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  1. #1

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    Sometimes a thing looks good on paper, but though you try you can't make yourself like it---like certain singers, even ones you know are great. Sometimes you can put your finger on why, sometimes not. The following are credible, even wonderful singers whose work I just can't seem to embrace:

    Billy Eckstine: I guess b/c he takes the same approach, with that wide vibrato, on every song, and it always seems to be more about him than the song. I have the guilties about this b/c he was an early champion of bebop with a great band---that he subsidized with his 'pop' vocals.

    Mel Torme': a fabulous singer, musician and songwriter. I always found him a bit corny on the swing numbers, especially scatting. Like his ballads very much, though.

    Bob Dorough: this kills me to say, b/c we recently lost him, and I've performed with him and he liked one of my songs. A great guy. I found that he didn't have much range, technically or emotionally. When he recorded some fine duets with Blossom Dearie to me she came off the way better singer. Wonderful songwriter, though (Love Came on Stealthy Fingers, for one).

    Nobody shoot me please! I respect and admire all of these folks. It's just that...

    Maybe others here have similar quirky opinions of fine singers? And let's be nice! Just respectfully state the singer and your reasons, please---OK?

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  3. #2
    Al Jarreau (sp?) totally surprised me when I heard his first record from '64---no overdone craziness. He really had a unique sound and vision. I'm just not in love with where he took it sometimes...

  4. #3

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    I want to like Joe Williams more. I love his deep voice--what an instrument. But on most songs he just doesn't let loose the way I expect him to. A lot of the songs of his that show up on jazz shows on the radio just aren't great songs.

    Somebody point me to a GREAT Joe Williams album. I'd love to find out I've been missing something.

    Vocals are definitely a case of to each his own. I love Lucinda Williams for instance and my girlfriend can't stand her. C'est la vie.
    Last edited by Doctor Jeff; 02-11-2020 at 03:38 PM.

  5. #4
    Cher: never took her seriously as a singer, as an actress any day. In fact, I disliked tremendously---anything you could name---about her singing. Then I heard her sing Alfie, and she shocked me. I love that---being proved wrong. Video to follow
    Last edited by joelf; 02-11-2020 at 03:57 PM.

  6. #5
    The key's a bit high for her, she's straining a bit---but what a belter! And I never could feature Hal David's pop fluff, glossy lyrics. I always thought Bacharach deserved a better lyricist. But that's a minority opinion, I know---the vox populi has spoken...

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    I want to like Joe Williams more. I love his deep voice--what an instrument. But on most songs he just doesn't let loose the way I expect him to. A lot of the songs of his that show up on jazz shows on the radio just aren't great songs.Somebody point me to a GREAT Joe Williams album. I'd love to find out I've been missing something.Vocals are definitely a case of to each his own. I love Lucinda Williams for instance and my girlfriend can't stand her. C'est la vie.
    I always dug his restraint, especially on blues. Where's it written that blues singers have to scream and shout? He zigged where others zagged, and I can dig that. Reminds me of Ahmad Jamal's Night Mist Blues: it lends a jazz sophistication and lightness to a form that's as malleable as Silly Putty...

  8. #7

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    Well I'm contradicting myself, cause here are some of his great songs...



    "There ain't nothing in Chicago for a monkey woman to do..."



    From the Judy Garland show...


  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff
    Somebody point me to a GREAT Joe Williams album. I'd love to find out I've been missing something.
    I'm fond of this one.


  10. #9

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    couldn't disagree more about hal david...one of my fave lyricists..so simple but great...like chuck berry...deceptively simple but with cleverness

    cher aint no dionne...(she'd probably be first to admit! she was great in moonstruck tho!!)



    cheers

    ps- i'll up the stakes...i'm no fan of sinatra...the jersey accent..ugh..i'll take dino or tony bennet over him anyday

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    couldn't disagree more about hal david...one of my fave lyricists..so simple but great...like chuck berry...deceptively simple but with cleverness

    cher aint no dionne...(she'd probably be first to admit! she was great in moonstruck tho!!)



    cheers

    ps- i'll up the stakes...i'm no fan of sinatra...the jersey accent..ugh..i'll take dino or tony bennet over him anyday
    David is a fine craftsman---like the Bergmans, who I also don't love. But IMO he nearly ruined a masterpiece---A House is Not a Home---with lines like 'But it's all a crazy game', and 'no one there to hold you tight...'. Just not my cup of tea, and why bother with people like Joni Mitchell or so many others around---others who don't 'do' gloss? I know it's a different kind of thing. He does what he does very well, but it's very candy cane to me...

