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For the Love of Carmen by Theodore Frisbie
How to enlarge your collection of Carmen's work at bargain prices.
As an avid Carmen McRae fan since the 1950s,
collecting her LPs and cassettes ultimately led to the far more compact CD
format. I still have the originals acquired, but rarely play them and must
add the collection didn't include all of Carmen's prolific output.
Fortunately most of her recorded legacy has been digitally remastered and is
available on CDs. There is sometimes an incentive to replace the originals
because alternate takes or previously unreleased 'tunes' (as Carmen would
say) have been added; thus, when it's possible to replace (or add missing
albums) at bargain prices--Why Not?
When it comes to Carmen, all of her recordings are worth collecting. She
always provided clear and precise diction and sang behind the beat; her
'scatting' was beyond phenomenal! One can chronologically follow her career
and hear her substantially different 'softer' singing of the early years
develop into the mature, deeply penetrating 'huskier' style. Amazingly,
Carmen seemed to improve with age. Her final recording, "Dedicated to You"
(1991) eloquently bears testimony to this fact.
It is possible to spend a small fortune collecting Carmen's CDs. If you live
in areas having record shops with good discounts and used CDs, you might
come up with some great bargains; however, for an even easier way to assure
finding Real Deals, I recommend Amazon.com where you will normally find
under the heading 'Music' over 300 Carmen McRae offerings at any given time.
Prior to this, one should become familiar with Carmen's Official Website
(you are there, now!) wherein all 60+ 'official' recordings are
chronologically listed and meticulously described, as well as many
compilations which combine songs from various original releases. There are
also CDs offering usually 10 songs on 'off brand' labels--add a 'nifty'
title and hope to entice buyers--beware! Some compilations, however, are
truly wonderful--containing upwards of 20 or more songs--and are available
for as little as ONE CENT (the standard postal rate is $2.98 per disk--even
so, you've gotten a bargain)--especially if you don't own the albums (or
some of them) from which the selections derive.
Great bargains can also be found on Amazon.com with original releases--those
still available from manufactures are numerous--but check for lower priced
used copies. Many others have been deleted/discontinued and available
'Used', but sometimes 'New', as well . IF you are discerning and have
particular albums in mind you can type in 'Carmen McRae' + album title and
get a FULL rundown with prices (and conditions) of those available. My usual
strategy includes planning to spend over an hour with Carmen; that is to
say, I go through the ENTIRE listing of items available. I can then check
out a number of 'wants' and add to my "Wish List"--being aware a single
album will often be separately listed a number of times with prices ranging
from veritable bargains to OUTRAGEOUSLY UNREAL--for example, for the
IDENTICAL CD from 99 cents (or less) to well OVER $50!
I strongly suggest ANY 'live' Carmen recordings are worth collecting--they
are ALL great!! (Carmen, herself, preferred them over most of her studio
recordings.) The 'live' 2 CD set, "The Great American Songbook," is the only
one wherein the LPs are superior since her 'patter' has been deleted--and
it's WONDERFUL; even so--the CDs are a great addition to any collection!
Personally, I've added over 20 CDs to my collection since periodically
checking those available via Amazon.com--the great majority for less than $2
each!! While some of the rarer recordings--especially imports (Japan) may
never appear as bargains--one never knows...MAYBE! I keep checking...
Meanwhile, I maintain a list of 'What I DON'T have'--and if asked, "What
would you like for Christmas/birthday/Father's Day?"--I suggest one or two
of them. I surmise, one way or another, eventually I WILL (and so can you)
acquire all or most of Carmen's recorded legacy. She was, as many jazz
musicians assert, "The QUEEN of Jazz!" Enjoy her legacy--it IS out there on
CDs--and a great deal of it at truly bargain prices!
Dr. Theodore R. Frisbie, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Southern
Illinois University Edwardsville
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