The Last Concert

Rosemary Clooney

Concord Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


The death of Rosemary Clooney on June 30 of last year in many ways was the end of an era. Her smoky, expressive voice was a hallmark of the swing generation, with a career spanning from her first hit record in 1951 all the way to the present day. Along the way, she worked with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, headlined with Tony Bennett and Bob Hope, and starred in movies and television. She was truly an original, the 'girl singer' who started singing duets on Cincinnati radio for $20 a week and ended up a star.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Due to a happy accident, her last public performance on November 16, 2001 was captured on this magnificent recording. The Honolulu Symphony Pops, in an attempt to get a recording contract, recorded their entire 2001 season for record company consideration, and one of those concerts happened to feature Clooney, having some fun at the end of her vacation performing a concert with the orchestra. As fate would have it, soon after this concert Clooney's long battle with lung cancer took a turn for the worst; so this is the swan song, and it's a recording to be proud of.

This is a magnificent recording. The sound is crisp, clear, and uncluttered; the live recording is perfect, making it feel like Clooney and the Symphony Pops are right in the room with you. The orchestration is rich and lush, paying attention to such details as the chiming vibraphone on "You Go To My Head" and a gorgeous saxophone solo on "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe." More wondrous is the fact that Concord Records made a brilliant decision in leaving Clooney's between-song patter in, featuring her wry and funny commentary on her famous nephew George and her memories of working with Bing Crosby.

Highlights include "Sentimental Journey"; Clooney's smooth and dusky take on Hoagy Carmichael's "Rockin' Chair"; and a post-9/11 version of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" that frankly blows Celine Dion's out of the ballpark.

We are poorer for no longer having Rosemary Clooney, but this recording is a worthy close to a great career.

Rating: A

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© 2003 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Concord Records, and is used for informational purposes only.