from Funny Face to Eloise
Think Pink! CD
Kay Thompson
Huffington Post Review by David Finkle When Liza Minnelli talks about her performing style and the woman who’s had the most influence on it, she doesn’t mention mom Judy Garland—even though it’s clear the mater helped shape her powerful techniques. No, she cites Kay Thompson, who is probably remembered today, if and when she is, for creating Eloise, the lovably spoiled brat who ran wild in the Plaza Hotel long before it was turned into the residential edifice it is now. But Thompson was more than the lady who dreamed up Eloise, giving the tyke a name taken from Catherine Louise Fink, the moniker Thompson was born with and dropped when she skipped her St. Louis birthplace and headed for Hollywood to make a reputation—not as the classically trained musician she was but in the world of popular singing. And did she make that reputation! By 1943, she was heading the vocal department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where she remained until 1947, when she left to put together a night-club act so ground-breaking that entertainers are still modeling their outings after her without realizing to whom they owe credit. One who does know from where she gets her “bazazz”—a word Thompson coined for a song she wrote with Ralph “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” Blane—is the above-mentioned Minnelli, whose recent world tour culminated in Liza's at the Palace. The breathlessly ebullient singer devoted the second half of her show to recreating Thompson arrangements. And she surrounded herself with four men (Jim Caruso, Johnny Rodgers, Cortés Alexander, Tiger Martina) standing in for Thompson's accomplices, The Williams Brothers (Dick, Don, Bob and, yes, Andy). The act—which received wide-spread coverage, including Life at a time when everyone read the mag—demonstrated to ring-siders what movie-goers may not have realized from Thompson’s work with MGM stars like Garland, June Allyson, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and many others (some dubbed): The inventive lady was—and remains—one of the greatest vocal arrangers who ever took on a standard and revitalized it or an incipient standard and vitalized it. Thompson died in 1998 and so isn’t here to recreate the act, and Minnelli wasn’t able to run though everything Thompson ever recorded. Never mind. Much of what Thompson did record from the late thirties on has been collected by Sepia for a three-CD collection, Think Pink!—the tag a reference most fans of movie musicals will instantly recognize as the title song long-time associates Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe wrote for her to give a typically exhilarating lift in the 1957 Funny Face, where she shared screen-time with Astaire and Audrey Hepburn (doing her own warbling.) The release is a must-have for anyone claiming to be interested in first-rate singing, first-rate songs and first-rate arrangements. It may be the last of the three elements for which Thompson most deserves to be cherished. A familiar voice in the 30’s, Thompson infused her interpretations with cheer and passion—listen to her take on “These Are the Things I Love,” which seems to be plucked from a radio performance—but it is what she does when she’s upbeat that electrifies. As if to underscore the brass in her, there are almost always busy brass flourishes. If there is one quintessential Thompson arrangement, it may be the one she and the Williams Brothers blare on Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things”—which has to be heard to be believed. The liberties Thompson takes with the words and the music are presumptuous, cheeky. Where Porter writes “just one of those fabulous flights,” Thompson—always happy to throw in some franglais and even something Latinate—sings, “oh, quelle fabuli nights.” Behind her, the Williamses have been strenuously intoning “things, things, things.” At one and the same time, the bongo-driven cut is—like so many of the cuts here—outrageous, irresistible, bracing, hilarious. (If Porter’s reaction when he heard it—and he surely did—is logged anywhere, it’s not available to me, but he had to love it.) Of the 75—count ‘em, 75—tracks that Sepia incorporates (much of it from, apparently, the collections of Michael Feinstein and Sam Irvin), there are any number that cause ears to sit up and say howdy. There’s Thompson auditioning “Think Pink” with Roger Edens at the piano. There’s Thompson singing “The Trolley Song” with Conrad Salinger's movie arrangement on a 1944 Texaco Star Theater radio edition. There’s Thompson singing “In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down)” with Garland, a Harry Warren-Johnny Mercer song used in The Harvey Girls (1946). Other guests vibrating are Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Tony Martin, Peter Lorre and Ann Miller singing and tapping out “Madame Crematante,” the Garland turn from the 1946 Ziegfeld Follies. How influential was Kay Thompson? Try imagining MGM musicals without her? Can’t be done.
THINK PINK! A KAY THOMPSON PARTY SEPIA 1135 CD #1 "The Studio Recordings"   22 Tracks CD #2 "Rarities and Live Performances"   28 Tracks CD #3 "Demos, Covers, Comedy, and Eloise"   25 Tracks Track list Order Think Pink! at Order Think Pink! at Sepia Records
Think Pink! Think Pink! Think Pink!
