Helen Merrill – Parola e musica – 1960

Helen Merrill will be turn eighty this year while this album – her masterpiece – is now fifty years old.

It was recorded in Italy, after she relocated there in early 1960. An unusual feature of the LP is the addition of spoken word lyrics which precede each song. Fernando Caiati does the honours with some rudimentary instrumentation in the background. This gives the album an atmospheric edge, the torch songs and ballads perfectly complimented by the eloquent Italian language lyrics.

The songs, many of them standards, are elevated to classic status by Merrill’s flawless and emotional renditions. Autumn In New York is sublime, melancholy yet hopeful. Everything Happens To Me, a humourous homage to Sod’s Law is almost devasting in its delivery. You Don’t What Love Is, Solitude and Weep Willow For Me are brooding, smoky epics with perfect phrasing and sublime high notes.

After the faux-upbeat desperation of I’ve Got Under My Skin and These Foolish Things, the LP twists and turns into the final act with Caiati’s words increasinly reeking of foreboding and regret (despite me not understanding a word of Italian). We finally slip into the mournful and desolate When Your Lover Has Gone.

What lonely hours, the evening shadows bring
What lonely hours, with memories lingering
Like faded flowers, life can’t mean anything
When your lover has gone

What a way to finish a most memorable album.

Nothing can beat the romance of this album! ‘Parole e Musica’: ‘Words and Music’ was recorded while Merril was living in Italy. Each performance is preceded by a spoken translation of the lyrics in Italien, backed by a solo musician in the style af a street busker. If it sounds cheesy, then don’t expect me to defend it: it is! But I have never heard Merril sound so good. Her voice has a fragile strength which renders ballads heart-stopping, and tickles the humour out of the more optimistic numbers.

  1. Night and Day
  2. Everything happens to me
  3. Autmn in New York
  4. Why don’t you do it right
  5. You don’t know what love is
  6. These foolish things
  7. April in Paris
  8. I’ve got you under my skin
  9. Solitude
  10. Willow weep for me
  11. When your lover had gone

On Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 8

  • Gino Marinacci – Flute
  • Nini Rosso – Trumpet
  • Enzo Grillini – Guitar
  • Berto Pisano – Bass
  • Sergio Conti – Drums
  • Piero Umiliani – Piano, Celesta

On Tracks 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11

  • Nino Culasso – Trumpet
  • Tonino Ferrelli – Bass
  • Ralph Ferraro – Drums
  • Piero Umiliani – Piano, Celesta

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Sunday, December 5th, 2010 Music

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