The very best is Jennifer Warnes CD - The Hunter. You will want to marry her. Also Kim Ritchey, Karla Bonoff, Mary Nielsen Chapman.
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You need to define what you mean by "best female recordings". Do you mean audiophile recordings, or recordings of great artistic merit? Do you mean pop, jazz, or opera? Since you didn't specify any parameters, I'll try to suggest some titles. Obviously, these reflect my own listening tastes and biases, but I think all of the albums or artists are worth hearing. Audiophile recordings: 1. Amanda McBroom's albums on Sheffield ("Growing Up In Hollywood Town", etc.) and Gecko ("Dreamin") 2. Jennifer Warnes: "Famous Blue Raincoat" 3. Chesky Records albums by Sara K. and Rebecca Pigeon 4. Sheffield's recording of Thelma Houston on "I've Got the Music In Me" Pop/Folk: 1. Barbra Streisand's recordings (you pick - I prefer the earlier albums, but the recording quality is better on later albums) 2. Joan Baez: early recordings on Vanguard, and "Diamonds and Rust" 3. Joni Mitchell: "Blue", and "Night Ride Home" 4. Dinah Washington Blues: 1. Anything by Koko Taylor 2. Katie Webster's album "Swamp Boogie Queen" 3. Etta James: "Seven Year Itch", and "Life's Been Rough on Me" 4. "Sing It!" with Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, and Tracy Nelson (one of the best female blues recordings in the last several years - each woman is featured on different cuts, and all have great voices). Jazz: 1. Recordings by any of the great female jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Ernestine Anderson, Betty Carter, Nina Simone, Sheila Jordan, Morgana King, etc. 2. Albums by Diane Schurr 3. Recent albums by Diana Krall 4. Cassandra Wilson's "Blue Skies" and "Blue Light 'Til Dawn" 5. Kendra Shank's album "Afterglow", and Sunny Sumter's album "Sunny" (Both are on the Mapleshade label. Call 1-888-CDMAPLE to order direct at about 1/3 off store prices). Both of these recordings could also be listed in the "audiophile" group, because they are superbly recorded. Opera: 1. Kirstin Flagstad (from 1920's and 30's) 1. Joan Sutherland 2. Kiri Te Kanawa 3. Leontyne Price 4. Maria Callas 5. Birgit Nilsson 6. Jane Eaglen 7. Victoria de los Angeles 8. Renata Tebaldi
Amazing, but all of you guys above have good taste. I totally agree with Lj's and Sd's Jennifer Warnes nomination and I really like both "Famous Blue Raincoat", and "The Hunter"; Re: John, I love Margo Timmins on both "the Trinity Session" and also "The Caution Horses". And I have all of Koko Taylor's CDs and Many of Etta James'. K.T.s' "walking the Back Streets" practically makes me cry. I would also nominate Loreena McKennitt's-- well they're all good. And Mai're Brennan, self titled (M. Brennan is also lead singer for the Irish group Clannad, and sister of Enya). I'm just now starting to appreciate Diana Krall-- got her latest CD and she's great, and yeah, Barbra Streisand. For lyrics, Melissa Etheridge. Cheers. Craig.
The several (seven?) 3CD boxes in the Collected Dinah Washington prove her to be a real hero: Ella is technically a better singer, and Billie is more instantly recognizable, but Dinah owns you. (These are Collected but not Complete-- there is stuff available both earlier and later, but its muh more uneven). Classical/opera, my own view is that the greatest living voice of any gender is Jessye Norman, but her recordings do not do her justice. As to pop, I'm really impressed with Joan Osborne and Laura Love, both of whom have modest instruments but huge hearts.
A couple more, somewhat off the beaten path..Edith Piaf is (was!) awesome. Sound quality of the early stuff is pretty hopeless, but her stereo recordings in the early 60's were pretty good. I was lucky enough to live in Belgium for a few years and pciked up a lot of very clean vinyl pressings. Another French singer worth looking into is Mireille Matthieu, especially her CD fo (so called) the greatest French songs. A tad bright, but excellent orchestrations and very clear, well recorded vocals. I have also found some of Gloria Estefan's SPANISH CD's to sound v. good (especially on the slower paced "boleros". Last..Callas!!!!! There are many good compilations of assorted arias out on CD, and of course all the full lenght operas.....Last..there is a relatively new Italian group called "Neri Per Caso" who are outstanding. Sorry, they are all men....but most of their output is "a cappella", and pristinely recorded. Well worth seeking out "Le Ragazze" and their Christmas music CD of last year...goosebumps on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"? You bet!