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    cher aint no dionne...(she'd probably be first to admit! she was great in moonstruck tho!!)
    All I meant was that she surprised me. Better than I'd thought, that's all...

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    All I meant was that she surprised me. Better than I'd thought, that's all...
    no aspersions cast!!! i like cher on certain tunes too..important part of early la scene...she had hits for decades!!!...

    but dionne!! haha

    one of my fave bacharach/david tunes-

    here as done (early on) by a celebrated wordsmith himself


    i just don't know what to do with myself- as done by elvis costello (& he's no dionne either!! haha)



    cheers
    Last edited by neatomic; 02-11-2020 at 10:20 PM.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    no aspersions cast!!! i like cher on certain tunes too..important part of early la scene...she had hits for decades!!!...

    but dionne!! haha

    one of my fave bacharach/david tunes- as done (early on) by a celebrated wordsmith himself


    i just don't know what to do with myself- as done by elvis costello (& he's no dionne either!! haha)

    I
    cheers
    I just don't know---this song. Really, hadn't even heard of it.

    I guess you have to evaluate these kind of lyrics differently than you would the so-called 'conversational' lyricists like Joni. They give themselves wider berth, and pure hit-making pop writers have to be tight and say it in under 3 minutes. That takes discipline and sweat. I thought Goffin-King were terrific, and Paul Simon a putz for saying Carole King's lyrics 'make me think of toast' after they started together in the biz in the Brill building years before. He's a brilliant writer, though---musically, too. How does he come up with some of those progressions? Wow.

    Do you know Teddy Randazzo? Goin;' Out of My Head and some things for Sinatra. He was quite an amazing talent---I heard some of his home studio recordings. I never met him, but he studied with my teacher John Foca (wanted to learn theory and the classics), and my friend Ralph was living, I think, in a house in back of his. He got to know Teddy.

  15. #14

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    I do like Dorough, though his singing isn't your traditional type, great musician however.
    Can't say I'm a big fan of Costello though he's a very good writer. I like his wife's piano playing ok, but her singing, meh.
    Anita O'day doesn't float my dingy either, though I do really like some female big band singers like Doris Day, Jo Stafford, June Christy, etc.

  16. #15
    I don't know Elvis Costello's work too much. I should catch up---a lot of good people respect him.

    I didn't love Almost Blue. Thought the lyric gimmicky and there are way better tunes of that type. It was a comedown for Chet, I thought.

    But I probably missed the good stuff. Such as?

  17. #16
    Betty Carter is an acquired taste for some. I've acquired it. Her tone is as unique as any instrumentalist's. She grew from the days of the Ray Charles pairing---which was great. I didn't love all the later quirks, but she was in total control, a chance-taker, developer of talent in her bands---and started a record company.

    And the record with Carmen was divine...

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    Betty Carter is an acquired taste for some. I've acquired it. Her tone is as unique as any instrumentalist's. She grew from the days of the Ray Charles pairing---which was great. I didn't love all the later quirks, but she was in total control, a chance-taker, developer of talent in her bands---and started a record company.

    And the record with Carmen was divine...
    Yes, great lp w Carmen, though I've yet to hear a bad Mcrae recording. Everyone points to the Charles/Carter pairing but she was making waves at least 6 yrs earlier.
    Check out her '58 recording "Out There" big band w Melba Liston arrangements
    Also happens to have very cool cover art.

  19. #18

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    p.s. first saw Betty performing at the foot of the steps of the Phila Museum of Art (you know, the "Rocky" steps)
    She had an 11 yr old organist in her band sitting on a pile of phone books on the bench that stole the show....a certain Mr Joey Defrancesco

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    p.s. first saw Betty performing at the foot of the steps of the Phila Museum of Art (you know, the "Rocky" steps)
    She had an 11 yr old organist in her band sitting on a pile of phone books on the bench that stole the show....a certain Mr Joey Defrancesco
    So you're from here?

