Joyce Moody

Vampin' Lady
(Songs of Milton Ager)

Don't Tell Mama
New York, NY
Golden days composer Milton Ager has a cheerleader.  Bright-eyed singer Joyce Moody indeed has plenty of cheer and though a couple of early numbers made me think things would be too generically brash and or hard-sell, she eventually won me over.  It’s evident in her singing, movement and enthusiastic, informative patter that she is enjoying herself and loving the material.  She jumps right into the sensibilities of an earlier style of songwriting and presentation, her big voice, big smile, and big red feather boa ever at the ready.  She and her adept, period-evoking accompanist-arranger Earl Wentz don’t try to modernize the old-fashioned qualities nor do they treat the songs like grand masterpieces.  They just have fun, and it becomes contagious.  With her sunny side up and at ‘em, Joyce ebulliently sashays and struts and smiles or sobs her way through the songbook of Ager (1893-1979), who wrote the catchy melodies for “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Glad Rag Doll,” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” (all those with lyrics by Jack Yellen).

There are times on the more straightforward and familiar numbers that one might long for something more than just energy and goodwill—perhaps a more distinctive voicing or accompaniment, or an extra dollop of attitude.  The small cabaret room lent itself more to the softer numbers, most done with lovely tones.  A major part of the pleasure is hearing the lesser-known numbers, some delightfully quaint, many solidly constructed, most entertaining in an undemanding way.  They are ripe for the dusting off and admirers of old-time tunes (like me) are grateful for Joyce and Earl’s way with the feather duster and feather boa.

Revealing a legit soprano and prominent vibrato on sentimental ballads like her dignified “Trust in Me,” a bombastic belt for “Hard-Hearted Hannah,” and light comedy-cute characterization on “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune,” there’s variety in Joyce’s choices and voices.  Recorded as a CD, 24 Ager tunes from the ‘20s and ‘30s are squeezed in, thanks to medleys and some short, tight, cut-to-the-chase renditions.  Joyce is sly, spry, and eager to wink an eye.  And that’s why the lady is a vamp. 

Rob Lester
Cabaret Scenes
December 22, 2007