Patsy Cline - Live at the Cimarron Ballroom
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Live at the Cimarron Ballroom (MCA, 1997)

Patsy Cline

Reviewed by Bill Sacks

Recorded in 1961 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just six weeks after a car crash which left her with a broken arm, dislocated hip, and myriad of facial scars, Patsy Cline's 40 minutes of performance on this mono broadcast deck tape is both a demonstration of her perseverance and a document of her fascination with Western Swing in its widest variety. Cline's voice soars through material ranging from "A Poor Man's Roses" to Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll" to a charging take of "Walkin' After Midnight" which redoubles the power of her studio recording. Along the way, she produced flourishes of falsetto and vibrato which prove that her vocal powers were still very much intact. The backing from steel player and Cimarron owner Leon McAuliffe's octet (probably best remembered for their 1949 Okie stomp entitled "Panhandle Rag") was sharp at every corner, rising to the buoyancy of Cline's spirit and providing their dance pavilion audience with plenty to move to.

The recording is not without its faults: while its energy level easily bests most of the "Live At The Opry" tracks released a decade ago, its audio fidelity does not - there are moments of complete signal drop-out on three of the 14 tunes (marring the second take of "I Fall To Pieces," number one on the Billboard pop chart at the time), and bursts of feedback or microphone distortion which pock others. The tapes have been left unadorned by overdubbing, the archive team at MCA having chosen to err on the side of history rather than canned reconditioning. Their belief in the lasting power of Cline's talent justifies that choice, even if its product is inevitably not the definitive document of that talent.

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