Margaret Whiting, 1924-2011, was a contemporary of Peggy Lee and Patti Page who began as a big band singer in the 1940s and then moved on to a successful solo career. But the advent of the rock and roll era saw her commercial success dwindle as she gradually faded from the music scene.
Cut to 1966 when she signed a contract with London Records. During the next several years she recorded three albums for the label, which were some of the most successful of her career. The Wheel of Hurt, which was named after her big comeback hit has been released by Real Gone Music, complete with bonus tracks. Now her other two albums for the label have been released as a two-for-one CD under the title Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore/Pop Country.
While she was a pure pop singer, the albums are very different from one another. One was a modernization of popular songs at the time and the other was her takes on a number of country songs.
Pop Country is the stronger of the two albums. Tracks such as Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me,” Glen Campbell’s hit “Gentle on My Mind,” and the classic “I Can’t Stop Loving You” were all perfect for pop interpretations. “I Almost Called Your Name” is given a dramatic interpretation while “It Keeps Right on A-Hurtin’” would have fit right in on the cabaret circuit.
Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore is more of a mixed bag. “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and a laid back version of “Somethin’ Stupid” are fine 1960s pop but her take on the Dave Clark Five’s “Because” was a real stretch. Add in such material as “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and “My Cup Runneth Over” and you have an average group of pop covers. On the other hand, when she reaches back to Johnny Mercer’s “I’ll Remember You,” her voice soars.
There are several previously unreleased songs that were recorded for release as singles. The enclosed booklet gives a fine overview of her career and time with the London label.
Margaret Whiting was in her early 40s when she recorded these albums and her voice is mature and one of the better pop instruments of the era. It’s nice to have these albums by a sometimes forgotten singer back in circulation.