Sarah McLachlan's Mirrorball CD is tremendous. It's live. Its _much_ better (more gritty and emotional) than the studio versions of the same songs, imho. A new female vocalist Maev (pronounced 'mave') is also outstanding. She just recently had a debut solo CD. She was in Riverdance. She has an amazingly clear voice.
Ever had the experience of thinking of something after you've given an answer? Well, I thought of a couple more names that I should have included in my first response. One of the truly great, all-time singers was Mahalia Jackson. Because of her religious beliefs, all she ever recorded was gospel music, but Oh, Lord!, could she sing!! If you can listen to Mahalia without your body moving, you better check your pulse. The first time I ever heard Mahalia in concert in Honolulu in 1962 or '63. She appeared at the Waikiki Shell, an outdoor ampitheater that seated about several thousand people. About halfway through the concert the amplication system died, so she finished the concert without any amplification. Her voice still filled the ampitheater with glorious music - and a friend of mine who lived several blocks away could still hear her! There is a CD boxed collection of Mahalia's music that is excellent, and she is also superb on Duke Ellington's suite, "Black, Brown and Beige". In the folk/jazz vein, there are several remarkable singers from the 1920's, the best of whom was Bessie Smith. You could think of Bessie Smith as the early, "secular" Mahalia Jackson. In the 1960's, Odetta was a sort of reincarnation of Bessie Smith - great raw, moving power. I asked my wife if she had any favorite female vocalists, and she mentioned a couple I hadn't thought of: Maureen McGovern, Annie Lenox (of the Eurythmics), Big Mama Cass Elliott (from The Mamas & The Papas, and an earlier group called The Big Three), Diana Ross, and the Pointer Sisters. In the opera vein, I certainly agree with the mention above of Jessye Norman. She was here in Seattle a year or two ago for the dedication of our new symphony hall, and everyone who attended was absolutely stunned by her singing. I'd also add one other current-generation singer, Eileen Battle. No list will be definitive, but the input on this thread has been pretty damned impressive.
Alison Krauss' "Now That I've Found You" and "Forget About It". For close miking try Deana Carter's "Everthing's Going To Be Alright" (HDCD) and two songs - "Tonight's the Night" and "Together Again" - from Janet Jackson's "The Velvet Rope". And Margo Timmons just moved to the top of my 'to buy' list.
I've watched the chain expand, hoping I might get a new voice to hear. One or two there. Yet, I can't believe how many great female vocalists have been thus far neglected. Great recordings of great performances with predominating female voices are my passion and take up a large percentage of my software collection (about 5,000 LP's and 1400 CD's). Here are some women who have added markedly to their various genre: Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones, Eva Cassidy, Bonnie Raitt, Iris Dement, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, Tina Turner, Lucinda Williams, Tracy Chapman, Madeleine Peyroux, and Ella, Ella, Ella. (Haven't included opera or other classical forms, since that's worth a book of its own.) There are many more, just listen and don't depend on the "audiophile top 40." I have virtually every Reference Recording, XRCD's of ever stripe, Classic re-releases, hundreds of MoFi's, etc., etc., but almost always return for play after play of stuff that's never been cursed with an "audiophile version" (exceptions include: Riki Lee and Linda Ronstatt on MoFi; Trinity Sessions on Classics Gold-RTHCD8568; and, Jacintha on XRCD2.) My nomination for the greatest recent recording by a female vocalist that few outside the Beltway have ever heard: Eva Cassidy, "Songbird" (Blix Street Records GS-10045). If this stuff doesn't get your vital juices flowing, try an anonymous dose of Viagra.
If nothing else, this is going to help CDNOW.com secure more of my beer money. Lots of artists mentioned I don't have yet. I concur w/ Diana Krall, Ricki Lee Jones as well. Would add Jane Relf (recommend "Out of the mist" by Illusion, an old Renaissance offshoot), Sally Oldfield (makes guest appearances on old progressive recordings, like Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte", and a couple of her brother Mike's stuff). And in the classical realm, would recommend Kiri Te Kanawa, especially "Ave Maria", a release of sacred songs on Deutsche Gramaphone.
