I Am Music
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Carmen McRae was born in Harlem in 1920 and is considered to be one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. Throughout her career she recorded over sixty albums and was nominated for seven Grammy s. I AM MUSIC was Carmen s first release for the legendary jazz label Blue Note in 1975 (prior to 1976 s Can t Hide Love CDBBR0144) and shows off her extraordinary vocal talents in a Funky Jazz setting. I AM MUSIC was responsible for a significant career revival for Carmen and the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Blue Note. The album teamed Carmen with contemporary Jazz songwriters such as Bernard Ighner and Alan & Marilyn Bergman. BBR is very proud to bring you I AM MUSIC, completely remastered and repackaged complete with extensive liner notes. The album has been out of print since a limited Japanese CD release over twenty years ago. I AM MUSIC is an essential album for all Jazz, Soul & Funk fans out there!
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Produced by legendary piano master Roger Kellaway with a unique style all his own, clearly Mr. Kellaway allowed his star attraction creative freedom in chosing material that artistically expressed where Ms. McRae was at this point of her illustrious career...in better musical times than this superficial Disco involved period, "I Am Music" would have been a blockbuster with numerous deserved "Grammy Awards". Never before in her amazing career was Carmen McRae more deeply involved with material in an album than here, listening to opener "A Letter For Anna-Lee" clearly illustrates a new emotional depth in Carmen's reading of a lyric, storming with defiance "I had to get away, couldn't take another day" clearly Carmen feeling this complex lyric to the depths of her soul. Written by songwriting genius Benard Ighner of "Everything Must Change" fame, taking Carmen in a new direction far away from her Jazz Persona to a more gutsy rhythm & blue style to great effect, haunting & mesmerizing Carmen in "A Letter To Anna-Lee" was more than up to the challenge, succeeding with soaring success. Next Ighner gem "You Know Who You Are" with a glorious inspired gospel edge, clearly from her defiant stance the singer had her fill by this point of her life of superficial types...going all out with a tremendous soul-deep performance, to the end you know Carmen is feeling this one to the bone.
Carmen McRae by the mid-seventies clearly had an avid appreciation for the richly varied classic songs of Marilyn & Alan Bergman, regular patrons of Carmen McRae concert performances to the end. Creative freedom on this blissful Blue Note Records debut must have been how five of the legendary composing couples compositions made there way to this auspicious & stunning Blue Note Records debut...first off "The Trouble With Hello Is Goodbye" with complimenting choir is a glorious sentimental McRae vocal showing off her richly toned voice to full advantage...mesmerizing pensive "Faraway Forever" co-written by Quincy Jones, hauntingly brilliant McRae vocal demanding repeated play with her beautiful voice seeming to float over this sumptuous glorious arrangement forever, ending notes through to fade-out sublime! Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller gem "I Ain't Here" given a funky workout by Carmen making this performance definitive, closest to a jazz performance in "I Am Music" that is best described as a complex contemporary set made up of a diverse collection of sublimely soulful songs where the legendary lady goes all over the musical map to great artistic success.
Returning next to Marilyn & Alan Bergman in a classic original performance by Carmen McRae, magical & magnificent while singing from the depths of her soul best describe Carmen McRae in "I Have A Feeling I've Been Here Before", this phenomenal legendary lady performed this incredibly deep and beautiful song proudly in concert to the end...singing "I know the smile the look, I know the book, whats more I've even read between the lines" you know Carmen has been there, just may be her most commanding brilliant performance ever that is one to play over & over and over again, this is the remarkable Carmen McRae once again giving a Master Class performance! Pathos & depth with chilling wisdom about losing lifetime companion make "Who Gave You Permission" an emotional roller-coaster ride with dramatic intensity, again becoming another uniquely brilliant Carmen McRae performance of a lifetime...final Bergman classic "Like A Lover" is fresh as spring with gorgeous McRae vocal fine and illuminating, last note seemingly flowing forever with majestic beauty, the wonderful singer beautifully ending an exalted tribute to the legendary composing couple in a grand way that must have thrilled them to no end!
During this period of Carmen McRae decades long career, interesting to note audience filled with twentysomething fans who cheered the legendary Diva on loudly with great excitement...gone were the days of doing only Jazz Ballads, clearly expanding her repertoire attracting new generations of avid fans to her magical musical events...hauntingly brilliant "I Never Lied To You" by young singer/composer Jelsa Palao shows the singer once again treading new musical vistas to great success, finale Palao composed "I Am Music" a moving anthem showing Carmen McRae truly a timeless legendary master whose works will never grow old...Bravo Carmen, RIP soulful lady
For some strange reason, this record had not been remastered and released on CD until recently. Well, it's available now. My recommendation is run out and get it!
#1- A Letter For Anna-Lee: In this somber tune, Carmen reflects on the end of a relationship between two lovers after the guy runs off. "I had to get away." "I heard him say, 'life's just too much for me to bear...'" She manages to convey so much powerful emotion as the song unfolds, allowing us to see the starcrossed lovers.
