Ter­rell’s Tune Up

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Steve Ter­rell

Steve Ter­rell re­views new al­bums by Cyndi Lau­per and Loretta Lynn

I’ve al­ways had a soft spot for Cyndi Lau­per. I was in­trigued that a year af­ter it was re­leased, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was still a top se­lec­tion for Juárez strip­pers (or so I’ve been told). I dug the fact that she got pro-wrestling great Cap­tain Lou Al­bano to play her dad in the video for that song. I thought it was cool that she got the ti­tle for her hit al­bum She’s So

Un­usual from a song by Helen Kane (who many be­lieve in­spired the voice of Betty Boop) and that she sang, un­cred­ited, the theme song of Pee-wee’s Play­house in Kane’s Boop­ish style. And I’ve long for­given her for the de­mon-haunted night­mares I en­dured for months af­ter hear­ing her dance remix of “She Bop” on speak­ers big­ger than my car in an Amar­illo disco while in an en­hanced state of con­scious­ness.

But be­yond all that wacky stuff, Lau­per has one amaz­ing voice. I prob­a­bly didn’t re­al­ize that un­til I saw her per­form an in­cred­i­ble ver­sion of her hit “Time Af­ter Time” on TV back in the mid-1980s on a Patti LaBelle tele­vi­sion spe­cial. Lau­per starts off singing on top of a piano. But by the se­cond verse LaBelle comes in to har­mo­nize and em­bel­lish. The two play with the cho­rus, har­mo­nize, shout the lyrics at each other, and end about five min­utes later on a whisper. I saw this again on YouTube last week for the first time since it aired. It’s even bet­ter than I re­mem­bered.

But I have to ad­mit, I lost track of Cyndi Lau­per. Ev­ery so of­ten I heard about her lat­est at­tempted come­back, but I didn’t hear any­thing all that en­tic­ing. In fact I hadn’t sat down and lis­tened to an en­tire Lau­per al­bum since her hey­day. Un­til re­cently. Just a few weeks ago she re­leased a coun­try al­bum called

De­tour. Yes, there’s our Cyndi Lau­per in a prim, black, long-sleeved dress in a mo­tor­cy­cle side­car, clutch­ing her hat in one hand and an old suit­case in another. She looks like a 1880s school­marm head­ing out west where John Wayne and Jimmy Ste­wart can fight over her.

And yes, this is real, steel-and-fid­dle, hard-core­honky-tonk mu­sic with crack­er­jack Nashville cats and guest stars in­clud­ing Em­my­lou Har­ris, Vince Gill, Ali­son Krauss, and Wil­lie Nel­son. She romps through C& W chest­nuts like “I Want to Be a Cow­boy’s Sweet­heart”; “Heartaches by the Num­ber”; Con­way Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s “You’re the Rea­son Our Kids Are Ugly” (sung here with Gill); and the Wanda Jack­son hit “Fun­nel of Love” (though my fa­vorite ver­sion of this song is the one Jack­son recorded with The Cramps a few years ago). And, to her credit, Lau­per doesn’t adopt any fake hick drawl. You still can hear the Noo Yawk in her.

There are a cou­ple of tunes here on which she re­ally shines. She nails the sad­ness of Skeeter Davis’ early ’60s hit “The End of the World.” (Web of Syn­chronic­ity: Davis was mar­ried to Joey Spamp­inato, formerly of NRBQ, a band that did a song about Cap­tain Lou Al­bano! Co­in­ci­dence?) And even bet­ter is a lit­tle-known Marty Rob­bins song called “Beg­ging to You.” If I had a beer, there would be a tear in it af­ter this one. No, this isn’t es­sen­tial coun­try mu­sic, and it’s prob­a­bly just a crazy lit­tle de­tour in her ca­reer. But it’s great to lis­ten to Lau­per again. Lau­per is sched­uled to per­form in Albuquerque at the San­dia Re­sort and Casino Am­phithe­ater on Sept. 17.

Also rec­om­mended

Full Cir­cle by Loretta Lynn. This al­bum, Lynn’s first in a dozen years, is a bit­ter­sweet triumph. She’s in her early eight­ies now, and we’ve lost way too many coun­try gi­ants of her gen­er­a­tion in re­cent years, most re­cently Merle Hag­gard. The first time I played this record all the way through, a mor­bid thought crossed my mind. Is this Lynn’s last one? Maybe that had some­thing to do with the fi­nal song, the slow, acous­tic “Lay Me Down,” which she sings with fel­low oc­to­ge­nar­ian Wil­lie Nel­son. The re­frain is “I’ll be at peace when they lay me down.” I al­most wanted to scream, “Nooooooooo!!!”

The good news: Her voice sounds as strong, clear, and spunky as ever. Could it be Pro Tools or some other stu­dio trick? Who knows? I’m go­ing to choose to be­lieve not. If any of you cyn­ics out there know any­thing dif­fer­ent, do us all a fa­vor and keep your yap shut. Speak­ing of mod­ern stu­dio tricks, un­like her pre­vi­ous al­bum, the Jack White-pro­duced Van Lear

Rose, there’s lit­tle in the way of fancy recording wiz­ardry on Full

Cir­cle. The pro­duc­ers — Lynn’s daugh­ter Patsy Lynn Rus­sell and Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash — wisely keep the em­pha­sis on Lynn’s voice and the songs.

And it’s a splen­did se­lec­tion of tunes. There are rere­cord­ings of Loretta Lynn songs, in­clud­ing the proto-fem­i­nist “Fist City,” one of her late-’60s hits, and “Whis­per­ing Sea,” a coun­try waltz that’s not one of her best­known num­bers but is the first song she ever wrote. A cou­ple are coun­tri­fied pop tunes, like “Band of Gold” and Doris Day’s “Se­cret Love”; some are Carter Fam­ily clas­sics (“I Never Will Marry” and “Black Jack David,” which traces its roots to a tra­di­tional Scot­tish folk song); and there’s a blue­grassy take on “In the Pines.” My fa­vorite on this al­bum is “Ev­ery­thing It Takes,” an “other woman” song that might have been a coun­try hit 50 years ago, ex­cept Lynn wrote it fairly re­cently with Todd Snider. Elvis Costello sings har­monies. And be­sides that dev­as­tat­ing clos­ing num­ber, there are a cou­ple of other med­i­ta­tions on Smil­ing Sgt. Death. These are “Ev­ery­body Wants to Go to Heaven” and “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?” Stop tor­tur­ing us, Loretta!

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