If you have only one opera CD, get the new remastered Joan Sutherland "Art of the Prima Donna" a career anthology with absolutely astonishing vocal range........it is hard to imagine any modern singer equal this definitve collection! Joni Mitchell "Court and Spark" new HDCD remaster leaves "Blue" in its shadow sonically......although I am not a Joni fan.......I just sampled clips from Cowboy Junkies "Trinity Session" think I will make a new purchase, very nice.....
Here are a few that you are sure to enjoy. Musical quality ranges, but the entire CDs are fantastic: Natalie Merhcant - Tiger Lilly Once Blue - Once Blue Kelly Willis - What I Deserve Carole King - Tapestry Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing Annie Lennox - Diva Rickie Lee Jones - Ricki Lee Jones Fionna Apple - Tidal Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road Stevei Nicks - Anything from Fleetwood Mac (i.e. Fleetwood Mac, Rumors) Hole - Live Through This (for those looking for the edge)
The last post did not appear well. Let's try it again.... Natalie Merhcant - Tiger Lilly; Once Blue - Once Blue; Kelly Willis - What I Deserve; Carole King - Tapestry; Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing; Annie Lennox - Diva; Rickie Lee Jones - Ricki Lee Jones; Fionna Apple - Tidal; Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road; Steveie Nicks - Anything from Fleetwood Mac (i.e. Fleetwood Mac, Rumors; Hole - Live Through This (for those looking for the edge)
Cassandra Wilson has one of the best voices in jazz. Patricia Barber is incredible too. Heather Nova is a little known hottie with an amazing voice. Provacative lyrics too! Suze diMarche of Baby Animals (defunct band, but you can still get the CDs)--straight ahead rock! She's up there with the all-time best female rock 'n' roll singer: Chrisie Hynde of the Pretenders!
For those of you who consider Diana Krall a great vocalist, it wasn't so offensive, it would be laughable. She is a passable singer whose record company is trying to push her as a singer in order to maximize her marketability. How would you rate her next to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn or Nancy Wilson? Even someone like Natalie Cole, who stands between jazz and pop music completely eclipses her as a vocalist. She has no vocal range and little capability to reinterpret a song in a way to "make it her own". She is an excellent pianist, with a sweet, limited voice. and she looks good on the front of a CD. Many of her CD's have stunning sound. That's it.
I think Diana K. is a great singer and pianist. I think she'll go down as one of the all time greats. To the list of other greats, add in Gillian Welch (w/David Rawlings - his guitar playing adds quite a bit to the music). She sings bluegrass / american folk music. Beautiful soft voice. I met her and david at a songwriter's workshop a few years ago. It was something to hear them in a small room with 10 other people. They had just released their first album, and were hoping it would succeed. I saw them on the cover of 'acoustic guitar' a few months later !
Rayhall; Diana Krall's voice/music "excites" me. The other singers you mentioned don't (except for Natalie Cole's jazz ballads). Listening to Barbra Streisand max out her voice three quarters of the way through every song doesn't do much for me. "Beauty is in the 'ear' of the beholder, IMHO. Exciting Listening. Craig.
When one compares Diana Krall as a singer to the great jazz singers of all time, can someone please tell me what she brings to a song that the others don't? As far as I am concerned, she brings almost no interpretation, no phrasing, no vocal control, no style. It is not enough, or should not be enough to have a husky, lush voice which is well recorded. Her producer, Tommy Lipuma and engineer worked on Natalie Cole's CD "Take A Look" which is also excellently recorded. But aside from that, it does display what Natalie Cole can do with a song. Even though not a pure jazz singer, Natalie has a big pure voice, she can hit notes right on, and she can make vocal changes which can personalize a song in the way that Diana Krall can't. And I don't think Natalie is one of the greats. Diana's inability to make the vocal changes which personalize her vocal repertoire is particularly evident in that D.K. sings a lot of jazz standards and for every song she has recorded, there are other renditions available which are not challenged by her interpretations. As a jazz singer she is lacking vocal improvisational ability. This is something that Ella did not lack for. Ella Fitzgerald, probably the greatest popular singer of the twentieth century, invented whole vocal styles of singing. Of course there are other great singers in and out of jazz. I don't want to pit all my choices against everyone else's but if Diana Krall is a great vocalist, one should be able to verbalize something beyond that her voice is "pleasing" or "exciting". I understand that the appreciation of music is a subjective experience but since it is subjective, the need to comunicate this experience almost compels us to share the "why" as well as the "who" in whom we choose. What is it that D.K. does vocally hat puts her in the upper echelons of the female singers who have ever been recorded?
