Dakota Staton: The Late, Late Show

The singer had huge success with The Late, Late Show but moved to the UK to avoid having to regurgitate its hits for US audiences

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I first discovered (and never recovered from hearing) Dakota Staton (1930-2007) on her 1990 album Dakota Staton, arranged by Manny Albam. Alongside such luminaries as Pepper Adams, Frank Wess, Joe Newman and Jerry Dodgion she delivered arresting and spirited renditions of popular standards and blues including a scorching Country Man, Cry Me A River and It’s The Talk Of The Town. It is an unacknowledged classic.

Thirty-three years earlier, her first LP recording for Capitol, The Late, Late Show, here reissued on vinyl, climbed to #4 in the U.S. charts and was one of the best-selling albums of the 1950s. George Shearing enthused: “Dakota is dynamic! To hear her sing for the first time is to discover one of the finest singers of our day.”

Now reissued on high quality vinyl, it is certainly worth a respectful hearing, even if it lacks the fire and assurance of her later work – which moved to gospel and blues in an effort to impress the younger record-buying public. Never in the same league as Dinah Washington (her idol) or Sarah Vaughan, Dakota brought a distinctive and immediately recognisable voice to both jazz and popular material.

Her only slightly irritating mannerism on some of these tracks is an affectation of a “little girl” voice – on Summertime, A Foggy Day and You Showed Me The Way. The two bonus tracks – In The Night and The Thrill Is Gone – feature Jonah Jones and Harry Edison (with unknown personnel) both of whom supply welcome interjections.

But Staton’s greatest hit, The Late, Late Show, now sounds trite rather than valuable. Weary of audiences who only wanted her to perform these Late Show songs, Staton moved to the UK in 1965. As she commented in 1999, “That’s all anyone wanted to hear here. I wanted to go somewhere I could stretch out.” But as one critic remarked in the same year: ”Staton’s sound is remarkably unchanged from those early days, still drenched in blues, soul and jazz.” In 1991 she told the Boston Globe “There’s nothing I sing that doesn’t have the blues in it somewhere.”

Discography
Broadway; Trust In Me; Summertime; Misty; A Foggy Day; What Do You See In Her?; The Late, Late Show; My Funny Valentine; Give Me The Simple Life; Ain’t No Use (26.00) – Moonray; You Showed Me The Way; The Party’s Over; Anything Goes; Too Close For Comfort; Say It Isn’t So, Joe; They All Laughed; I Wonder; *In The Night; *The Thrill Is Gone (22.30)
Staton (v) on all tracks with personnel including Hank Jones, George Shearing (p); Jonah Jones, Harry “Sweets” Edison (t ); Toots Thielmans (g, hca); Al McKibbon (b).
Supper Club 018