Album reviews

Blossom Dearie – ‘Discover Who I Am: The Fontana Years London 1966-70’

Blossom Dearie – Discover Who I Am: The Fontana Years London 1966-70

(Fontana/ UMC- Mercury. Review of six-disc set by Lavender Sutton)

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Discover Who I Am, the new 6-disc release of Blossom Dearie’s music is a collection of her music from Fontana Records during her recording time in London between 1966-1970.

Blossom Dearie, with her “girlish voice” was known most notably as a “musician’s musician”. Perhaps due in part to her piano playing, because while her voice is unmistakable, her piano playing was very highly respected and considered top-notch among her peers like Miles Davis and Ronnie Scott.

This special edition release comes with 2 recordings from Ronnie Scott’s: In early 1966, Blossom Time At Ronnie Scott’s and later that same year, Sweet Blossom Dearie. These recordings are both a terrific snapshot of what Dearie was best known for: her ability to find lesser-sung songs with the most interesting, quirky or touching lyrics and to perform them with such care and dedication that they’re impossible not to like. 

She could take some of the “silliest” lyrics and convince her audience that they were sophisticated and clever. Songs like Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You and The Shape of Things have the crowd laughing, clicking and cheering along behind her as she squeaks out a cheeky line. 

She was known for performing songs from musicals, pop music of the time as well as songs from many of her musical collaborators. She seemed to have a special connection with almost every big name in the business, from Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough and Dave Lambert to Michel Legrand and Johnny Mercer to Georgie Fame and even Kylie Minogue in her last years.

In the second pair of CD’s, studio recordings this time, there is a wider variety of songs and some with more depth than in her live shows. From Soon It’s Gonna Rain, songs like How Insensitive and Alfie hold such a desperate and melancholy feel in her vocal tone while still the joy comes through on That’s Just the Way I Want to Be with her bubbly timbre on the 3 compositions she’s written for musical colleagues: Hey John for John Lennon, Dusty Springfield and Sweet Georgie Fame.

Accompanying the disc set is a gorgeous book (liner notes and an essay by Jaime Smith) full of stories, photos and further details of Dearie’s life and musical career. The final 2 CD’s are entitled Feeling Good Being Me Pt 1 & Pt 2 – The Lost and Found London Sessions. 

In 1974, Dearie started her own recording label, Daffodil Records and after her death, it seemed that some recordings from before this time had been muddled amongst the rest. With no labels, no dates and no format details, it took engineers some time to place the vocal style. Through listening, they were able to work out some of the voices in the background (Reg Guest, Ronnie Scott) to place these recordings in her London era. 

There is an eclectic variety of song choices here which just reiterate how wide-ranging Dearie’s influences were. Burt Bacharach, the Beatles, Jobim, but most notably, plenty of her own originals. An excellent way to highlight her compositions and draw out her true comprehensive talent and skill. 

Well worth getting hands on this specialty compilation. Hours of musical joy. 

LINK: Pre-order / Release date 30 June

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