The record I bring you today is an unfamiliar version of a very familiar song, that also happens to be one of my favorites.
I wrote a few years back about my deep and abiding love for Peggy Lee’s version of ‘Is That All There Is’, a record that drilled its way into my ears when I was a child and was the root of so much musical growth over the years.
The version by Leslie Uggams predates Lee’s hit by a year, and comes from a very interesting album indeed.
As you know, I am also a devotee of Leiber and Stoller, and when I found out that they had done an album with Leslie Uggams in the late 60s, I set out to find a copy.
Uggams had already had been appearing on TV since she was a child, and was on the verge of her own TV series when she went into the studio with L&S.
‘What’s an Uggams’ is an interesting, sophisticated pop LP, flirting with soul in places, but sounding as if L&S were trying to emulate Burt Bacharach and Hal David (in fact, Uggams covers no less than four B&D songs on the album).
‘Is That All There Is’ is one of the most unusual L&S tunes. It sounds nothing like the work of the guys that created R&B masterworks for the Coasters, leaning more in the direction of cabaret.
Uggam’s version runs closer to the arrangement of the odd, original recording by New York DJ Dan Daniels than it does to the epic reading by Peggy Lee, but even with the sprightly musical backing, the song doesn’t lose much of its bittersweet edge.
Uggams still speaks the verses over a great arrangement by Pat Williams which incorporates banjo and tack piano with lush horns and strings.
The album as a whole makes for great listening.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you all next week.
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