THINK PINK! A KAY THOMPSON PARTY While researching and writing the book Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise  (Simon & Schuster), author Sam Irvin produced the acclaimed 3-CD compilation, Think Pink! A Kay Thompson Party (Sepia Records). The CD set is a 75 track celebration of Kay's music and comedy that comes with a 24-page booklet featuring 20 photographs and extensive annotations by Irvin. What are people saying? "Well this has to be the treasure of the year!" – Rex Reed "'Think Pink' is about as exciting as a gift to me can be. All my favorites are there - and, mirabile dictu, 'Love' and 'Trolley!'  I thought Kay sang 'Love' better than Lena or Judy; I was nervous about whether she could bring that last note off, but she did with flying colors." – Hugh Martin, composer of "Love" and "The Trolley Song"   “Once you’ve finished reading Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise, the next logical step is to purchase Sam Irvin’s three-CD tribute to Kay. It’s filled with rare recordings from every phase of her career. Consider it a must.” – Leonard Maltin "This three-CD set is a Kay Thompson party indeed." – Steven Suskin, Playbill "Quel bazazz! This one has me reaching for my French Roget's for every single synonym for 'fabulous' that there is, i.e. fabuleux, formidable, sensationnel… and you can quote me." – Bill Reed, People vs. Dr. Chilledair "You'll shout Hallelujah at the prospect of this fabulous, beautifully produced deluxe 3-CD set. At last this amazing talent is receiving the 'four-star-able, Harpers-Bazaar- able' tribute she deserves." – Catherine Surowiec, "Don't miss this tremendous celebration." – Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer
All Music Review by William Ruhlmann Although the 50-year copyright limit on recordings in Europe has resulted in many shoddy unlicensed reissues of popular recordings still in print in their legitimate versions, it also allows fans and collectors to assemble and present valuable rare and out of print material that the major labels have buried in their vaults and are likely never to unearth again. A good example is this, British reissue label Sepia Records' Think Pink! A Kay Thompson Party. Thompson (1909-1998) is a legend, even though she was not a star, her  many accomplishments including authoring the series of children's books about Eloise, the precocious six-year-old who roams the halls of the Plaza Hotel; coaching Judy Garland and others for their singing in MGM movie musicals of the '40s; and headlining an  acclaimed, but little documented nightclub act with the Williams Brothers (including a young Andy Williams) in the late '40s and early  '50s. She also made studio recordings sporadically, among them a 1955 LP for MGM Records called Kay Thompson Sings, as well as appearing extensively on radio during its heyday and, occasionally, on TV and in films. Such sources, plus private recordings, have been compiled by Thompson's biographer Sam Irvin for this collection, which, astonishingly, is a three-and-a-half-hour triple-CD set. And, at that, it isn't even complete; it deliberately picks up the Thompson story where an earlier collection, 2003's The Queen of Swing Vocals & Her Rhythm Singers, issued by Baldwin Street Music, left off in the late '30s, then follows her to the end of the '50s. It does so non-chronologically, instead grouping the three discs into themes: CD one is “The Studio Recordings”; CD two “Rarities and Live Performances”; and CD three “Demos, Covers, Comedy, and Eloise.” As such, the most conventional Kay Thompson comes at the start, with ten of the 12 tracks from Kay Thompson Sings (the other two are novelties held for the third CD), which make her seem to be a good interpretive traditional pop singer of the '50s in the mold of, say, Peggy Lee. Other tracks culled from singles reinforce this impression until the end of the disc, which contains excerpts from Thompson's one big featured role in a movie musical, 1957's Funny Face, in which she held her own against Fred Astaire. The second disc begins with an attempt to re-create what a nightclub performance by Thompson and the Williams Brothers might have been like, using some of their few recordings and airchecks. As the disc goes on, it moves backwards in time to the late '30s, emphasizing Thompson's abilities as a vocal arranger, then back up to the  mid-'40s, with some examples of her work at MGM. The third disc is of course a miscellany, even including songs written by but not  featuring Thompson, such as an Ann Miller version of what is here called "Madame Crematante" (although it has also been called  "The Interview" and "A Great Lady Has an Interview"), a piece of special material performed by Judy Garland in the 1946 movie  Ziegfeld Follies. Thompson's comic acting abilities are on display in airchecks featuring Bing Crosby and Peter Lorre, but nothing prepares the listener for her several performances as Eloise herself toward the end, before the proceedings end with a flurry of holiday music. More than a third of the 75 tracks here are previously unreleased on disc, and even most of the released ones are being retrieved from obscure records. This remarkable collection confirms Thompson's talents as an influential singer, songwriter, and arranger who helped shape 20th century popular music and had a lot of fun doing so, and it should go a long way toward enhancing her reputation.
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