  21. #20

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    i'm not huge elvis costello fan...if anything i liked his early first few punk-ish records way more than his later adult singer songwriter type statements...and havent really listened to him in decades...

    but


    he wrote/cut great one..shipbuilding...with chet baker on trumpet...chet walks the tightrope..but treads ever so sweetly...(despite the rest of the instruments then "modern" production!)



    i know this thread is about popular singers who don't ring your bell

    but many don't care for chet bakers vocals

    to which i present..

    his scatting is amazing!!..you may not like his timbre but his phrasing is 100%...beyond!



    and great doug raneys rolled back tone and nhops precise bass..what a trio!!!!

    an album every jazz lover should hear!!

    cheers

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    i'm not huge elvis costello fan...if anything i liked his early first few punk-ish records way more than his later adult singer songwriter type statements...and havent really listened to him in decades...

    but


    he wrote/cut great one..shipbuilding...with chet baker on trumpet...chet walks the tightrope..but treads ever so sweetly...(despite the rest of the instruments then "modern" production!)



    i know this thread is about popular singers who don't ring your bell

    but many don't care for chet bakers vocals

    to which i present..

    his scatting is amazing!!..you may not like his timbre but his phrasing is 100%...beyond!



    and great doug raneys rolled back tone and nhops precise bass..what a trio!!!!

    an album every jazz lover should hear!!

    cheers
    dig it NA, bought that when it came out, and most of the other Steeplechase Baker records.
    I know some don't dig Chet's singing but they're in the minority.
    His scat singing was superb too, but tone aside I feel his trumpet playing was at his peak towards the end and that's saying something in my book.

  23. #22

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    to me betty carter has always been about louie A...she almost invokes him physically when she sings!!

    cheers

  24. #23

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    I saw Bob Dorough live at the Phil Woods Memorial Concert in East Stroudsburg PA. I couldn't wait until he got off the stage. I know he's done some great things in what was the music biz (Spanky and Our Gang), but I couldn't take that twangy effing voice he had.
    Thank God they had Houston Person on after BD. That was the real schlitz...Accompanied by Bill Mays with Phil's rhythm section...

  25. #24
    Didn't know about Spanky and Our Gang. I dig Bob. He had limitations and worked within them. He did have style, class and wit. Great guy, too.

    On the Eddie Diehl tribute recording I made the last track after we play duets is Eddie, Bob, and Bill Takas, live from a defunct bistro, Zinno, spanking Buzzy for a nice long while. Bob fared nicely as pianist...

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    i know this thread is about popular singers who don't ring your bell

    but many don't care for chet bakers vocals

    to which i present..

    his scatting is amazing!!..you may not like his timbre but his phrasing is 100%...beyond!
    I loved Chet's singing.
    He seemed to always want to make the lyric live. I am drawn to such singers. (Some singers, esp jazz singers, are technically dazzling to the point that, like some horn players, they think everything is a frame for their self-indulgent soloing / scatting. I am less drawn to those...)

  27. #26

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    I have very few singers who I flat out don't get into, but I also have very few that I really like too, if that makes sense?

  28. #27

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    I have been listening to Julie London quite a bit lately. From what I have heard it seems she always found great guitar players.

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    (Some singers, esp jazz singers, are technically dazzling to the point that, like some horn players, they think everything is a frame for their self-indulgent soloing / scatting. I am less drawn to those...)
    Yeah. That was sort of my beef and point about Eckstine. He certainly didn't do all that, but it was always more about his voice and vibratoed style than the song.

    A song is a mini-drama. It takes hours of sweat and rewrites to get every brick and mortar in place. If a singer is confident in his/her creativity, craft, style, etc. they only have to present the song. Their stamp is on it anyway---no filigree or pyrotechnics needed. But I enjoy other approaches, too---don't get me wrong. Good is good, and we can enjoy and learn from anyone good.

    Ella Fitzgerald has been accused of showboating and not 'understanding' the lyrics she sang. What malarkey! She had the chops and dimension to go anywhere, so why not? And the emotional range was wide. She can bring tears on ballads, and if that's 'not understanding' a lyric Lord let me not understand too...

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    Sometimes a thing looks good on paper, but though you try you can't make yourself like it---like certain singers, even ones you know are great. Sometimes you can put your finger on why, sometimes not. The following are credible, even wonderful singers whose work I just can't seem to embrace:

    Billy Eckstine: I guess b/c he takes the same approach, with that wide vibrato, on every song, and it always seems to be more about him than the song. I have the guilties about this b/c he was an early champion of bebop with a great band---that he subsidized with his 'pop' vocals.

    Mel Torme': a fabulous singer, musician and songwriter. I always found him a bit corny on the swing numbers, especially scatting. Like his ballads very much, though.

