See and hear
NY Times Obit
RECORDINGS - 1960s, cont'd
For Once in My Life, 1967
With the Johnny Keating Orchestra
Carmen takes contemporary songs, such as the Beatles’ "Got To Get You Into My Life" and Buffy St. Marie’s "Until It’s Time for You To Go," and makes them sound like standards.
The Sound of Silence, 1968
Jazz vocalist Carol Sloane, who at the time was reviewing albums for Down Beat, said this:" Carmen, who has a fastidious approach to material, chose great songs for this excellently-arranged record - six of the best standards, such as Ellington’s "I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good" and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Stardust," and some challenging, interesting contemporary tunes such as Paul Simon’s "The Sound of Silence," Jimmy Webb’s "MacArthur Park" and "Watch What Happens." This is another example of how she delivers songs with real emotion, feeling pain when she sings of pain, and crying genuine tears when she tells of loneliness, rejection, lost love and despair."- From review, Down Beat, March 20, 1969
Portrait of Carmen, 1968
"Instead of using her considerable vocal technique to create superficial
excitement and a shallow spectacle (scat singing is easier than it sounds),
Carmen McRae put them to work to bring out the meaning of the song. She’s
always given me the feeling that she respects lyrics at least as much as she
does music, and that, I think, is the secret of her strength: the balance
she maintains between the two. For example, listen to the way she changes
the musical setting of the words "it’s only me" near the end of Bob Lind’s
marvelous "Elusive Butterfly." In this slight but clever alternation of the
phrase, she not only freshens her performance—she brings out of the song at
this point an unexpected shrug of self-dismissal, a touch of humor. You
can’t say she read this into the material; it was already there. But nobody
else had brought it out before. This is acting, good acting. Another
example: the way she holds the word "me" in "I Haven’t Got Anything Better
To Do," and then smears it upward to the next word. This is technically
tricky, requiring cold, imperious control, which she has. But she didn’t do
it to show off. She did it to heighten the dramatic effect of the song at
this point. And it works: it lifts you right out of your chair. You can go
on citing these details in Carmen’s work indefinitely. It’s full of them.
What matters is the effectiveness. Carmen is one of our great singers."
Just a Little Lovin’, 1970
The Great American Songbook, Live at Donte’s, 1972
Live at Century Plaza, 1975
The Sound of Silence/Portrait of Carmen, Atlantic, Rhino,
The Art of Carmen McRae/For Once in My Life, Atlantic, Rhino, 2004
"This particular [double] CD focuses on five of her most rewarding years –1967 to 1971 – when Carmen was recording for Atlantic. The selections reveal Carmen’s ability to take almost any kind of song and make it her own—from the best of the Beatles (‘Here, There and Everywhere," "Got To Get You Out of My Life’) to the elegance of Ellington (‘Satin Doll," "Come Sunday," "I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good")… And there’s so much more, from folk standards ("Elusive Butterfly," "Until It’s Time for You To Go") and a Beach Boys gem ("I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times") to Mann & Weil’s "Just a Little Lovin’" and Bacharach & David’s "The Look of Love." – GARY THEROUX, liner notes.
"You see, I’d actually quarrel with the title of this collection of songs. To me, it’s not The Art of Carmen McRae, but the Magic of Carmen McRae. Very, very few singers in any genre are able to go out there on that lonely stage, take off all the shells of pretense and convention, and stand there emotionally naked. Listen to her do this to Jim Webb’s "Didn’t We?" with no accompaniment save Alexander Gafa’s sympathetic guitar. It is an incredible performance—simple, unadorned, not stark but revealed and vulnerable. And warm. Listen to it again, in a different mode, but with the same openness and vulnerability when she sings "Satin Doll" with only Chuck Domanico’s bass behind her for the first half of the song. She can get a quality of intimacy into a public performance that’s almost embarrassing, it’s so real." - RALPH J. GLEASON, from liner notes for original LP collection.