This is a pretty good thread. There are so many great singers out there, each with a different style and genre of music. I think some of the standouts would be Holly Cole (Which - to "Inscrutable" - does have a CD out titled "Don't smoke in Bed" -AWESOME); Mary Travers; Whitney Houston (sober version); Sarah McLachlan; Karen Carpenter; Enya; Patsy Cline (sp?) AND (I'm gonna catch hell for this one) Madonna. Say what you will about this last pick but she's got a great voice.
I agree with Rayhall. I find it painful to listen to Krall's "interpretations" of standards. Just listen to Billie Holiday sing All or Nothing At All- and then listen to Krall's version on Love Scenes - it makes me want to gag. Her cds ARE well recorded though. Billie Holiday gets under your skin, drills through your veins and changes your chemical composition forever - if one accomplished little else in life other than listen to her sing, it would still be a life well spent. Nina Simone is another jazz singer that ranks up there on the celestial scale. I love Ella - I just wish the instrumentation on a lot of her work were less syrupy. Cassandra Wilson's voice is amazing, but does anyone ever get through her albums in their entirety? Holly Cole's performance of Jersey Girl - YES! Margo Timmins is phenomenal - the most EXPRESSIVE singer in rock,IMHO. Joan Osborne (whatever happened to her?) sounded incredibly versatile and exciting in Relish.
For Jazz fans: Check out Dee Dee Bridgewater. The CD is "Live at Yoshi's". This is an absolutely stunning CD both musically and artistically. She shows off her entire vocal repertoire from soft delicate ballads to belting out raw, powerful songs to scat singing. She is backed by talented, but not well-kown musicians. The dynamics on this CD are beyond anything I have ever heard on a commercial recording. Listen to the tambourine in the opening on track 2 "Slow Boat to China".
...After reading Rayhalls' and Sramas' decidedly harsh criticisms of Diana Kralls' music, I listened to the one CD I have of hers, and the next day went out and bought three more-- to help ensure her "commercial" success. I don't actually know much about jazz singers as it's a genre I don't generally like. But I do know that I like Diana Krall's jazz/ballads, and her lush, husky, beautiful voice IS enough for my obviously limited intellectual and emotional capabilities-- despite what Rayhall says. I was pleased and surprised to see that Srama likes Margo Timmins music as she's one of my favorites also, but it rather amazes me that he could like Margo Timmins voice but not D.K.s? Margo Timmins voice has many of the same characteristics that Rayhall critisizes in D.K., eg limited vocal range, and M.T. has poor ennunciation-- but expressive, yes; intimate, seductive, and haunting all at once. I have all the Cowboy Junkies CDs. Both singers (on MY system) sound like they are in the room with me. Cheers, Craig.
I agree with most of the above and vote for Diana Krall.I like Barbra immensly but something about DK's subtle approach is great. When you can get emotion without maxing out a four octave voice like Celine or Whitney on every song means you can sing. Old timers Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Keely Smith were not mentioned and were simply awesome. Also not mentioned were sixties and seventies stars Melanie and Helen Reddy. Nashville singers Mandy Barnett and Shana Petrone have not (yet) enjoyed commercial success but are among the best ever.
OK Craig. I cry uncle. I certainly don't mean to discourage anyone from trying any artist and I certainly don't see you as intellectually or emotionally limited. But, I have listened to a number of D.K.'s CD's to see what all the fuss was about. And other than the recording quality, I still don't understand it. I just thought that guys like you who like her might be willing to share in a little detail why you do with infidels like me.
