Always on the lookout for rare albums of forgotten singers from the Fifties, Sepia Records is a reliable source of such reissued relevant gems but coming across this two-album tribute to Betty Madigan I had to admit I had never heard of the lady!
Checking websites about M/s Madigan's career failed to really give any meaningful insight except she was rated in a 1954 "Billboard" poll by disc jockeys as one of the newer female vocalists likely to become one of the top songbirds. Well, she often appeared during that period on US television shows and recorded albums for MGM and Coral Records with this Sepia release selecting an one from each as well as five pop-pointed ditties released as singles over the period 1954-1958 which aimed for and achieved in four cases US Chart success - including JOEY, TRUE LOVE GONE and ALWAYS YOU which helped earn her the "Billboard" award. As a guide, the Madigan vocal style lies somewhere between Gogi Grant and Eydie Gorme although that's just my vague description and not intended as any intimation Betty slavishly copied either singers' qualities.
Released in 1956 AM I BLUE? asked the question as she conveyed angst in full quota and steered a vocal path through the dramatic love-lorn entanglements of I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL, I'LL NEVER BE THE SAME, EV'RY TIME and IN LOVE IN VAIN to name just a few torch songs from the featured dozen although LOVE YOU FUNNY THING is an emphatic swinger.
The 1957-recorded JEROME KERN SONGBOOK certainly anchored Betty's songwriter choice as she followed Ella Fitzgerald's venture into Verve albums dedicated to specific songwriters like the 1956-produced Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter double albums. In Betty's case, she was limited to just a dozen tracks to fill a single album but nevertheless she makes impact with the well-known Kern (and his various collaborators) standards which over fifty years later still shine brightly. SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, A FINE ROMANCE, LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY and the others are sincerely interpreted by the singer with emotional depth and warmth aided by Dick Jacobs conducting the orchestra with arrangements that often reflect just a hint of Fifties panache via the pulsating I WON'T DANCE, cha-cha rhythmic THE FOLKS WHO LIVE ON THE HILL and ALL THROUGH THE DAY fast-pacing the hours!
Three cheers for Sepia's determination in continuing to dig deep into the depths of vintage singers and their albums and especially for catching sight of these gems and their formidable songbird. Such combined magic captivated me with the wish more albums by the impressive Betty Madigan might possibly available and I will keep hoping thus. Usual notes, remastering and general production values makes this one not to be missed by collectors of Fifties female delights.
I'd never heard of Betty Madigan before and thankfully I didn't let that stand in the way of buying this CD. If you like Jane Morgan or Helen Forrest give Betty a whirl and sit back and enjoy a fabulous voice and wonder why she isn't better known, be one of those in the know!