Slightly Baroque

Anita Kerr / The Anita Kerr Singers

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Slightly Baroque Review

by Lindsay Planer

After the platter full of instrumentals featured on And Now the Anita Kerr Orchestra (1966), the multi-talented first lady of the Nashville studio scene returned to scoring songs for and contributing to the Anita Kerr Singers. Although Slightly Baroque (1966) could have referred to her financial situation after the less than enthusiastic sales of And Now, instead it alludes to the style in which the dozen pop selections on the album are arranged. As noted music journalist Colin Escott mentions in his liner notes to the 2007 Collectors' Choice Music CD reissue of Slightly Baroque, it had only been a year earlier that The Baroque Beatles Book (1965) was released, which took then-current hits from the Fab Four and turned them into classically tinged masterworks. Here, Kerr has primarily chosen more seasoned pop standards to give her unique "Baroque" treatment. But in reality, the somewhat pompous verbiage more or less speaks to harpsichord-laden breaks and minor chord changes for the vocalists. Speaking of which, the Anita Kerr Singers are: Kerr (soprano), who is joined by Gene Merlino (tenor), B.J. Baker (alto) and Bob Tebow (bass). Even pre-rock era material -- most notably the opener "Mona Lisa" and "Answer Me My Love" -- take on a fresh air of mod sophistication as Kerr and company weave their airtight harmonies around the familiar yet noticeably altered melody. "My Prayer" embodies a cryptically aching somber tone, even more so than either of its better-known predecessors from Glenn Miller or the Platters. The comparatively contemporary titles, such as Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" and the Tony Hatch-penned "My Love" -- which Petula Clark turned into a Pop Singles chart topper -- are suitably retro-fitted. Perhaps it was too soon to overhaul these current cuts as both teeter the fine line that could easily cross into the realm of insipid elevator music. However, that is not to suggest all the recent tunes fall short, as "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is touching and poignant, while "One Note Samba" offers up the Anita Kerr Singers as the '60s forerunner to the Manhattan Transfer.

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