#2- The Trouble With Hello Is Goodbye: In this heartbreaking song, Carmen beautifully reminisces about a past love. "We slumbered in each others arms and slumbered in the glow. We never heard the whisper of snow...but summer's not forevermore no matter how you try. The trouble with hello, the trouble with hello, the trouble with hello is goodbye." Backed by a vocal group, Carmen's own vocals blossom and make the listener realize that the trouble with hello really is goodbye, but the blessing of their finger is the ability to replay this beautiful tune over and over again.
#3- Faraway Forever: In this romantic song, Carmen sings about getting away with her lover and away from all the drama other people can cause. "Out of shadow, into light. Out of season, out of sight. And a thousand doors slowly close behind us, only stars and sun will find us. Come away, faraway forever." This song is one of the greats that can be interpreted in a couple different ways, Carmen bring it to life and makes us want to go away forever with her.
#4- I Ain't Here: This soulful, jazzy, fun tune showcases Carmen in all of her glorious sass! If you've ever seen/heard any of her live performances you know she has a flair with her audience and plays off of them like pure magic; well, she does that in the studio while recording this catchy song. "You can't bother me cause I ain't here, you can talk to me from now till judgement day, I don't hear one word you say. Cause I ain't here. Mrs. Brown, 'bout them hand-me-downs your handing down, 'bout them scraps and day old bread; well, like I said, you can kiss my foot, my dear, cause I ain't here!" And then, as the song ends Carmen makes the listener giggle some more when she speaks, "Mrs. Brown, you sure bring me down, all the way! Like it says earlier in the song, 'you can kiss my foot, my dear,'? Well, do you know what word you can substitute for foot or need I tell you, my darling?"
#5- You Know Who You Are: Easily one of the best tracks on the whole album, in my opinion. In the opening, a choir sings along with Carmen, "Oh, somebody should've been good to you. Oh whoa, somebody should've been kind. Oh, somebody should've been good to you. Oh, what a shame! You're not to blame, I won't call no names cause you know who you are." Carmen then breaks it down, "You love to bring me down. It makes you glad when you see me frown. I see right through your empty smile, I see right through your plastic style." "I know inside you don't dig me, it took your kind to make me see, just where I am and what I don't want to be. I know you live and thrive on causing others pain, and maybe that's the only way you know how. And I say, 'what a shame!' But I guess your not to blame...I won't call no names, cause you know who you are!" Yes, Carmen called somebody out and it sounds BEAUTIFUL!
#6- I Have The Feeling I've Been Here Before: This song was written specifically for Carmen and she sings it with heartbreaking, breathtaking emotion! "I have the feeling I've been here before more often than I'd choose to tell. And though the views been twice as clear before, by now I know it pretty well. Those tell-tell things you try to let go by are old familiar signs. I know the smile, the look; I know the look. What's more, I've even read between the lines. I've seen the summer turn to fall before, the joke November make of May. The time's I thought I had it all before then it slipped away. Though on the losing side, that carpet ride is always worth a try. I've seen the magic disappear before, I've missed the boat and shed the tear before. The only news when you've been here before, is who will say goodbye?" Carmen's raw emotion will make you tear up and make you remember all those time you've been there before.
#7- Who Gave You Permission: This track is different in that Carmen doesn't sing one note through the entire thing! "What?!" you may shout. But don't be so quick to dismiss this heartfelt, heartbreaking song. Around the time this album came out, in 1975, Carmen had came to the realization that she was ready to tackle acting and she figured, "Why not show 'em what I got?" So, she embodies the grieving widow, reminiscing about her recently deceased husband, asking that terribly sad question, "who gave you permission to go?"
#8- Like A Lover: During a live performance of this song (featured on the INCREDIBLE live album Carmen McRae at Ratso's), Carmen remarks that this is one of the most romantic songs she's ever sung. "How I envy the cup that knows your lips, let it be me, my love! And the table that feels your fingertips, let it be me! Let me be your love, bring an end to the endless days and nights without you." I'd have to agree, this is definitely a romantic song and one you'll enjoy listening to over and over again!
#9- I Never Lied To You: In this melancholy tune, Carmen discovers her ex has found a new lover after a tumultuous end to their own a year ago. In frustration she exclaims, "I guess I should be laughing but it's much too hard to see through tears, I never lied to you, I never lied!" This heartbreaking tune captures the sorrow, the anger, and the passion that anyone can feel after losing someone they loved deeply.
#10- I Am Music: The title track of the album finds Carmen embodying music and portraying its history throughout the history of humankind. "I was here before life began. In the wind and on the waves of the sea. Lying on the flowers, dancing through the trees. I am music. I am ageless. I am love." Through this song we truly realize just how intrinsic music is to all of us. "I gave to him my treasure. I lifted him in pain. I am music. I am timeless. I am love." Carmen breaks it down, "Music is the soul of man giving when the words can deceive, can deceive. Precious as the wind and rain. Living in his laughter and his tears."
If you're a true Carmen fan, there's no excuse for you not to add this gem to your collection. This could easily be one of Carmen's most underrated albums and its easily one of her best. So, why not take this musical journey with Carmen? I guarantee that when it's all over you'll be coming back again and again realizing that Carmen IS music!