I was at the car was yesterday and out of terrible desperation, I picked up a copy of our local LA, left wing, entertainment rag or what passes for acceptable journalism in some circles, mainly crop. What caught my eye was that they featured a write up on Nancy Sinatra. I am not going to quote what they said in their article, nor was I predisposed to have an opinion that was good or bad. It was just mere coincidence that I had recently received her new record and it was on top of my “to do” pile otherwise known as Mount Vesuvius.
Beyond the legendary hit single “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” I know very little about Ms. Sinatra’s long term career except that she made the rounds on many a television variety show during the mid 1960’s. And, I am quite blissful in my own ignorance because it compels me to do a little research and is a sound reason to employ certain sections of my cranial endowments.
Now let’s just pretend that Nancy does not bear the legendary Sinatra name and suppose her promotional people sent this CD to me as a release called Unspecified Female Vocalist (UFV). Yes, and that they even sent it to me in a white envelop, with a stark white cover even whiter than the Beatles’ White Album. How would I review it? The same way I always do any other artist, with complete objectivity and creative aplomb.
The UFV record begins with “Burnin’ Down The Spark,” a track using the forever cool sound of sixties twang guitar; and creating a vibe that reminded me of The Beau Brummels combined with a taste of the old Tijuana Brass horn section. Sounds like an odd combination but it works well in supporting the easy going vocal talents of UFV. While the following two songs didn’t knock my white socks off, track number four did catch my cynical ear. This song is written by Pete Yorn, who plays every instrument with the exception of the piano work by Don Randi of “Wrecking Crew” fame. You know the guys who backed up Brian Wilson on Pet Sounds. Listen to this song two or three times and you may be inspired to call or e-mail your local AOR radio station urging them to give this one a spin.
Heading in a darker direction, UFV employs the song writing and musical talents of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on “Momma’s Boy.” This atmospheric track could be compared to Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow record, as well as the retro Airplane sound of Siouxsie And The Banshees.
Speaking of dark, UFV must have friends in high places. Our unnamed singer has been fortunate to collaborate with one of the darlings of the satirically morose set, Morrissey, who along with Alain Whyte have contributed their song “Let Me Kiss You.” This is the first single from the album and it is a humdinger that offers the melodic quality you have come to expect from the writer but is surprisingly well interpreted by the nameless vocalist. Although supported by a nice array of great guest songwriters, UFV’s own “Something About A Fire” is actually one of the best tracks on the record. This one also pays musical homage to the sound of sixties psychedelia and features the distinctive drumming of Elvis Costello and the Attractions band member Pete Thomas.
The UFV effort closes with “Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad,” a tune originally written for Frank Sinatra (and for our purposes, no relation to Unspecified Female Vocalist). It would however be fitting if UFV was related to Old Blue Eyes, because he never lived to record this retro Rat Pack number that was written by Bono and The Edge. In the hands of UFV however, the musical styling is reminiscent of the great Peggy Lee who might have performed it in the same understated, yet completely self assured way.
UFV’s self titled record combines several songwriting styles and employs the sounds of rock, country, jazz, cabaret and psychedelic to fashion a uniformly brilliant album. Though the singer may be unknown to you, it is evident she has spent years honing her craft and is thoroughly adept at using her instrument to bring an original twist to the songs of journeymen writers like Pete Yorn, Bono and Morrissey. I highly recommend you give the kid a chance because when it comes to the dog-eat-dog music business, she may just have a crack at it.