Album Reviews

Doris Day – My Heart

(Sony) UK release date: 5 September 2011

Doris Day - My Heart Just as you can’t watch Doris Day on screen without expecting her to burst into song, so it’s impossible to listen to her records without conjuring up dreamy images of pastel-tinted, privet-hedged post-war America. A grab-bag of unreleased material and re-imaginings of familiar tunes, My Heart does just this – taking us back on cotton-candy flights of fancy to a mythically idyllic age where the girls could breeze through life on feistiness alone and the guys were all as butch as Rock Hudson.

Ms Day never possessed the greatest or most powerful voice in the movies, but more than made up for her limitations by patenting a brand of plucky, sassy easy listening; agreeable enough to please the masses but spirited enough to make her an enduring cult heroine. These recordings, culled from various sessions dating from the 1950s to the 1980s, provide a wholly amiable showcase of that talent, slipping only occasionally into modern-ish anachronisms.

As expected, we get Ms Day’s effortless Broadway-meets-piano-bar vocal style throughout; jaunty of tone and optimistic of spirit. There may not be any Calamity Jane witticisms or fiery put-downs, but there are enough kitschy rhymes to inspire little squeals of delight from Doris-heads everywhere. Whether she’s rhyming “geranium” with “subterranean” or asking “why oh why oh/did I leave Ohio?” her lyrical signature is everywhere.

The only evidence of the modern world occurs in the title track, with reference to “a kitchen with a microwave / Think of all the time we’d save / Time we’d spend just making love.” Naughty Doris, harnessing technology to such ribald ends! And on the few occasions where electric guitars do pop up, they never quite fit with her signature style. But for the most part, it’s all pianos, violins, drums played with brushes, angora jumpers, fondue parties and après-ski wingdings.

There’s rarely a bum note here, though the saccharine Disney Girls may raise a few eyebrows with its antiquely conservative sentimentalism (“he’s really sweet… he likes church, bingo chances, old time dances…”). Happy Endings, too, creates a guilty feeling of queasiness – whilst Ms Day’s intentions of featuring a guest vocal from her deceased son are clearly noble, the result is a schmaltzy cruise ship piano number delivered by Christopher Cross.

My Heart is full of vintage charm, and, whilst it contains few surprises, it will surely delight Doris Day fans of all ages and persuasions. Although many of the tracks are previously unreleased, there’s no technically new material here at all: only one spoken-word intro dates from any time in the last 25 years. But who wants to dwell on the present when the past is so dreamy?

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Doris Day – My Heart