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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Dinah Washington

A Rockin' Good Way - Juke Box Pearls

Review by Gary Hill

This new release from Bear Family centers around an artist who was cited as the most popular black female artist of the 1950s. She tragically died in 1963 at the age of 39. She had a strong voice, although I'm not enthused about the amount of vibrato she uses. Then again, it was the style of the time. The music here is generally in the jazz and blues zone, but there is some variance. This is a strong release with some exceptional songs and none that are really full losers. As you expect with Bear Family the digipack is nice with a big booklet included. I'd consider it to be a good introduction to this vintage artist.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Dinah Washington & Brook Benton - A Rockin' Good Way
Strings bring this tune into being. The cut works out into a bouncy kind of contemporary pop sound with a playful duet.
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
Blues-based jazz is in the driver's seat on this thing. It's such a fun and classy romp. This is one of my favorite tunes on this disc.
Baby, Get Lost
A slower number, the jazz and blues are all over this one, too. It's another that just oozes class and style. It's another highlight.
New Blowtop Blues
This is a fun jazzy romp. I don't like it as much as I do the last couple, but it is a good time.
A Bad Case Of The Blues
A classic blues-based jazz arrangement is at the heart of this cut. I dig the guitar sounds on this. The string arrangement is not as successful, though. Still, this is good, just not a highlight.
Such A Night
A saxophone and backing vocals are the backdrop to the lead vocal on this cut. Those backing vocals have a real doo-wop thing going on. I'm not really a fan of this one.
T.V. Is The Thing (This Year)
More of a rock and roll meets jazz arrangement is on display here. This is one of the tunes that are solid, but not a real standout. It has some double-entendres to the lyrics.
Trouble In Mind
The horn solo section on this is all class. The tune is solid beyond that, but again not all that special. Still, it does have some classy flavor to it.
A Sunday Kind Of Love

An orchestral arrangement is at the heart of this balladic piece. This is definitely not my kind of thing.

Bad Luck
I'm not a fan of the jazz meets rock and roll sound on this tune, but the lead vocals manage to shine.
Dinah Washington as 'The Queen' - Honky Tonk
Now this jazz romp is so much fun. It's another highlight. As you might guess, it features some killer piano work.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
A torch song kind of piece, the arrangement is of the orchestral variety.
What A Diff'rence A Day Makes
With a similar sort of arrangement, this is the kind of pop music that was the style at the time. I'm not a big fan of this tune.
Dinah Washington & Brook Benton - Baby, You've Got What It Takes
There is a cool rock and roll groove at the heart of this tune. The duet has so much charm and magic. Some of the arrangement (for instance the doo wop vocals and the strings) don't work that well for me, but this song shines brightly despite those things.
Come On Home
Rock and roll guitar is matched with backing vocals and strings on the arrangement here. While the lead vocals and the guitar fills are strong, this tune doesn't work that well for me.
Early Every Morning
More of a bouncy rock and roller, this is a lot of fun.
Cry Me A River
There is a dramatic, dangerous sort of element to parts of this that make me think of James Bond music. The number is a potent ballad beyond that. The instrumental arrangement is orchestral, but also very powerful. This is one of the highlights of the disc.
I'm Thru With Love
This slow moving tune has a lot of emotion in it. I'm not crazy about the vocal choices at the end, though, and the string arrangement isn't an asset.
Everybody Loves Somebody
I bet pretty much everyone has heard this song in some for or another. This rendition is built around an orchestral arrangement. It works pretty well, but is definitely not a highlight.
I Don't Hurt Anymore
I dig the jazzy blues arrangement on this tune. It has a great groove and is packed full of style and charm. It's a potent tune.
Mean And Evil Blues
A classy piano line brings this into being. The vocals and other instruments join in a fun jazz arrangement. I really love the instrumental break on this cut. I'd consider this song to be one of the highlights of the disc.
Lingering
A mellower cut, this is a jazz ballad. The arrangement is a little too precious for my tastes, but it works reasonably well.
Ask A Woman Who Knows

Not a big change from the previous tune, this might be a bit more effective.

Relax Max
This has a cool groove to it. It's energetic and fun. It's one of the highlights with a great jazz style.
September In The Rain
With an orchestral arrangement, this is more of a balladic tune. It's not really my thing, but it is pretty effective.
Mad About The Boy
I really like this a lot. The vocals make me think of Eartha Kitt a little, and in the best way. The jazz ballad approach is packed with magic, too.
Time After Time
Now, this doesn't work as well. The orchestral arrangement is too precious for my tastes, and the song just doesn't have enough meat on its bones to make up for it.
The Song Is Ended
This is a step up from the last one, but not a highlight. It works reasonably well, though.
Unforgettable
The vocals on this have too much vibrato for my tastes. The number is an old chestnut, but this is not my favorite version of it. Still, it has some charms.
 
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