Josephine Baker: Breezin' Along

This is a collection of English-language Josephine Baker recordings from the 1920s. As a historical artifact, it's interesting. As an introduction to Baker's voice, it's not bad. As pleasurable listening, it leaves me completely cold.

Music: 3 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
I'm sure this is great for people who love 1920s dance bands, but I'm not a fan of pop recordings from the '20s. I find most of the big band arrangements from this period to be just as contrived and soulless as any given Wednesday's American Idol. Baker saves these songs, though. Her voice is an oddly captivating study in contradictions: it's simultaneously girlish and womanly, innocent and sultry, playful and serious. If you can get past the recording quality and the run-of-the-mill arrangements, her voice is absolutely worth hearing. In fact, this album makes me realize that I absolutely need to track down some of her later French recordings.

Packaging: n/a (altered by EPFL)
The cover photo captures the innocence and seductiveness that lives in Baker's voice. Unfortunately, the rest of the package is missing. Why does the EPFL do this? They're a library, right? And aren't libraries supposed to respect the integrity of their catalog? It'd almost be like ripping a chapter out of the middle of a book because it takes up too much space on the shelf. (For what it's worth, I've been patronizing the EPFL since 2002, and this is my only complaint. Believe me, I like to complain, so I guess they're not doing all that bad. But still... STOP DESTROYING THE COVERS OF THE CDs ALREADY!!!)

Listen if you like: Vaudeville, Paul Whiteman, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich

If it were food, it'd be: Ginger snaps made by your grandmother. They're kind of quaint and bland on the surface, but if you pay close attention, you might notice the hint of a flavor that could only come from life experiences you never imagined your grandmother having.

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