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Noteworthy Recordings

Siren Songs: Wordless Vocalists


A favorite effect among space age pop arrangers is the wordless vocal. While the instrumentals plunge ahead on the melody, an other-worldly voice comes echoing from the distance, like the haunting sound of a siren. It was the next best thing to a theremin! Among the better-known wordless vocalizers of the period are:

Leda Annest
As Darrell Brogdon has put it, "Leda out-Ymas Yma." On her one album, Portrait of Leda (Columbia "Adventures in Sound" WL 114), Annest offers a dazzling display of vocal wizardry. Phil Moore, a veteran vocal coach, among his many other talents, composed an album-long piece showing both jazz and classical influences, showcasing Annest's vocals. As the liner notes put it, "To listen to Leda is to hear the secret voices of the wellsprings of life come to the ear one after the other." Have a roll of paper towels handy when you spin this platter.

The Passions

Bas Sheva
On The Passions, (Capitol), Sheva, whose father was a respected cantor in Philadelphia, worked with Les Baxter on this musical jaunt through the emotional spectrum. Baxter gives her the Yma treatment, so every emotion is portrayed INTENSELY. You wouldn't want words on this record. It's enough to make you seek out a Melachrino Strings album to calm things down afterward.

Beverly Ford
The cooing chick on Mel Henke's La Dolce Henke, Ford can also be seen and heard demonstrating her four-octave range on Les Baxter's "Woman in Space" on the video, "The Lost Episode of Les Baxter." She also tosses in a couple of bird calls for good measure.

Mary Mayo
Mary collaborated with Dick Hyman, who hopped briefly from Command to MGM to create the ultra-collectible album, Moon Gas. Mayo shows she's ready to take on Beverly Ford to see who gets crowned first "Woman in Space."

Loulie Jean Norman
Credit for what is probably the world's best-known wordless vocal--the warped-up melody from the theme to the original "Star Trek" television series--goes to Loulie Jean Norman. A veteran ghost-singer and one of the hardest-working session singers in Hollywood, her siren calls can also be heard on "Moon of Manakoora" and several other numbers on Polynesian Fantasy (Capitol) by "The Out-Islanders"--actually, Charlie Barnet and Billy May playing hookey in the South Pacific. Then, in the late 1970s, she appears as the voice of "The Future" on the third--and universally panned--record of Frank Sinatra's Trilogy album.

Marni Nixon
Perhaps the only session singer with any name recognition, Marni Nixon thrushed alongside Loulie Jean Norman on Enchanted Island, but my favorite bit of her wordless work are the hypercharged sighs at the start of the great Russ Garcia track, "Wow!".

Lois Hunt
Hear Lois Hunt take on Space Age Pop's most amazing instrumental line-ups armed with nothing but her vocal chords!, On Marty Manning's album, Music from "The Twilight Zone", she warbles alongside an ondioline, buzzimba, serpent, tuned logs, and other oddities banned from decent public concert spaces.

Lois Winter
One of the odder entries in this category is the pseudo-psychodelic tantric caterwauling done by Lois Winter on "Guru-Vin," an ecstatic sitar-driven trip of the obscenely-rare Don Sebesky hippy-space album, Distant Galaxy

Jackie Allen
Ray Conniff liked to toss is a little sirening now and then, and when he did--at least in the 1970s, when he used it the most--Jackie Allen got the job. On his Theme from S.W.A.T. album, he put her head-to-head with a synthesizer on his version of the theme from the "NBC Mystery Movie." She leaves the synth in her dust as she boldly goes where no man has ever ... sorry, wrong TV series.

Patricia Clark
Clark was the secret ingredient in Norrie Paramor's In London, In Love and other highly successful albums of easy listening music for Capitol. Actually, Clark DOES sing the words, usual just the first line, but the effect is definitely sirenical. Paramor's albums are extremely lush and smooth, but still very much mainstream easy listening fare. However, they hold some special place in the hearts of some listeners. Hands down, In London, In Love is the #1 album I get emails in search of. Someone should reissue it on CD.

Edda dell'Orso
Italian soundtrack master Ennio Morricone features dell'Orso on a number of his best soundtracks, from the spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s to today. Her wistful singing of the melody line from Morricone's score to the overstuffed and overcooked Sergio Leone epic, "Once Upon a Time in America," may be the best thing in the movie.

Colleen Lovett
Featured on a fun, if insubstantial, album, Five Men and One Girl (Carlton), Lovett harmonizes so tightly with husband Teddy Phillip's sax solos that some of the impact is lost at first. Phillips' playing is nothing to write home about, but Lovett's airy vocalese compensates considerably for what otherwise would have been a pedestrian and forgettable album.

Jane Doe
The uncredited siren on the early space age pop milestone, Harry Revel's Music from Outer Space (Capitol), whose contributions are just as distinctive as the better-remembered work of theremin master Dr. Samuel J. Hoffmann.


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