Barbara McNair's first high profile gig was replacing Diahann Carroll in the Broadway musical "No Strings" in or about 1964. McNair was already making a name for herself in nightclubs across the country. While McNair was popular she never achieved the kind of household name popularity suggested by her talent. She has a truly lovely voice, and as she would prove during her Motown years, great versatility. I don't think that Shirley Bassey or Nancy Wilson would have fit in as convincingly at Motown. This collection was McNair's debut album. It was released by Coral records in 1959 with the title Front Row Center. However, it was repackaged as Broadway Showstoppers for international release. McNair wastes no time flexing her considerable lung power and opens this set full-throttle with "Old Devil Moon". McNair was blessed early in her career to always have lushly-orchestrated, well-executed accompaniment on her recordings. Though McNair often cited Sarah Vaughan as her idol, there is very little of the chameleonic moodiness of Vaughan in McNair's interpretations. I have written before that I think McNair's distinguishing characteristic as a singer is her good cheer. When the song calls for it, she sings as if she's about to burst from happiness. She can also turn on the charm or sex appeal as required. "Whatever Lola Wants" is sultry and comical simultaneously.
Side One Old Devil Moon Hello Young Lovers Love Is A Simple Thing Alone Together Whatever Lola Wants My Heart Belongs To Daddy
Side Two If I Were A Bell The Party's Over Always True To You In My Fashion And This is My Beloved I've Got A Crush On You Steam Heat