My parents had quite a few records when we were growing up in the 50s and 60s. Lots of Sinatra, of course. Pearl Bailey, Herb Alpert, Ella and Louis. Stuff that brings up memories of a specific time (Martin Denny, The Soul of Spain by the 101 Strings Orchestra). Latin ala Lee! was on their shelf, as well.
Lee’s singing career went back to the 1940s, and she was still recording interesting music into the 70s. Latin music was a crossover hit in the 1950s, thanks to artists like Pérez Prado. Latin ala Lee! was released in 1960, and, as the cover told us, featured “Broadway hits styled with an Afro-Cuban beat”. That sounds like a guaranteed train wreck, but the results were actually quite good, in large part due to Lee, who at 40 years old was still a fine stylist, willing to stretch. The songs were well-known to my parents’ generation, or anyone with a taste for Broadway musicals such as My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and Oklahoma! The arrangements weren’t as awful as you might think, although there were some odd lyric moments. “Heart”, from Damn Yankees, featured a group of male singers moaning “Corazón!” as Lee cruised through the lyrics. Mostly, it seemed incongruous to hear “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” with a Latin beat.
Whatever we thought of this stuff when we were kids, it’s a bit like musical comfort food now. Latin ala lee! even won a Grammy … for Best Album Cover:
Here is the entire album (ain’t YouTube grand?):