When New York-born, London-settled vocalist Joy Marshall died in November 1968, her obituaries unsurprisingly concentrated on the salacious aspects of her death, which in retrospect, seemed all but inevitable considering the fast lane in which she lived her life. But today, with decades having passed, one can more fairly evaluate Marshall’s career solely on her art. Based on the upcoming release due May 18 from Cherry Red’s Turtle imprint of When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions from The Gordon Beck Quartet featuring Marshall, she was a vocalist with which to be reckoned. It doesn’t hurt that she was backed by the impeccable group of pianist Beck, bassist Jeff Clyne, drummer Tony Oxley, and guitarist John McLaughlin. The 16 tracks on this splendid collection are all previously unreleased, making it a must-have for enthusiasts of both jazz and the classic tradition of vocal pop. It’s particularly enjoyable to hear Oxley and McLaughlin, known for free jazz and fusion, respectively, to fit so comfortably and intuitively into the roles of vocal accompanists.
A previous solo set from Marshall, 1965’s Who Says They Don’t Write Good Songs Anymore on Decca (and still in need of a CD reissue) held up Bacharach and David, Jobim, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Goffin and King, The Beatles, and Tony Hatch as proof that they most certainly do still write good songs; though considerably more jazz-oriented, this set (primarily from April 1968) has enough pop flavor to continue on from that LP. Gordon Beck was no stranger to pop. The Quartet’s 1967 Experiments with Pops LP itself featured covers of the day’s hits like “Good Vibrations” and “Up, Up and Away.”
Throughout the long-unheard tracks on When Sunny Gets Blue, the saucy and sultry Marshall dominates the proceedings. She proves herself to be a versatile vocalist equally comfortable with standards, pop and soul, and brings to mind the style of Nancy Wilson, a legendary lady who also traversed those genres with aplomb. There’s plenty of soul not just on a reading of Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood,” but also an urgent “Come Back to Me” from Broadway’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and a classy “Goin’ Out of My Head.” Marshall, possessed of a distinctively raspy sound, is beautifully controlled on Luis Bonfá’s “The Gentle Rain” and happily effervescent on Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s “He Loves Me.” Bobby Hebb’s instant standard “Sunny” is rendered with a gentle lilt and bounce, while Roberto Menescal’s “Telephone Song” has just the right amount of insouciance.
Like Marshall’s vocals, the Quartet’s contributions are completely in service of the song. Flashy pyrotechnics are absent. Clyne’s bass anchors and drives the performances. Everything’s very suitable for a supper club, yet that’s precisely what these songs call for. Four songs from a March 1968 studio session have been appended including a delightful rendition of Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller’s theme to television’s Bewitched, a splendid, bossa-tinged take on “What Kind of Fool Am I,” a touching “Blame It on My Youth,” and brisk “On a Clear Day” with a standout solo from McLaughlin and equally powerful work from Oxley. For its final three tracks, the clock is turned back to April 1966 for another performance of “Bewitched,” a fine, introspective interpretation of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s “My Ship” from the musical Lady in the Dark; and “Make Someone Happy,” spotlighting Beck’s fleet touch on the keys. (On these latter three tracks, Beck and Marshall are supported by Clyne and drummer Johnny Rutts.)
When Sunny Gets Blue is a fine exploration of the intersection of jazz, pop, and soul, from a tortured but talented lead singer and a prodigiously gifted quartet. (Note that Gordon Beck’s work has also been explored by Turtle on the 3-CD box set Jubilation!) Simon Murphy has handled the mastering, and Simon Spillett has written the liner notes. The 16-page booklet is housed in a sleeve within the attractive digipak. This collection will be available next Friday, May 18, from Cherry Red/Turtle. Pre-orders are open now at the links below!
- Come Back to Me
- Dr. Feelgood
- Gentle Rain
- He Loves Me
- Peel Me a Grape
- Telephone Song
- Goin’ Out of My Head
- When Sunny Gets Blue
- What Kind of Fool Am I
- Blame It on My Youth
- On a Clear Day
- My Ship
- Make Someone Happy
All tracks previously unreleased.
Tracks 14-16 by The Gordon Beck Trio with Joy Marshall