Rosemary Clooney

Songs from the Girl Singer: A Musical Autobiography

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Rather than rely solely upon its back catalog as usual, Concord has gone the extra mile to make this Clooney career survey a must-buy, raiding the archives of various labels and the singer's own collection for a really valuable two-CD retrospective. Virtually all of the early stuff, where she emerges as a major pop hitmaker from Mitch Miller's Columbia stable, is on the first disc, while the second wraps up her latter-day resurrection as a jazz-tinged diva. Obviously, disc one carries the most fascination; besides being loaded with naive mid-century charm, it shows just how big Clooney was in the 1950s. There are duets with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra, and appearances with the orchestras of Duke Ellington (singing a vocalise on "Blue Rose"), Nelson Riddle, and Percy Faith. Yes, there is also the totally atypical 1951 "Come on-a My House" set against Stan Freeman's jangly harpsichord that broke Clooney into stardom. Concord picks up the thread in 1977-1980, surrounding her with jazz musicians; her voice gets a bit richer, losing some of the hard brassiness of youth, picking up some jazz inflections, yet she never quite becomes a "jazz" singer per se. When the set leaps into the '90s (skipping the '80s almost entirely), her timbre darkens more and develops an affecting quaver. The choice of material from this period, though, has strong autobiographical content (the set was released in conjunction with her 1999 autobiography); hence, the probable reason for giving short shrift to the '80s -- the material may not have been there. And after hearing a final, affectionately sung capsule of philosophy, "Secret of Life," at the end of disc two, you realize you've been through a remarkable emotional journey.

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