    Bob Dorough: this kills me to say, b/c we recently lost him, and I've performed with him and he liked one of my songs. A great guy. I found that he didn't have much range, technically or emotionally. When he recorded some fine duets with Blossom Dearie to me she came off the way better singer. Wonderful songwriter, though (Love Came on Stealthy Fingers, for one).

    Nobody shoot me please! I respect and admire all of these folks. It's just that...

    Maybe others here have similar quirky opinions of fine singers? And let's be nice! Just respectfully state the singer and your reasons, please---OK?
    Bob Dorough was more about his sense of humor and quirkiness than about him really being a singer, or at least that's the way he struck me. I saw him at Bradleys a bunch of times, and love what he did with Schoolhouse Rock, but I don't think I've listened to his actual records. I guess I feel the opposite of you about Blossom Dearie -- there's a twee cutseyness to her that I don't much care for.

    The one singer who towers above all others in my reverse-pantheon of oh-my-god-I-can't-stand-it-ness is Whitney Houston. To me, she's just yelling, not singing. I fully acknowledge that others feel very differently, though, and wouldn't try to talk anyone into agreeing with me.

    John

  31. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    The one singer who towers above all others in my reverse-pantheon of oh-my-god-I-can't-stand-it-ness is Whitney Houston. To me, she's just yelling, not singing.John
    I don't know her work enough to comment. I sure don't love screaming generally---unless there's a musical reason to be that dramatic. James Brown can do it at song peaks. He doesn't do it throughout. There's always a good reason, and it's well-placed, like in Please, Please, Please. You know it's coming, and that's half the fun.

    I'm surprised to hear this about Whitney. She comes from good stock: mother Cissy is a gospel singer, and still around, I believe. I'm sure Whitney got started singing in the church as a child, then we know she turned pro pretty young. (Maybe those 'habits' influenced her musical decisions for the worse?) I'll have to listen and decide about the screaming...

  32. #31
    No screaming here, maybe a bit dramatic---but it's a movie scene, a commercial one made to tug at the heartstrings perhaps in a cheap way, and a dramatic song. What an instrument! I can hear the possibilities, and I bet she dialed it back on other material...


  33. #32
    I listened to a few of Whitney's ballads to see what she did. I agree with John. Maybe not yelling, but certainly overwrought. I couldn't get through the last ones. What a shame, b/c she was obviously very, very gifted. Probably got bad advice from 'friends', especially on material. The songs I heard were instantly forgettable. It's a sad story from every angle, especially the one where you peep that it could have, should have been artistically way different...

  34. #33

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    But isn’t that the same with most pop singers nowadays when they sing anything resembling a ballad? Even the ones with good voices often end up shouting or over-emoting by the end of the song.

  35. #34

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    gals like Patti Labelle, Whitney, Mariah Carey, Christiana Aguilera, etc are all part of the "vocal gymnastic" singers so prevalent nowadays.
    listen to the average modern performance of the national anthem, flourish city...

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanielleOM
    I have been listening to Julie London quite a bit lately. From what I have heard it seems she always found great guitar players.
    I love Julie's voice. It's good to know the greats were also mortal: here are outtakes from a failed recording of "The Man I Love." LANGUAGE ALERT: lots of cursing.


  37. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    But isn’t that the same with most pop singers nowadays when they sing anything resembling a ballad? Even the ones with good voices often end up shouting or over-emoting by the end of the song.
    Probably, and they doubtless are pressured by record companies to do it. Sell, sell, sell. They don't wanna lost the gig, let's face it...

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    gals like Patti Labelle, Whitney, Mariah Carey, Christiana Aguilera, etc are all part of the "vocal gymnastic" singers so prevalent nowadays.
    listen to the average modern performance of the national anthem, flourish city...
    I wouldn't put Patti LaBelle in that category.

    John

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    No screaming here, maybe a bit dramatic---but it's a movie scene, a commercial one made to tug at the heartstrings perhaps in a cheap way, and a dramatic song. What an instrument! I can hear the possibilities, and I bet she dialed it back on other material...

    No, almost never dialed it back, which is basically what I'm talking about. I agree, great instrument (good way of putting it), but I never cared for the way she used it. Also, the material absolutely stunk, but I don't think she had much to do with picking it. Old school soul/R&B is probably my favorite form of singing, and there are many shouters, belters, etc., whom I love, but there has to be contrast and subtlety along with the pyrotechnics.

