Betty Johnson

Make Yourself Comfortable

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The very short recording time is disappointing, but the surprisingly pristine sound resulting from a masterful remastering of these rare 1954 pop tracks originally released on Bell Records should please fans of vocalist Betty Johnson, whose career has spanned decades. Johnson's signature clean tone, reminiscent of other leading singers of the era, has weathered the years surprisingly well. Backed by alternatively schmaltzy and jazzy big-band arrangements performed by unidentified musicians, Johnson croons with the best on the snappy "Show Me," the kitschy, country-drenched "Buckle on the Boot," Cole Porter's smooth, slightly syncopated "All of You," the gently moralistic but delightfully rambunctious "Cross Over the Bridge," and the mournful "This Is the Thanks I Get," which pulls at the heartstrings in period style. The interpretations are less jazz-oriented than some of her other recordings, but Johnson belts them out with her characteristic panache, a tinge of gospel heard in "Whither Thou Goest," which she imbues with dripping emotion. When she cries for "Johnny Guitar" on "My Restless Lover," lamenting his straying, you can feel the anguish, the longing, the angst in her voice. But she follows it with "Cuddle Me," a hopeful paean to romantic love. Her themes are the universal ones of any age, shaded with the mores of the era in which they were written: the need for affection, the loss of one's object of devotion through betrayal or otherwise, and a woman's thirsting for her lover's return. Through it all, the lyrics expose a cautious optimism, even a subtle defiance on "There Will Be No Teardrops Tonight." Few could express it better or with greater simplicity than Betty Johnson.

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