had spent nine months shooting her first film, The Outlaw, a western that was more about her cleavage than about its nominal subject, Billy the Kid. That got it in hot water with the Hays Office, and years went by while Hughes tinkered with the picture, then fought to get it released properly. Meanwhile, he had tens of thousands of photographs taken of Russell and lent her out for one other film, Young Widow. While she was waiting around for her movie career to take off, she got an offer from bandleader Kay Kyser, whose girl singer, Ginny Simms, had just left to go solo. Kyser was looking for a replacement to appear on his radio show, and after hearing Russell, he signed her to a 12-week contract and even took her with him to Columbia Records for a couple of sides. As The Outlaw finally neared a New York opening, Columbia signed Russell on her own for this album, originally released on four 78s in 1947. The cover finds her displaying her ample bosom in a slinky nightgown, and the eight original tracks are bedroom ballads that she coos in a drowsy voice dripping with sex. The sentiments are well represented by such titles as "Do It Again" and "Love for Sale," and on two songs, the title track and "Two Sleepy People," she is paired with Bob Lowery for bits of dialogue that have a late-night setting. "Are you...really...sleepy?," asks Lowery in "Let's Put Out the Lights (And Go to Sleep)," and Russell sounds like maybe there's something they can do before actually going to sleep. Even after half-a-century of falling moral standards, the results are still suggestive. The reissue adds the two Kyser tracks, which are much livelier (especially the novelty tune "Boin-n-n-ng!"), and two previously unreleased recordings from 1949. Russell had shot a film called Montana Belle in which she sang the saucy "The Gilded Lily," co-written by her friend Portia Nelson, and she then cut it and a projected B-side, "Reckless," for Columbia. They never came out because, once again, Hughes tinkered and the movie wasn't released until the fall of 1952 (when Russell re-cut "The Gilded Lily" for American Records).

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