The superb lost sequel to the New Jersey pop icon’s “California Nights” album, with 15 extra tracks from the same period. Production and orchestrations by maestros Bob Crewe, Jack Nitzsche, Gamble & Huff, Steve Douglas, Herb Bernstein, Paul Leka, Thom Bell et al.
New York City, 1981. An audience of New Wave hipsters (and me) has gathered for a screening of The TAMI Show, arguably (not really) the all-time greatest filmed rock concert. When Lesley Gore is introduced, snickers and catcalls resound. What’s this white-bread princess doing on a show with James Brown, Marvin Gaye and the Stones? Minutes later her powerful, intense performance of ‘You Don’t Own Me’ results in a standing ovation.
Lesley Gore has always gotten a bum rap. After scoring a #1 on her first effort, the New Jersey teenager reeled off an impressive string of Quincy Jones-produced Brill Building hits while simultaneously pursuing her college education. After the hits subsided and Jones moved on, Lesley enjoyed a 1967 chart comeback with a couple of Bob Crewe productions that placed her squarely in the genre now fondly called Sunshine Pop.
The comeback was short-lived, however, and Mercury Records shelved a planned album entitled “Magic Colors”. The world was deprived of a veritable Sunshine Pop masterpiece. Better late than never, Ace is proud to present “Magic Colors” in all its shimmering, swirling glory. The proposed LP was mostly produced by Steve Douglas, whose Wrecking Crew cohorts outdo themselves on the elaborately layered tracks.
From the Neil Sedaka-penned title song to a vibrant cover of the Tokens’ Mann-Weil hit ‘It’s A Happening World’ and the inexplicably low-charting single ‘Brink Of Disaster’, the overall effect of “Magic Colors” is dazzling in its sophistication and complexity. Lesley and her brother Michael contribute a pair of songs and Teddy Randazzo’s beautiful ‘You Sent Me Silver Bells’ is a definite highlight, as is a cover of ‘To Sir With Love’ utilising the third verse that Lulu only sang in the movie. Lesley also nails the Rascals’ ‘How Can I Be Sure’ with understated sincerity. In the parlance of 1967, “Magic Colors” is one groovy album.
15 bonus tracks present a series of singles released in 1968 and 1969. The stars didn’t align to produce any hits despite valiant efforts by an array of crack tunesmiths and ace producers. Three tracks crafted by Gamble and Huff are pop/soul gems, and there’s a brilliant cover of Dusty’s ‘All Cried Out’ which went unreleased at the time. It’s hard to fathom why Lesley’s imaginative medley of ’98.6’ and ‘Lazy Day” wasn’t a hit, but easier to understand what went wrong with ‘Wedding Bell Blues’, which was pipped at the post by the 5th Dimension.
Thus ended Lesley Gore’s Mercury tenure. The future would hold more great music, more songwriting (she and her brother shared a 1980 Best Song Oscar nomination) and a highly successful performing career that endures to this day, all on her own terms.
New York City, 2011. A Broadway musical travesty about the Shirelles (but not even close) portrays Lesley for comic relief, simpering and snivelling through ‘It’s My Party’ before running offstage in tears. The bum rap continues.
“Magic Colors” presents a much more realistic snapshot of the multi-faceted artist that is Lesley Gore.
By Dennis Garvey