on February 2, 2008
The difference between the Puppini Sisters' albums is a contrast like night and day. You feel that the Sisters have really come into their own with this new work. They're still doing the clever covers of pop songs, like the driving Spooky (originally by the Classics IV) and the ethereal Could It Be Magic (wistful and heart rending in this version, quite a departure from Donna Summers' soft core porn '80s original), but have expanded their repertoir nicely with five original numbers. All five are real audience faves on the live circuit, and the one that stands out for me is And She Sang - pathos in a pretty dress. More thought provoking than their last album, it's dificult to imagine Ruby Woo as just background music. It's a slow burner that will stand the test of time - I highly recommend it.
on May 13, 2008
Responding to the reviewer who labeled this disc "dreck:" I'll say that he has a right to his opinion, of course, but I think he must not be listening to the radio. This new Puppini Sisters CD is much better than most of the REAL dreck being dribbled upon the airwaves. At least these women have personality and a recognizable sound. Most of the female vocalists these days sound just like each other, with all the rough edges smoothed out and any personal quirks removed. Their music is often just an exercise in vocal pyrotechnics with no real soul behind it. At least the Puppini Sisters have come up with their own sound.
Another reviewer described the Puppini's as "lifeless." Say, what? Was this CD actually listened to all the way through? This record fairly crackles with energy.
Still another listener complained that so many of theses songs were not recognizable. If the liner info had been read, it would have been noticed that several tracks are originals by each of the Puppini sisters. This fact alone makes this release more ambitious than the previous one was. And a couple of these originals do not disgrace themselves in the presence of the peerless Duke Ellington or John Barry and Hal David, also represented by songs on THE RISE & FALL OF RUBY WOO. Stephanie O'Brien's "Soho Nights" sounds like it was written sixty years ago, although the lyrics betray its modernity. It's a delightful little faux-Bohemian romp. Marcella Puppini's "Jilted" is a bit long for its limited, unoriginal idea, but it has a memorable melody. Another one of her songs, "And She Sang," is lots of fun, with its combination of Italian street café music and classical flourishes, punctuated with haunted house-evoking double bass and slide guitar. Kate Mullins' fine "It's Not Over (Death Or The Toy Piano)" reminds me a little of The Squirrel Nut Zippers, combining familiar-sounding music with an offbeat lyric and a darker mood.
As with BETCHA BOTTOM DOLLAR there's a willingness to play with more modern fare, and I don't mean just in retrofitting newer songs. The arrangements have been made appropriate to the songs, and one remembers the originals without automatically thinking of these new versions as just inferior covers; at least, that's my own experience. As the Sisters did with Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" on the previous release, they breathe a new and different light into songs from the '70's on up to our present time. The Bangles' "Walk Like An Egyptian," Beyonce's "Crazy In Love," and yes, you heard it right, Barry Manilow's "Could It Be Magic" are all unexpected choices. Although "Walk" is fun, it's not strong enough to give the original a run for its money. The other two are another story: I like them both much better than the authors' own recordings of them! Good covers should be different than than their previous, hit versions, and all of these arrangements fit that particular bill.
The instrumental backing throughout this record is even more accomplished and varied than on its predecessor. Once more, it's old-timey, but with a bit more emphasis on the drums and bass than one might hear in the late `30's and `40's. And there are some nice flavors of gypsy swing and touches of acoustic psychedelia provided by the odd toy piano, triangle and melodica. The sisters themselves, further enhancing their legitimacy as musicians, sometimes play these instruments and others, including accordion and violin.
Not everything works here, I should add, without dumping on this effort as a whole. "Spooky" disappointed me in its failure to BE spooky, although it's growing on me some. "We Have All The Time In the World" just can't hold a candle to the Louis Armstrong version, although it does capture a kind of dreaminess. Somehow, it lacks some of the energy the Puppini's usually deliver. Not surprisingly, the Duke Ellington track, "It Don't Mean A Thing..." is the least original performance, here. It's so like a dozen other recorded versions I've heard, and even still, the Sisters don't toss it off as though they're not all that interested. Once they've gotten the perfunctory part out of the way, they break the rhythm and launch into a slower improvisation, before returning to the swing portion, and inserting, just for kicks, a brief vocal lick from "Mambo Italiano."
Whatever its flaws, I give this CD four stars, and would add another half star if Amazon allowed it. The Puppini's should also be commended for being among the few acts reviving early jazz and swing styles that don't just present museum-quality copies. Rather, they update the music without disrespecting it. For me, this puts them in fine company with the Squirrel Nut's, Leon Redbone and Bob Brozman. Whenever The Sisters do try to sound just like voices from a bygone era, as they do on "Old Cape Cod," they produce a sonic glow of beauty and purity that I find hard to resist. Patti Page would have been proud!
