Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Julie London, "Gone With the Wind" (1955)


Some years back I tumbled onto a trove of Julie London's mid-'50s recordings that completely turned me around. Before that I had associated her only with "Cry Me a River" (a song I was indifferent to because of the Barbra Streisand version) and with Jack Webb, her husband for a time. Shortly after that marriage ended, in 1954, her career took off, with a long string of albums starting in 1955. My favorite is Calendar Girl, a concept album before anyone thought of concept albums—13 tracks: "June in January," "February Brings the Rain," "Melancholy March," etc., finishing on "Warm in December" and "Thirteenth Month." But "Gone With the Wind" comes from what is probably the better starting place, her 1955 album Julie Is Her Name, which includes "Cry Me a River," "I'm in the Mood for Love," "It Never Entered My Mind," and many other standards. "Gone With the Wind" finishes the album in typical style. I like how it practically defines that style as it does so. Here's what you just heard, bub: scraps and pieces blowing around, deceptively casual yet tightly executed, thrilling in their moment and then gone. Most of her songs, here and elsewhere, rarely run even to three minutes. They are quiet and subtle, almost fussy, and here there is only a bass player and guitar player padding around behind her, and the reverb that is thrown on the vocal toward the end. Excess is not within the ken of this music. It's practically nothing but her voice, and her voice is practically nothing but a whisper and a thought, and she made many albums like it, each as good as the next, filled with this simple formula and a grab bag of sweet tunes.

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