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January/February 2000

Lee Wiley
The Legendary Lee Wiley: Collectors' Items 1931-1955
Baldwin Street Music

Lee Wiley, the quintessential cult vocalist, left a relatively small legacy of recordings, but her relaxed, intimate style has influenced a number of jazz-oriented singers, among them Peggy Lee, Jeri Southern, and Barbara Lea. Collectors' Items 1931-1955 assembles 25 rare Wiley performances (including four alternate takes) ranging from the 1931 "Time on My Hands" with Leo Reisman's Orchestra to "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" recorded, despite the CD's cut-off date, in 1956 with Dean Kincaide's studio band. Highlights include two 1939 demos backed, reportedly, by songwriter Jimmy van Heusen; the 1944 gem "Wherever There's Love" featuring a brief, masterful trombone solo by Jack Teagarden (whose singing and playing inspired Wiley's laid-back delivery); a 1947 duet with Bing Crosby ("It Still Suits Me"); and five mid-'40s sides with groups headed by her then-husband, pianist Jess Stacy. Producer Ted Ono has taken pains to locate the cleanest audio sources for this material, an effort partially undercut by his mean-spirited liner notes that dwell on Wiley's alleged vanity, insecurity, alcoholism and contempt for other singers. Apparently, she was no saint, but a quarter-century after her death, her reputation continues to soar, as evidenced by the recent inclusion of her voice on the soundtrack of the critically acclaimed film L.A. Confidential.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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