Picks and Pans Main: Song

updated 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT



Peggy Lee has always done the unpredictable. Fifty years into her career, she's still at it, with two new CDs. The first, Collector's Series (Capitol), is an aural history—25 songs recorded between 1945 and 1950. The second, There'll Be Another Spring, features the sass kitten, now 70, reinterpreting songs for which she wrote the music, lyrics or both.

Lee didn't always sound like the queen of sultry. On the first album, we hear her evolve from "girl singer" (she worked with the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the early 1940s) to solo act. In earlier cuts, such as "I'm Glad I Waited for You." she sounds both bland and breathtakingly beautiful. And—stop the presses!—she actually holds her notes.

From there Lee keeps us off guard—singing Latin rhythms in "Mañana (Is Soon Enough For Me)" and "Caramba! It's the Samba," talking her way through "Don't Smoke in Bed," spitting nails in "Why Don't You Do Right" or doing a Billie Holiday-tinged version of "Them There Eyes."

There'll Be Another Spring (Musicmasters) is not an album for those who want to hear Lee in top technical form. Her voice bears but a flicker of the sexual energy of her earlier recordings. Yet what she lacks in technique she makes up in drama. The result is a dreamy, intimate album. While "Johnny Guitar" becomes an even more haunting ode to lost love, "He's a Tramp" and "Fever" have been injected with yet more irony and jaded insouciance. Lee's wry humor shows in the autobiographical "I'll Give It All to You." "How does it feel to be a legend?" she asks, answering. "One moment while I feel." Peggy, whatever you do, you do right.

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