Eartha Kitt – Bad But Beautiful – MGM Records SE4009 (1962)/ Verve/Third Man Records/Universal Music Group B0037208-01 (2023) [distr. by Acoustic Sounds] 180-gram stereo vinyl, 30:02 ****1/2:
(Eartha Kitt – vocals; Bill Loose – orchestra conductor, arrangements; Billy May – arrangements)
There have been many song stylists over the years, especially in jazz. One of the more extraordinary performers was Eartha Kitt.. She worked with Orson Welles in 1950, starring in Helen Of Troy. Her dynamic voice and exotic persona made her a star on Broadway, movies and in the recording studio. Additionally, Kitt was vocal about Civil Rights and infamously criticized the Vietnam War at a White House ceremony in 1968. This was considered to have a negative impact on her career. Prior to tis incident, she was very popular, especially as Catwoman in the 60’s beloved series, Batman. She would eventually return to the stage, Broadway, television and continued to record. Kitt will always be remembered for her unique vocal tonality, phrasing and sultry demeanor.
Verve/Universal Music Group has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of Eartha Kitt – Bad But Beautiful. Originally issued on MGM Records in 1962, the album captures the singer in a breakthrough moment on tracks arranged by Bill Loose and Billy May. Side 1 opens with a swing arrangement of “All I Want Is All There Is And Then Some”. Kitt’s idiosyncratic, sensual vocals embrace the “no-holds-barred” context of this fearless independent woman. There is a continuous key modulation that is compelling. Slowing things down, “Do It Again” features emotional articulation that rivals Edith Piaf in the translation. “It’s So Nice To Have A Man Around The House” is more bluesy, and Kitt’s sultry delivery and flexible register is uniquely appealing. The singer breezes through “La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)” as the orchestra recreates the cinematic feel. A classical guitar/lower register voice interlude is catchy. In a finely tuned performance, “Lola-Lola” exudes a dance-like flow, with a lilting chorus. Her brilliant phrasing is at the core of “A Lady Loves”.
Kitt breathes coolness and dramatic aesthetics into a great May arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale”. Again, her intermingling of singing and hip poetic elocution is transcendental. Keeping with Porter sophistication (“Always True To You In My Fashion”), Kitt’s stylish phrasing is jazzy and her subtle vibrato is effective. The chanteuse seems a perfect fit for the ultimate siren number from Damn Yankees, “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”. She wraps her nimble voice around the slow tango rhythm. The concise orchestration is a reliable counterpoint to her fluid singing. In under two minutes, Kitt takes charge in this wry observation. Her vocal instincts and execution are unlike any other singer. She is equally adept in distilling melodic themes from a foreign motion picture (“Never On Sunday)”, but with jazzy intonation. The finale (“Good Little Girls”) is a jaunty tune that celebrates the irony of women in modern society (“…good little girls go to heaven, but smart little girls go to Bergdorf…”). She is the perfect messenger for this narrative.
This re-mastered vinyl of Bad But Beautiful is a viscaeral reminder of a truly distinctive singer. The sound mix is balanced and centered around Kitt’s sinewy vocals. The pressing (Third World Records) is excellent with no surface noise, hisses or pops.
Eartha Kitt – Bad But Beautiful
Side One: All I Want Is All There Is And Them Some; Do It Again; It’s So Nice To Have A Man Around The House; La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)’ Lola-Lola; A Lady Loves
Side Two: Love For Sale; Always True To You In My Fashion; Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets); Never On Sunday; Good Little Girls.