To call this release astounding wouldn't be inappropriate. There are so many interesting qualities to it—not the least of which is the fact that it's on the always surprising Collectors' Choice label, a brand frequently innovative while very much dedicated to preserving lost and underappreciated LPs of yesteryear—that I hardly know where to start! But let's open by saying that 2 Shows Nightly is the first proper issuance of a 1968 concert that almost made it to the streets in that halcyon era…but didn't. Not only is that glaring deficit now repaired but Collectors' Choice added yet another full LP's worth of killer bonus cuts, all studio but perfectly matched to the live fare.
Ironically, it was Peggy herself who foiled the slab's emergence, unhappy with the mastered mix. In the meantime, Capitol had released a few promo versions—which became exceedingly pricey over the succeeding decades—but bowed to her wishes and withdrew the album. Now we can know what a loss that was, as CD is the singer's most unusual gig and one that cannot fail to appeal to rockers and pop music lovers for its embrace of contemporary songs. I mean, skip below and look at the line-up…incredible! Tim Hardin, Jimmy Webb, John Sebastian, and Buffy Saint-Marie among standards and show tunes.
I've never wholly agreed with the prevalent opinion that Lee was a smoky singer. Yeah, she could be, but listening to this gig solidly demonstrates how clear and vibrant she was, jazzy inflections and all. Catch the take on Sebastian's Didn't Want to Have to Do It, and you can see why she was so beloved of other artists and musicians, including Cary Grant, who was very deeply enamored with her artfulness. Lee even gets down and rocks out on Hand on the Plow, which she co-wrote and which features Toots Thielemans on guitar, a gent she greatly favored. Once you hear the period-definitive sound he delivers, laden with any number of cool lines, it's easy to see why. The charts are top-notch Sinatra Era material throughout, but this particular cut also shows just how far the backup band was willing to go.
Lee's sensitive take on Sainte-Marie's Until It's Time for You to Go projects the song over to Brel, and then her Something Stupid, which Frankie and daughter made a hit, gets a thorough re-read as a brisk slightly latinated shaker. On the bonus material, orchestra and band atmospheres are retained while the chanteuse captures three more Hardin and two more Sebastian tracks. Amid the dozen add-ins, there's a good deal of Lee's lightly-husky sensuality but also more than once adopted is a Cass Elliott-ish air showing how linked pop writers and performers of the two eras were, outgrowths of Tin Pan Alley and 60s rebellion. Yep, the days of Carmichael and Lieber & Stoller weren't really all that far removed from the Mamas and Papas and Spanky & Our Gang.
Taking the wont and amalgamations further, Peggy's cover of Hardin's Misty Roses is a natural companion to the orchestrally scored work of Peter & Gordon and Gerry & the Pacemakers. Though Colin Blunstone (Zombies) rendered the all-time greatest version of this extraordinary song in one of his solo LPs, Lee does it justice before turning to Tim's It'll Never Happen Again, a cut that melts the listener into wistful liquid (and here the very strong Cass refrains crop up once more).
I don't mean to ramble on, but this really is a highly unusual CD, one I suspect is going to surprise a lot of critics, fans, and just plain listeners, provoking wonder as to what might've occurred had Lee okayed the 2 Shows album from the git-go, then reaped the accolades, taken in the pop crowd more capaciously, and hopefully gone on to cross over a good deal more frequently. We can only speculate, but, man, when I think of all those lousy Petula Clark LPs I combed through, trying to find some decent pop, and this was under wraps the whole time!! On the other hand, all and sundry can also catch companion re-issues, like the Let's Love LP (here), and hear just what did happen between her and the oncoming wave.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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