Valerie Carr ‘Song Stylist Extraordinaire’ / ‘Ev’ry Hour, Ev’ry Day of My Life’ (Jasmine) 3/5

A new name to many, and even to those alive at the time of her popularity, singer Valerie Carr remains something of an enigma. She fits into the one-hit wonder category when she scored a late 1950s pop hit on the Billboard top twenty chart with, ‘When the boys talk about the girls’, a song which the Shirelles revisited in 1966. This song intriguingly is not included here, but the two albums, originally on the Roulette label (a label that included both Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington) both date from 1959 and were co-produced by Hugo Creatore and Hugo Peretti. They come across as an attempt to attract a wider audience, much like Julie London, but minus the jazzy accompaniment that London often had to support her.
Carr’s easy listening sound, which is not dissimilar to a young Dionne Warwick, tackles an essentially standard repertoire that includes bizarrely, ‘Try a little tenderness’. That interpretation makes for a comparison with the altogether grittier Stax soul of Otis Redding. Her voice is best sampled on the ballad repertoire such as, ‘Over the rainbow’. What is lacking here is any genuine element of swing and that is best exemplified on her reading of Duke Ellington’s, ‘I got it bad and that ain’t good’, with syrupy strings dominating proceedings.

While there is no doubting the vocal credentials of Valerie Carr, the Hollywood-esque orchestrations are a little hard to take in long doses, and one only wishes Carr had chosen different producers and ones who could have set her in a more pared down environment with jazz musicians. Historical overview notes are written by Soul Basement writer David Cole.

Tim Stenhouse