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Stars Who Sing: The Best And, Of Course . . .

September 06, 1987|ALAN EICHLER | The writer is a major collector/expert/producer on musical history. He was asked by Calendar to rate celebrity records. First, his disclaimer

Here is a highly arbitrary and personal selection of the best and worst personality records. They are listed in no particular order and are judged for concept and packaging as much as performance, since none of the stars was considered a professional singer.

Recording stars who made movies (i.e., Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Doris Day) are not included, nor are such musical personalities as Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Betty Hutton and Dick Powell, who have numerous albums available. (Alice Faye, perhaps surprisingly to some, has a larger section in many record stores than some conventional pop singers of today.)

Stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Marlene Dietrich are included, since their musical abilities were secondary to their other attributes.

I have also omitted any albums on which I was personally involved.

(Where out-of-print albums have changed ownership, I have indicated who currently controls the masters.)

THE BEST:

"Va-Va-Voom!" (Rhino)--Exquisite packaging includes a full-color booklet and pink vinyl disk that can never be captured by a CD. A generous sampling of such screen sirens as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Jane Russell, Rhonda Fleming, Ann-Margret, Diana Dors and Sophia Loren.

"Never Before and Never Again" (DRG)--While all of the above ladies made solo albums that can still be found and are generally recommended, this Marilyn Monroe collection deserves special mention. It contains several previously unreleased studio recordings (including "Kiss" and "Do It Again") and the complete "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" sound track with Jane Russell. Also available on CD.

"Miss Bette Davis" (EMI)--Bette was quite serious when she cut this in London back in 1976. It contains several songs from her films (including "They're Either Too Young or Too Old") and is reissued on Citadel. Diehard fans will want to find her original MGM single of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

"An Evening With George Burns" (DJM/Pye)--Burns has now scored with several country-oriented recordings, but I prefer this live concert from England, which includes guest appearances by Jack Benny and Randy Newman.

"Bob Hope in Hollywood" (MCA)--Another singing comedian, Hope introduced many great standards, such as "Thanks for the Memory," "Two Sleepy People" and "The Lady's in Love With You," preserved here from original Decca pressings, including all four Shirley Ross duets.

"The Legendary, Lovely Marlene" (MCA)--Dietrich made many recordings, but this recent British import contains all of her Decca and Dot sessions (including the hilarious "Near You"), plus several oddities never released in the United States. A generous 18 cuts. American MCA has an abridged version, but track down the import.

"Gale Storm Hits" (Ace)--This British import contains 14 of her original Dot singles that demonstrate how a good producer can commercially exploit a popular TV star to best advantage. As with Dietrich, an abridged version (without the color cover) is also available on American MCA.

"Dody Goodman Sings?" (Coral)--Recorded at the height of her popularity on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show," the question mark in the title was meant to be a joke, but she actually does quite well with 11 satirical songs of the day. (Out of print/MCA)

"Old Rivers" (Liberty)--Walter Brennan made numerous albums for several labels, including this best seller. If we must have non-singers who recite their lyrics to lush backgrounds, Brennan is at least interesting and enjoyable. (Out of print/Capitol)

"Sothern Exposure" (Tops)--Ann Sothern was a Broadway musical star before Hollywood turned her into a sharp-tongued comedienne. This album, made because of her "Private Secretary" success, displayed her fine singing ability. But for movie buffs, it contains her only recordings of two standards she introduced on the big screen--"Let's Fall in Love" and the Oscar-winning "The Last Time I Saw Paris." (Out of print/Pickwick Int.)

"Way Out West" (Tower/Capitol)--Recorded in the '60s, Mae hit the charts with such rockers as "Day Tripper," "Shakin' All Over" and "Twist and Shout." She followed with a Christmas album (AEI) and "Great Balls of Fire" for MGM. (Out of print)

"Yvonne DeCarlo Sings" (Masterseal)--A classy album of standards performed in good style with a strong voice. (Out of print)

"Cockney London" (Verve)--Elsa Lanchester collected odd songs the way other people collect stamps, and this is one of four albums she made of them, all good. (Out of print/PolyGram)

"Teenage Triangle" (Colpix)--A compilation of hits by Shelley Fabares ("Johnny Angel"), Paul Petersen ("She Can't Find Her Keys") and James Darren ("Goodbye Cruel World"). Only drawback--it doesn't include Petersen's "My Dad." (Out of print/Roulette)

"Myoshi Umeki Sings American Songs in Japanese" (Mercury)--Yes, the Oscar winner ("Sayonara") performs "Teach Me Tonight," " 'S Wonderful and "I'm in the Mood for Love" all in her native tongue, but it's delightful. (Out of print/PolyGram)

"Together Again for the First Time" (Tetragrammaton)--Bill Cosby's short-lived label teamed Carol Burnett and Martha Raye for a wonderful album of solos and duets. Highly recommended and currently reissued by AEI.

"Cybill Shepherd Does It . . . to Cole Porter" (Paramount)--The only album ever made that bears the credit "Directed and Produced by Peter Bogdanovich," it was a companion to their "At Long Last Love," but this one displays some style and wit. (Out of print/MCA)

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