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Music Review: Patty Duke – ‘Don’t Just Stand There’/’Patty’ and ‘Sings Songs from Valley of the Dolls’/’Sings Folk Songs’

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Patty Duke is remembered by an aging generation of males as a mid-1960s teen idol for her starring roles on The Patty Duke Show, in which she played the dual look-a-like characters of Patty Lane and her cousin Cathy Lane. Movie fans will remember her for winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing the role of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker at the age of 16. After the series ended, she played the very adult role of Neely O’Hara in the movie Valley Of The Dolls.

Like many actors and actresses, before and since, she decided to try her hand at singing. On the strength of her television show, she released two commercially success albums: Don’t Just Stand There (1965) and Patty (1966), which spawned two hit singles, “Say Something Funny” and “Don’t Just Stand There.” In 1967, she released an album of songs from the film she starred in, Valley Of The Dolls. The last album of her career, Sings Folk Songs (1968), which contains traditional and popular songs of the day, was never issued – and the Valley album was never released on CD. Real Gone Music has now released all four albums, complete with a few bonus tracks, as two-for-one CDs. Not counting two compilation albums and two songs on the Billie soundtrack, these releases represent just about all of her studio tracks at the time.

Duke has what can be called an acceptable voice. It was probably better than Hayley Mills and Shelley Fabares and about equal in quality to Annette. She basically sang lightweight pop and her vocals could carry the songs, although they seem very dated today and in many ways would have fit better in the pre-Beatles era.

Don’t Just Stand There/Patty was very typical of many pop albums of her day. Take a couple of singles and surround them with a number of cover songs. Let’s face it. Songs such as “Yesterday,” “Downtown,” “A World Without Love,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “Save Your Heart for Me,” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” were all covered dozens of times and much better most of those times, and that’s not taking the originals into consideration. Her two hits are by far the best tracks, as they are catchy pieces of pop. All in all, these are albums definitely rooted in the 1960s but there are a lot of people who still remember her, and the young woman on the CD cover is still appealing.

Sings Songs From Valley Of The Dolls/Sings Folk Songs contains the last two albums of her singing career.  They are more obscure than her commercially successful pop material but are also more interesting. Her role in Valley Of The Dolls, for better or worse, was her first attempt to leave her youth behind. The albums reflect a new maturity, at least in the selection of material.

She owed United Artists a couple of albums and so to capitalize on her movie performance in Valley of the Dolls, she covered a number of songs from it. Dionne Warwick had a huge hit with the title song in 1968, and while Duke’s performance does not reach those heights, she gives it a good try. “Valley Of The Dolls,” “It’s Impossible,” and “Come Live with Me” may be a bit subdued but she is in control and they are credible performances.

The second side of the original vinyl release was made up of cover songs that attempted to appeal to an adult audience. “Roses Are Red” and “Half-Hearted Kisses” were competent adult-contemporary performances. The film’s soundtrack and Warwick’s own Valley of the Dolls album sold well but hers quickly disappeared.

The real gem for Patty Duke fans is her previously unreleased album of folk songs. Her label made the decision to not release it and so the music sat in the vaults for over 40 years. It is certainly dated today but it is overall her strongest album. The material fit her voice better than the pop material. The simple versions of “The Bells of Rhymney,” “The Cruel War,” “The Housewife’s Lament,” and “Colors” may have been a little out of place in the late 1960s but they are a nice visit to a simpler time.

Real Gone music has done a good job with the packaging, as the booklets give a comprehensive history of the albums and Patty Duke. There are also a number of classic photos of her as well.

In the last analysis, these releases will probably only appeal to her fans or fans of the era. If you fall into either of those categories, then these long out-of-print albums are for you.

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  • Guy De Federicis

    Thanks for the heads-up. I didn’t know these albums had been re-released. I have an affinity for “Don’t Just Stand There”.