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Nana Mouskouri: Nana Mouskouri in New York

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What a difference four decades, a superb producer and a savvy sound engineer make. Greek superstar Nana Mouskouri was already a well-established, multilingual success across most of continental Europe when, in 1962, Mercury invited her to New York to record her first full-length foray into American standards. The objective was clear: to see if Mouskouri’s tremendous overseas appeal could reverberate as strongly in the lucrative U.S. market.

Mercury honcho Irving Green sensibly placed her in the hugely capable hands of Quincy Jones, then the hippest young producer in the business. As luck would have it, the soundman on the sessions was another budding genius, Phil Ramone. Mouskouri’s spectacular, classically trained voiced presented no problem for Jones and Ramone. Though no jazz singer, she’d already proven herself handily dexterous with French, German and Greek pop tunes. The biggest hurdle was getting Mouskouri, whose English was rudimentary at best, inside the lyrics. As she reveals in the liner notes, “Quincy would correct my pronunciation very carefully. ‘Only if you pronounce the words correctly can you express real emotion.'” And, indeed, she is letter perfect. (Only on “I Get a Kick Out of You,” added here as a bonus track but not included on the original album, does she stumble, dramatically changing Cole Porter’s meaning when she misreads the first line as “I get a kick from champagne.”)

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