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Friday, July 10, 2009

Nobody sings like Mama Cass

Today I am mainly listening to Mama Cass. There don't seem to be any voices that are lovely in the Mama Cass way anymore. I hear belters, divas, the peddlers of empty melisma, the ones who gargle to denote high emotion and faux-naïf pixies by the score, but I don't hear a woman with a voice that can make you sit up straight and take on the day with a smile on your face like Mama Cass did on "Getting Better".

Everybody has to convince us that they're mining some inexhaustible source of inner pain. There may well have been some of that going on with Mama Cass but she didn't let it show. The best thing a singer can do is make people feel better and the first person she needs to make feel better is herself. Nobody did that better than Mama Cass on "Getting Better". It's not perfect. It's got slight slips and even wanders off the note briefly. Nobody's gone back and fixed it. It's the sound of somebody making the best of things, which we don't hear often enough. And what a love song Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill provided her with. Few people can sing the word "groovy" without parenthesizing it. Mama Cass could. Just as great songwriters can pack a line with a lot of syllables great singers like Mama Cass manage to sound as if they're discovering that line for the first time. "Now there's something groovy and good 'bout whatever we've got". Indeed.