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June 27, 2018:

THE DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, this week is flying by, like a gazelle being triggered by the snide remarks of a duck-billed Platypus. I gotta tell you.  I am sitting here like so much fish, listening to some singer named Barbra Streisand, her album entitled People.  People was her fourth album – the first two both came out in 1963, followed by the third and then People in 1964. I loved her albums back then and bought them right away, but while I found the first three pretty amazing, People, for me, was the best of the lot.  I think it’s easy to forget just how unique she was – in persona, in voice, in manner, in phrasing, in interpretation.  She was blessed to work with a really good producer in those early days and arrangers like Peter Matz and Ray Ellis.  Whatever you think of her, she was an original and I was crazy about her and her albums and only wished I could see her in Funny Girl on stage. Going into the 70s I admired her for constantly confounding everyone and going in the directions she wanted to go in, even if I found the results frequently mixed, sometimes hitting a home run, sometimes missing completely.  When she became more and more of a control freak I found her work less interesting because it always seemed micro-managed with no room for her just being her as she was in the early days, where her records were, like all records, recorded fairly quickly, mixed quickly, and out in the stores quickly. But listening to People, it’s as fresh and fantastic as it was on the day it came out, which is the day I bought it. The song selection is perfect, her performances, every single track, is perfection, the orchestrations are sublime, and the mix is simple and right.  She takes a song from a flop musical, How Does the Wine Taste (We Take the Town, the Pancho Villa musical) and makes it art, same with I’m all Smiles from the flop, The Yearling.  But my favorite track on the album People isn’t People – it’s the track that shouldn’t work at all but thanks to her acting skills becomes a whole play – My Lord and Master – it and the song Autumn (also on this album) are probably my favorite Streisand vocals from those early years.  Has Columbia ever remastered all her albums?  I’d love to have SACDs of the entire early stuff in mini-LP jackets.  Must do research. Meantime, if you’ve never heard this album, shame on you and do something about it right now.

Yesterday was kind of a day.  I got eight hours of sleep, but had to shave and shower quickly. Then Richard Allen came and we went to our meeting at The Wallis, with the folks from the City of Beverly Hills, who couldn’t be nicer or more supportive, and the folks from the theater. I had to be strong about a few things, because if one isn’t then stuff just gets bogged down in unnecessary ways. But we figured out a lot of details, made some good decisions, and while it ran longer that it was meant to, it was all good.  Then Richard and I made it back to the Valley without too much terrible traffic.  Oh, while I was at the theater I’d completely forgotten they were doing this highly lauded production of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in the theater we’ll be doing our show in.  I knew it was coming but I figured I’d see the reviews and then score a ticket.  But I never saw anything so forgot about it.  But thankfully I was able to get a great ninth-row center single right then for this very evening.  It stars Jeremy Irons and since it’s my favorite play I can’t wait, despite its three-and-a-half hour length.  The set, even unlit, looks very interesting.

Once back in the Valley, we stopped at the mail place so I could retrieve some packages, then we had a meal at Hugo’s and discussed where we are in terms of talent and song choices.  I now have to really cast the songs I know we’re doing but haven’t been assigned – I’m just gonna get the best people I can, and people Richard Sherman likes.  We’ll have about twenty-two songs, I think. But I must lock all this down by early next week so I can make a structure and show order and get it to everyone in plenty of time.  Happily, I know how it opens, I know the end of act one, I know the beginning of act two, and I know the end.  We went to Hugo’s for the meal and we both had pasta papa and I have to say it was the absolute best pasta papa ever.  Richard, who’d never had it before, loved it, too.

Then I came home, listened to two Swingle Singers albums – their brilliant Christmas album and an album of them doing their thing with Telemann, also great.  Then I heard the a “Best” album of Danielle Licari.  Who, you say?  Well, in reading up on the Swingle Singers a few days ago, I knew that Christiane Legrand, sister of Michel and member of the Swingles and prior to that Les Doubles Six, had dubbed the singing for the role of Catherine Deneuve’s mother in Umbrellas of Cherbourg.  So, just for grins I looked at the list of the other singers who dubbed the other actors – and Ms. Licari was the singer for Deneuve.  So I searched her and was surprised to see that she became a huge recording artist thanks to some fluke hit record in France in 1969.  She was especially popular in Japan for many, many years.  So, annoyingly most of her CDs are out of print, but I found this best of compilation for six bucks and got it.  Well, the second you hear that simple, pure, angelic voice it’s instantly recognizable from Umbrellas.  She does vocalese – no words – and I just love her.  The stuff can be corny sometimes, but that voice is just incredible in its purity.  So, that was fun.  Then I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched the first hour of the new Warner Archive Blu and Ray of Sergio Leone’s The Colossus of Rhodes.  I’ve always enjoyed the movie and even have a German Blu-ray (but not English friendly) of the full European cut, but I can’t find it, of course, although I’ll look again in the morning.  This transfer is certainly miles better than the DVD, but I’m sure that MGM, who released the film back in the day, never had the original camera negative, but an internegative of the slightly shorter US cut, and I think that’s what we have here.  The color’s pretty good and the clarity’s pretty good, but there’s a lot of grain, which is probably accurate to the way the film in its theatrical engagements here.  So, I’m enjoying it.

Then I listened to Spanky and Our Gang’s Greatest Hits CD, and boy I forgot how adventurous and great they were – including the bit of Swingle Singersesque beginning to Sunday Will Never Be the Same. I’m trying to track down the Hip-O Select box that has all their recordings on Mercury and sounding much better from what I’ve read.  I just love those songs.

Today, I’ll be up by whenever, and then I’ll finish writing the commentary – I got halfway through while listening to all that music.  I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, relax, and around four I’ll head over to the Hills of Beverly, eat something fun (either Nate ‘n’ Al’s, although it’s really been terrible the last couple of times) or maybe the Cheesecake Factory, then walk around until its show time, which is seven-thirty.  I won’t get till eleven-thirty probably.

Tomorrow I have a lot of stuff to do, then Friday is our second rehearsal, Saturday is our stumble-through, and Sunday is our sound check and show.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, finish the commentary, hopefully pick up packages, eat, and see a long show.  Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like.  So, let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have finally after seventeen years used the words duck-billed Platypus in these here notes.

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