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June Christy: The Song is You

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Technically speaking, June Christy’s singing, with its wavery intonation, stiff time, forced diction and hoarse timbre, left much to be desired. But her recordings, including the two albums combined in this reissue-The Song Is June (1958) and Off Beat (1960)-offered many compensations. Her choice of material was impeccable, a mixture of quality standards (“Nobody’s Heart,” “A Sleeping Bee”) and challenging new compositions (“Night Time Was My Mother,” “Out Of The Shadows,” “Somewhere If Not In Heaven.”) Christy’s blonde All-American good looks (bangs, ponytail) and cool delivery deceptively masked a melancholy sensibility drawn to dark, brooding ballads. Her six-album collaboration with arranger Pete Rugolo was mutually inspiring. Rugolo’s demanding charts-try identifying the time signature of “Off Beat”-featured rich orchestral textures and instruments rarely employed on jazz dates (French horns, harps, oboes), played by a galaxy of West Coast musicians, among them, Frank Rosolino, Bud Shank and her husband, Bob Cooper. Despite their vocal limitations, these performances are hauntingly expressive mementos of an artist who never gave less than her all, and is fondly remembered by a host of devotees.