Ann-Margret – The Definitive Collection

Ann-Margret – The Definitive Collection (Real Gone)

She was once billed as the female answer to Elvis!

Ann-Margret had many memorable singing parts – chasing Bobby Rydell in Bye Bye Birdie, stealing the show from Elvis in Viva Las Vegas, and getting drunk on champagne in the cinematic version of The Who’s Tommy. Yet, the Swedish-born siren also had a recording career, releasing a string of LP’s in the Sixties, all the while tackling a wide range of styles. Real Gone has collected the finest of her records on The Definitive Collection.

Ann-Margret actually started her career as a singer, before achieving success as an actress, dancer, and overall entertainer. “I Just Don’t Understand” was her lone big hit, peaking at #17 in 1961. This bluesy groove features a great harmonica solo and one of the first examples of a fuzz guitar on record. She actually does quite well with the blues-based material, another example being “It Do Me So Good.”

Any hope of dethroning Elvis is dashed with her tepid reading of “Heartbreak Hotel,” where she purrs more than sings. Her voice is clear on the weepy “What Am I Supposed to Do,” but it quickly falls into cloying territory when she starts talking in the middle.

As time went on, she began to emphasize her strengths, as the cuts from the 1963 LP Bachelor’s Paradise prove. Her voice, when wrapped in lush arrangements, works quite well in this environment. The heavy orchestration of “Bachelor in Paradise” is actually quite good – proving that when given proper material, she could really pull it off. It certainly works on a campy level, but she doesn’t over sing here, meaning it actually makes for a good listen too. Plug in that lava lamp and crank this one.

The cartoonish delivery and faux rock n’ roll arrangement dooms “Bye Bye Birdie.” She’s just so much better in a jazz setting with “I’m in the Mood For Love,” where she turns in a luscious delivery.

As an added bonus, disc one ends with two duets featuring Elvis Presley recorded for the film Viva Las Vegas, “You’re the Boss,” and “The Lady Loves Me.” It’s obvious the attraction is there and their pairing makes for a good partnership; they both play off each other well, neither taking these sessions terribly seriously. The latter was cut from the film, as they were worried that Ann-Margret would upstage Elvis.

Disc two begins with several collaborations between the singer and trumpet player Al Hirt, including the previously unreleased “I’m Nobody’s Baby,” which is classic swing blues, while a vocal duet between the two on “Bill Bailey” is good fun.

Ann-Margret found her stride recording show tunes, and disc two is full of them: cuts from Carnival, Thunderball, The Swinger and especially the Pleasure Seekers are perfectly suited for her voice.

The Definitive Collection works on several levels. If you’d like to set that swanky mood, this is the perfect accompaniment. However, Ann-Margret’s performances here are surprisingly good, resulting in a very listenable set of songs, proving she was more than just a pretty face. –Tony Peters