Josie Falbo: Taylor Street

Chances are you’ve heard Josie Falbo more often than any other singer on the planet. The Chicago-based chanteuse’s voice has, over the years, been employed to sell Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Sara Lee, Oscar Mayer and dozens of other name brands the world over. She has also sung behind Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Bolton and Nancy Wilson.

Falbo’s age is hard to determine. The only clue available online is that she was signed to Vee-Jay (the label that hit it big with the Four Seasons but also produced some of Bill Henderson’s best work) in 1964. That puts Falbo in her 60s today-a remarkable fact given the incredible youthfulness of her voice. She can sound remarkably similar to the young Whitney Houston or Vanessa Williams.

Indeed, throughout this 15-track collection, she often ventures deep into Houston or Williams territory, which makes for a decidedly schizophrenic album. Approximately half of the disc, all newer compositions, is pure pop-superb pop, but Houston-esque belting nonetheless. The balance consists of extraordinary jazz tracks. Falbo can swing hard, offering a blistering “Too Marvelous for Words,” an effervescent “Thou Swell” and a sassy “Little Jazz Bird.” She can also cuddle deep within a ballad, and delivers a delightful, rippling “The Very Thought of You” and a tender “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” Again veering from the jazz path, Falbo delivers an “Ave Maria” of incandescent beauty and, with her fellow members of the Lakeside Singers, erects a towering “Oh, Happy Day” that rivals anything Aretha Franklin has done.