Ruth Wallis

Torrid Love Songs of Men and Memories

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The first 12" LP by Ruth Wallis on her own label is her most unusual. Rather than the risqué novelty songs of her other records, this one is all torch songs. Accompanied only by bass and guitar, she seems to be deliberately heading for early Julie London territory. As with London, the dubious allure of the jaded barfly wafts through a haze of smoke, and her limited range only lends authenticity (up to a point). Whereas London's best efforts usually were duplicitous renditions of Cole Porter chestnuts, Wallis wisely sticks to her own songs. And they are mostly very worthy compositions, sharing the same boldness, directness, and intelligence of her sillier songs. More able torch singers would have done well to cover some, if indeed none did. While the album was reissued with a different jacket (and possibly under a different title), the original features charming blurbs describing each song. "Ooh, He's a Lover" is followed by "In a happier mood, here's a guy who is a lover, nothing more, nothing less, but who cares." And "After Hours Love" ("the only kind [she] can get") is followed by "This is the kind of love that really causes a girl trouble." The extent to which Wallis succeeds at covering all the hackneyed, torch song bases -- in her inimitable style, though relatively serious for a change -- is marvelous. If only for adding fresh material to a stale idiom, she deserves credit for this one.

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