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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


‘Takes Two To Tango’

Pearl Bailey

Living Era CD AJA 5531



1 Takes Two To Tango

14 Who?

2 Tess’s Torch Song

15 Ma, He’s Making’ Eyes At Me

3 He Didn’t Ask Me

16 Baby, It’s Cold Outside

4 St. Louis Blues

17 Ain’t She Sweet?

5 Tired

18 Johnson Rag

6 Fifteen Years And I’m Still Serving Time

19 Saturday Night Fish Fry

7 I Ain’t Talkin’ Though It’s All Over

20 Vagabond Shoes

8 Personality

21 Nothin,’ Nothin’ Baby Without You

9 Legalize My Name

22 Let There Be Love

10 It’s A Woman’s Prerogative

23 As Long As You Live

11 Row, Row, Row

24 Me And My Shadow

12 A Little Learnin’ Is A Dangerous Thing

25 She’s Something Spanish

13 I’m Lazy, That’s All

Pearl Mae Bailey, (1918-1990), was born in Virginia, and was the daughter of a local preacher. She became a spirited black singer who also made appearances as a popular and talented actress on both stage and screen. Today, Pearl Bailey is not a name that readily comes to mind when recalling ‘famous’ women jazz singers and some of the acknowledged reference books ignore her altogether as an artist only coupling her name with the last of her four husbands, the drummer Louis Bellson. By the time of her death they had been married some forty years.

This compilation opens with her two most popular recordings, ‘Takes Two To Tango’ with the Don Redman Orchestra (1952) and ‘Tess’s Torch Song’ with the excellent Cootie Williams Orchestra (1944). The whole album only covers nine years of the singer’s career – a period when she established herself as having a "throaty, sexy voice, down-to-earth personality and jokey mischievousness." On seventeen of the titles she is accompanied by either the Don Redman Orchestra or the Mitchell Ayres Orchestra. As usual for that period most of the orchestrations are first-rate especially on ‘Let There Be Love’ and ‘As Long As I Live’ and, throughout, the album features some of the finest musicians of the day. If anything it is the choice of material that lets things down.

Pearl Bailey was a gifted artist and humanitarian however her main accolades were not earned as a vocalist but for her "outstanding achievements in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession." ‘Takes Two To Tango’ is only an average representation of the music of the 1940s and 50s and as such will probably have limited appeal.

Jack Ashby

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