First, let me admit that my previous post was a bit over the top - I wrote it as I was listening to Billie on my headphones and was struck (as always) by how "different" DK is from . Now clearly, "different" is not the same thing as worse, and I certainly did not mean to indicate intellectual superiority over anyone who likes DK. To my ears DK, despite (and ironically, perhaps because of) her lush voice sounds superficial and uninteresting - that's all. I agree with Craig's assessment of Margo Timmins - intimate, seductive, haunting - she certainly is all of that and more - and these are precisely the adjectives that DON'T come to my mind when I hear DK. To paraphrase another cliche, its all in the ears of the listener, I guess.
Gentlemen; I like the idea of a truce too, and I admit my post re: Diana Krall was sarcastic in places. To tell the truth, I have not yet been able to put into words what it is about her music that appeals to me, but I listened to DK for 3-4 hours last night and just sort of "melted" into her soft, breathy, husky, intimate vocals on her ballads; very relaxing and engaging. I also note that her band creates an amazing amount of "music" for just three pieces. BTW I program out all the uptempo songs. Happy Listening. Craig.
Having just caught up with this post, I am going to break some of the truce. But there is an important point here. For those of us deep into jazz, there is something about jazz that many audiophiles do not get. Jazz is cerebral as well as emotional, and can be more cerebral than classical music because it can more readily break new ground. Craig, I am with Rayhall and Srama on this one, and guys - don't give way on this. Jazz is about the creative use of instruments, not just about pleasant sounds. I can enjoy listening to a Dianna Krall record - perhaps as much as you do Craig. The voice can sound wonderful and the recordings are very good. But to someone into jazz, there is a whole lot more that music can offer - like my post above acknowledging lots of nice voices listed here, but few great singers - there is a difference. To someone into their jazz for the delight of new interpretations or new ground, Dianna Krall is decidedly average - she is akin to very good candy-floss - fine in the right setting, but not the same thing as creme brulee. I have had trouble trying not to sound "superior" about this, and have probably failed. I really hope this does not offend anybody who really likes Dianna Krall, especially Craig - but there is a whole different world to jazz singing that is, for some of us, the best thing this hobby offers, but which the likes of Dianna Krall does not have the rare skills to enter.
Hi Redkiwi; I appreciate your response and explanation about what it is that jazz lovers really appreciate. As noted above, I'm not into jazz, in fact my entire jazz collection consists of a few Natalie Cole, Nat King Cole, and now some Diana Krall CDs. Further, I delete the "up-tempo" music on jazz CDs. Also a few Barbra Streisand CDs if jazz wants to claim her. I do have a lot of Ray Charles, but it's for his soul, rock, and ballads-- I delete the jazzy stuff. In short, I have little expertise or interest in the genre, and thus not much to contribute. After reading some of these posts (re: jazz) it occurred to me that I may like Dianna Krall's jazz/ballads because they are very "unjazz" like, and more like pop ballads??? Blues, Soul, rock, pop, newage, and even some C/W are mainly what move me, and unlike Redkiwi (and I think Rayhall, and Srama), I'm not often into the cerebral aspects of music, but prefer the emotional side much more. This post is sort of personal, but it gives me a chance to respond to Rayhall, Srama, as well as Redkiwi. Cheers, Craig.
....I should add that I know the dividing line between blues and jazz is very fine, and crossover is common, eg I recognize the great talent of B.B. King in both blues and jazz, but he is not one of my favorites in blues. Give me Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Etta James-- PURE BLUES. Thanks again. Craig.
Very succinctly and eloquently stated, Redkiwi. I will nominate someone outside of Jazz whom I have not seen mentioned: Aretha Franklin. Maybe she doesn't belong in this thread because I find her CD's to be sonically not the best and she has clearly lost a lot off her voice in recent years... but in her time, as a singer who could sing in any genre, hit all the notes and still carry the audience with her, there was no one better. She also has had one of the longest careers of any female singer which is some evidence that she belongs way up there. I would say that some of her greatest work is not all that well known, even though she has sold a ton of records. Some of those big sellers were unremarkable. I put her at the top of my list just below Ella Fitzgerald. I would say that in rating singers, a mixture of things count for me, Craig. Their technical and vocal ability for sure (my analytical side). The songs they choose to sing. Are the lyrics about something to which I can relate? Their ability to bring something new and original to an old song. Does this originality improve or freshen the song? Lastly, do the music and vocals excite or grab me? With no disrespect to anyone else's method of judgment, it takes several of these ingredients in various combination to get my musical attention.