Liza Minnelli

Tropical Nights

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If Liza Minnelli never had much success as a recording artist, the reason may have been that she was too busy to give that aspect of her career sufficient attention. In the minds of both her audience and the record companies for which she recorded, the other areas of her career actively competed with her recording role. Consider her 1977 album Tropical Nights. Though she had been recording for Columbia Records since the Top 20 success of the Liza with a "Z" TV soundtrack in 1972, the release was her first non-soundtrack, non-cast studio album in four years, since 1973's Liza Minnelli, The Singer. It was sandwiched between her appearances in the movie musical New York, New York (which opened in June and had a soundtrack album on United Artists), and the stage musical The Act (which opened in October and had a cast album on DRG). Minnelli had no time to promote it, and Columbia had little incentive to do so for her. But even if they had, it's not clear that it would have succeeded. Minnelli dove headlong into disco and funk for the better part of Tropical Nights, much of which was written and arranged by Jim Grady. Instead of ruling over the pumping funk tracks with her emotive voice, however, she was buried in the mix, singing on the beat. Only in the last tracks on side two does the pace slow, the strings swell, and the singer step out. But that hasn't kept Tropical Nights (with its fashion-plate cover that seemed to recall her 1975 film Lucky Lady) from being as confused as it is confusing. No wonder Minnelli abandoned a recording career for years afterward.

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