Nana Mouskouri 1962
Finally, in 2004, Americans had the domestic CD issue of Nana Mouskouri’s stateside debut album — The Girl From Greece Sings from 1962. This particular edition was released in France in 2000 in the Original Fontana Masters series. While Mouskouri has become an international star, and one whose name is associated with everything from pop to stylized renditions of folk songs to classical lieder, this collection of tunes, produced by Quincy Jones, who was then artistic director at Mercury, was strictly in the American idiom, chock-full of tunes associated with jazz and the generation’s pop singers. The tunes were arranged by orchestra conductor Torrie Zito, Al Cohn, and Charles Albertine and the sound engineer on these sessions was none other than Phil Ramone. The 12 original cuts include very wonderfully stylized and esoteric readings of “That’s My Desire,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” “What’s Good About Goodbye,” “What Now My Love,” and stunning versions of “Love Me or Leave Me” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Mouskouri’s voice, though sweet, was throatier than most American ones. And she had the strength and range of an opera singer who could moan like a blues singer — “Love Me or Leave Me” is riveting for this. But there is something else too: one can feel Jones drawing her out and into the material. It is not as confident as it would become later and is all the more compelling for its sense of coming to inhabit it with confidence and authority. There are three bonus tracks on the CD that come from these sessions, readings of Lerner & Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love,” the Gershwins’ “But Not for Me,” and a wonderfully perverse take of Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick out of you.” It’s easy to hear why they didn’t make the original sessions, but they add dimension to it after the fact. For Mouskouri fans in the U.S., this will be a welcome addition to the catalog. For fans of great song interpreters — Brel, Trenet, Walker, Chris Connor, etc. — this one will be something from left field that will prove strange, wonderful, and alluring.