In other reviews I read where Mercella Puppini, Kate Mullins and Stephanie O'Brien, the Puppini "Sisters" are only singing in a style already "done". As if today's talentless rappers and samplers had something original. So much of today's other music might be "original", but it's ugly, and the "artists" have nothing to say, nothing I want to hear.
What really compelling, what stands out with the Puppini's music is the level of devotion and craft, the years of practice it must have taken to be able to sing close Andrews Sisters harmonies with newer songs. It is so refreshing. Harmony - the lost art. Music, I learned at an early age is composed of three elements, Melody, rhythm and harmony!
There is a touch of tongue in cheek occationally, but that's part of the fun, that they don't take themselves too seriously. I like the funny, world-weary "Jilted" and "I Can't Believe I'm not a Millionaire" songs. (Me, too - if there were any justice in this cruel world...). "Old Cape Cod" is a wonderful copy of the fifties hit by Patti Page, hits me in the heart and takes me back the first time I heard Page. As is said elsewhere, much to "Ruby Woo" is not retro Andrews sisters songs, but original and new music given their treatment. Particularly sucessful in Andrews style is the bouncy Bangles hit "Walk Like an Egytian".
Luxuriate in the wonders of vocal harmony.
I like the three women as "temptresses" in colorful stockings and hell high heels on the cover (and more lingerie inside).
This music is infectiously fun, clever, retro and most important, full of real musicanship. The perfect cure for the gloom of The Great Recession.
Not a bad cut on the album.
for those who like harmony, the Ditty Bops are another girl group who remember how to sing it.
on May 27, 2008
I only recently head of the Puppini Sisters, but already I am a big fan.
While I did like their first effort (Betcha Bottom Dollar), they really take off with The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo [apparently the reference is to a particular shade of lipstick favored by the glam gal singers of yesteryear after whom they fashion themselves [read = Andrews Sisters], and which the three current ladies still wear].
Marcella Puppini, Stephanie O'Brien, and Kate Mullins (not real sisters, clearly) revisit old favorites, like "It Don't Mean A Thing [If It Ain't Got That Swing]", and "Old Cape Cod". They also tangle with established tunes, on which they place their distinctive mark ("Spooky", "Walk Like An Egyptian" --BRILLIANT, BTW--and "Could It Be Magic".)
But the trio really makes a splash with their original work on "Ruby Woo".
The peppy, delightfully dance-worthy "Soho Nights" stands out as a wonderful example of how the neo-swing sound has been captured by these songstresses. "I Can't Believe I'm Not A Millionaire" slides back to the early days of blues (Billie Holiday could have done it sixty years ago).
"And She Sang" incorporates their mellifluous harmonization to great effect, while "It's Not Over (Death or the Toy Piano" has a unique sound all its own, with the selfsame toy piano actually employed in the tune (!)
I love the Neo-Swing revival that burst into life in the late 1990s, its advent brought on by "Swingers" and such greats as the Cherry-Poppin' Daddies, Brian Setzer Orchestra, and the everlasting glory that was the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Curiously, no girl group emerged at that time in homage to the Andrews Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, and their ilk: but the Puppini Sisters fills this gap beautifully.
I am looking forward to further divine sounds produced by them!
on February 27, 2008
I first heard the Puppini Sisters when they were on a Sirius radio station, and thought they were great. I'm sure their music isn't for everyone, but I sure am a fan. These women are highly talented in many areas of music, plus obviously have a sense of humor ("I Can't Believe I'm Not a Millionaire" and my absolue favorite, "Jilted")
on August 22, 2008
Taken from their debut CD, the Puppinis' Andrews-Sisters-style smackdown of the hoary "I Will Survive" has become the band's signature concert closer. This time around on the band's sophomore offering, it's the Bangles who get the beating, as "Walk like an Egyptian" is zipped up in the Puppinis' zaniness. These campy stampers still show no shame, as nothing is beyond their rowdy reach. Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing" is swung straight. But the Classics IV's "Spooky" is re-sparked as a fast tango, and Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" is bounced between a breakneck, flapper-flagging ragtime and a sultry blues. Three lead vocalists who double on violin, accordion, and piano respectively, the Puppinis have come closer to capturing their live-performance energy, but they're not quite there yet. Their crack backing trio is still mixed too far back, and, of course, the CD's lack of visuals dampens the fun. Perhaps a DVD would help, but then there'd be less of an incentive to see the group live. And such boundless creativity deserves an audience. Catch `em if you can. ****