• lita roza with the bill shepherd orchestra Me On a Carousel (CD, £7.25)

    label: el

    Liverpool's first pop star, long before the Beatles or Cilla Black, the first British female singer to top the charts. Inheriting her exotic good looks from her Spanish ancestry, Lita Roza's real talent was as a sultry and sophisticated interpreter of romantic ballads; a British Julie London with a touch of Astrud Gilberto. A singer of integrity, an artist ahead of her time. A strong woman who could be outspoken in defence of her craft, Lita was a fiercely independent artist who emerged a decade too early. It's ironic that her commercial breakthrough came in March 1953 with Bob Merrill's much-derided ‘How Much Is That Doggie in the Window’, a novelty ballad that was scarcely representative of her work. Lita had been talked into recording the song and it reached Number One, but she thought it puerile, and resolutely refused to perform it again, in any context, “I said I would sing it once and only once and then I would never sing it again, and I haven't”.  Lita served a four year musical apprenticeship from 1950 - on tour and in radio broadcasts - with the Ted Heath Orchestra; her popularity (during the period she topped both The Melody Maker and New Musical Express Polls for Favourite Female Vocalist) made it possible for her to branch out into film and television and she soon found herself fronting her own Saturday night spectacular, the Lita Roza Show, making appearances on Six-Five Special, the programme which introduced skiffle and rock'n'roll to the BBC, and making an impressive cameo performing in a night club in Lewis Gilbert's Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), a film noir starring a young Dirk Bogarde. Word of her abilities also reached Decca where she spent the greater part of the decade recording singles in a quite mesmerising array of styles (ballads from the Great American Songbook, Western themes, hits of stage and screen and even some reluctant rock 'n' roll); before making a fresh start over at Pye.  Our edition comprises Lita's much admired 1958 debut LP for Pye, “Me On A Carousel”, combined with selections from the sublime “Love Songs for Night People”, which she recorded for Ember in 1963; ‘Love Is A Beautiful Stranger’ from The Ginger Rogers film, Twist of Fate, ‘Leave Me Alone’, which Lita performs in Cast A Dark Shadow and a handful of her personal favourite Decca singles.

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