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Patty Waters: You Thrill Me

There is, it seems, a Patty Waters renaissance afoot. Ever since the enigmatic Waters resurfaced on disc, sounding huskier and more meager-voiced opposite pianist Jessica Williams on 1996’s Billie Holiday-themed Love Songs, and in person, most notably at last year’s Vision Festival, everybody, it seems, is talking about her.

For the uninitiated, Waters’ much-ballyhooed pair of ’60s albums for the boldly experimental ESP label-Patty Sings, which includes her legendarily outre, 14 minutes of wailing and moaning on “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” and College Tour-position Waters as the vibrant, sinuous connecting tissue between Yma Sumac and Yoko Ono. Invest in them and bypass You Thrill Me, Waters’ self-proclaimed “musical odyssey” that brings together 15 previously unissued tracks, many incomplete, spanning 1960 to 1979. Rare as these tracks are, they’re simply not that compelling.

Things start off well with Waters’ wildly imaginative “Jax Beer Commercial,” a tongue-in-cheek homage to bouncy ’60s jingles that doubles as a coy tribute to several of her favorite jazz performers, including Ella, James Moody and George Shearing. There’s also a nicely chilled “Touched by Rodin in a Paris Museum,” recorded in San Francisco in 1970 and featuring Waters alone at the piano, plus coolly effective renditions of “Fine and Mellow” and “Lover Man.” Elsewhere, the exuberantly outrageous Waters sounds as if flattened by a steamroller. The manic energy is absent; the thrill is gone.

Interestingly, the liner notes-an introduction by Masaki Batoh of Ghost, a detailed historical essay by Byron Coley and a brief reminiscence by Waters herself-suggest that three of these tracks, produced by Tom Wilson, could have been demos intended to win Waters a contract with Columbia. Though the results of the Waters-Wilson collaboration aren’t particularly inspiring, it’s delicious to savor the idea of the high priestess of bizarre potentially landing at Columbia at a time when Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand were lining the label’s MOR path with gold.

Originally Published