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Polly Bergen & Martha Raye: Out of the Vaults

Christopher Loudon on reissue of EPs from singers

Polly Bergen
Polly Bergen' s Little Girl Blue album
Martha Raye

I’m as guilty as the next music fan of surrendering to the instant-gratification, shop-in-your-pajamas allure of Amazon, iTunes and their brethren sites. But I’ll confess I miss the delight of unearthing unknown treasure in an actual bricks-and-mortar record store; that feeling of coming across an utterly unexpected, jewel-cased surprise. It still happens occasionally, and perhaps such irregularity now makes discovery that much sweeter. Such was the case a few days ago when, in the unlikeliest of places – the sort of big-box outlet that’s far more concerned with moving large amounts of Jay-Z’s latest than stocking single copies of dust-gathering rarities – I happened upon a recent CD reissue of Polly Bergen’s obscure Little Girl Blue.

Bergen’s debut album, recorded when she was just 25, it was originally released in 1955 as an 8-track 10″ on the tiny Jubilee label. Bergen has always been better known as an actress than a singer, especially among contemporary audiences who recognize her as Tony Soprano’s former mistress on The Sopranos and Felicity Huffman’s pill-popping mother on Desperate Housewives. But early in her career, before she scored big-screen success in such hits as Cape Fear (as Gregory Peck’s wife) and Move Over Darling (as Doris Day’s nemesis), she made a significant name for herself as a smoky torch singer.

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