    John

  40. #39
    Loudness is a big part of our world. The arts often chronicle the times they exist in.

    These days especially it takes courage for a vocalist with a big deal recording contract to stand up to pressure to be a loud gymnast. Sensitivity and mature restraint are not the way of the world. I'm not making excuses for anyone here. You make your bed and lie in it. And the companies themselves are worried as hell, fearing extinction in the wake of free digital music everywhere. The pressure to sell according to what the market research people tell them works has increased geometrically---and it's applied directly to the artists.

    Not that it's anything new: imagine what Lester Young went through introducing a non-gruff sound and a storytelling approach to a jazz world that largely was not doing that...
    Last edited by joelf; 02-12-2020 at 06:48 PM.

  41. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Also, the material absolutely stunk, but I don't think she had much to do with picking it.John
    Exactly what I said (see above)...

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    Exactly what I said (see above)...
    Yeah, I think our comments crossed in the mail, as it were.

    John

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    I wouldn't put Patti LaBelle in that category.

    John

    Oh she's a gymnast alright, she pioneered it. listen to something more current than Lady Marmalade

  44. #43

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    Ella Fitzgerald. Sad to say since she's a great musician. Sometimes it just sounds too perfect though. That said I would take her over many many others.

    Diana Krall. I guess I never totally understood what the big deal was.

  45. #44

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    Regarding vocalists that I really DO like, I went to see Tony Bennett at the Durham Performing Arts Center (Durham NC) this past Sunday. It's amazing that at 93 years old, he's still touring and performing at the level he does. He's a class act and truly an inspiration! In his quartet, is guitarist Gray Sargeant who's playing I really enjoyed as well.
    Last edited by RobbieAG; 02-13-2020 at 04:07 PM.

  46. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by RobbieAG
    Regarding vocalists that I really DO like, I went to see Tony Bennett and the Durham Performing Arts Center (Durham NC) this past Sunday. It's amazing that at 93 years old, he's still touring and performing at the level he does. He's a class act and truly an inspiration! In his quartet, is guitarist Ray Sargeant who's playing I really enjoyed as well.
    Gray Sargeant. No biggie...

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf
    Gray Sargeant. No biggie...
    Fixed.

  48. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by arielcee
    Ella Fitzgerald. Sad to say since she's a great musician. Sometimes it just sounds too perfect though.
    That reminds me of what Lou Levy said about Stan Getz: 'If Stan has a flaw, it's that he's flawless'.

    A perfect technique can lead to glibness and if that's all the person's got...

    Ella moves me with ballads. Her technique disappears and I hear the emotion, the sadness. She gets a bad rap: 'she doesn't understand the lyrics she's singing'---some critic. What rot! Listen to Every Time We Say Goodbye from the Cole Porter Songbook and tell me you don't hear the heartbreak (I don't mean you)...

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    about Blossom Dearie -- there's a twee cutseyness to her that I don't much care for.

    The one singer who towers above all others in my reverse-pantheon of oh-my-god-I-can't-stand-it-ness is Whitney Houston. To me, she's just yelling, not singing. I fully acknowledge that others feel very differently, though, and wouldn't try to talk anyone into agreeing with me.
    Blossom never shied away from the girlish timbre in her voice, and she certainly played it up heavily on mid-tempo and up-tempo numbers. But on slow numbers, while the girlishness is there, I find her delivery surprisingly erotic. "Someone to Watch Over Me" is sort of the epitome of this, but even "Surrey with the Fringe on Top", which has a lot of cutesy Oscar Hammerstein lines, is pretty sexy to me. When she bears down on a lower note in her range, all of a sudden she sounds very adult, and sometimes the hair stands up on the back of my neck. I like the contrast. I think she's like Chet--a singer with a relatively narrow range both in terms of actual pitches and in terms of the kind of material she can pull off. Both are twee, no doubt. Blossom's a bit more of an actor behind the mic than Chet.

    A drag queen used to live across the street from my apartment, and every Saturday she'd leave her windows open and crank Whitney Houston so loud you could hear it five blocks away. I got to know Whitney's thing very well. She's the ultimate school talent show singer.

    I wonder what people will think of Whitney in 100 years. And I wonder if she had come along 20 years earlier and been hooked up with writers like Bacharach and Van McCoy, if she would have made records that I would cherish. I might be able to tolerate the yelling if she had the Muscle Shoals rhythm section killing it behind her. And maybe their tastefulness as musicians would have rubbed off a bit.