Peggy Lee

Love Held Lightly – Rare Songs by Harold Arlen

Harbinger Records (HCD 2401)
Released June 13, 2006


Recorded in 1988 and originally released in 1993 by Angel Records,Love Held Lightly: Rare Songs by Harold Arlen has been out of print for nearly a decade. It returns to CD on Harbinger Records with new introductory notes by Bill Rudman and Ken Bloom, the album’s producers (along with musical director, pianist and arranger Keith Ingham), plus the original version’s essays by Will Friedwald (about “The Singer”) and Arlen biographer Edward Jablonski (about “The Songs”).

Although all fourteen Arlen songs onLove Held Lightly are rare — and all were new to Peggy’s vast repertoire in 1988 — eight songs received their very first recordings. Among these premieres is “Happy with the Blues,” the sole songwriting partnership between Arlen and Lee. Originally written in 1961 as the title song for a television special starring Peggy and saluting Arlen’s music, Peggy revised her lyric for this recording. The other lyricists featured here comprise a who’s who of American popular songwriting: Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields, Yip Harburg, Ted Koehler, Carolyn Leigh, Martin Charnin — even Truman Capote, Arlen’s lyricist for the 1954 Broadway musical House of Flowers.

Highlights from original reviews (1993-94)

At 73, an age when many folks are enjoying the diversions of retirement, Lee has released one of the most taxing and notable works of her long career. Love Held Lightly: Rare Songs by Harold Arlen features Lee in world premiere recordings of music by one of the most profound of American songwriters… The album’s tour de force has to be “I Had a Love Once,” with a lyric by Arlen. Written for the composer’s wife, Anya, who died in 1970, the piece amounts to a terse, anguished cry of grief. — Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

The care that Peggy Lee — and producers Bill Rudman, Ken Bloom, and Keith Ingham — invested in this unusual new Harold Arlen songbook is clear. Two bittersweet “unknowns” from failed musicals, “Come On, Midnight” and “I Had a Love Once,” will likely live on once other singers hear Lee’s darkly moving readings. Here, her age is an asset. — Chip Deffaa, Entertainment Weekly

This magnificent match between songstress Peggy Lee and a rare Harold Arlen repertoire (written 1937-73) has finally been released… The captivating title ballad confirms that Lee retains the intimate, satiny delivery — her trademark at the height of her popularity in the ’50s and ’60s. There are those who might claim Lee’s voice betrays her age, but without doubt, she cleanly and smoothly hits the notes without strain. — Nancy Ann Lee, Cleveland Free Times

Easily the most interesting Peggy Lee release of the past decade … This set finds Lee singing 14 Harold Arlen songs, all but the last two being quite obscure… Lee’s tiny voice works well throughout this respectful program and the concise jazz solos offered by the backup band… uplift the material. — Scott Yanow, Cadence

Miss Lee’s voice is perhaps a little thinner and a little worn, but still comes out beautifully in tune and swinging. Even with such a late recording as this you can hear the laconic, almost fatigued approach which was a distinguishing feature of Peggy’s vocal style. Listen also to some of the inflections. Peggy Lee really is one of the most sensual vocalists in jazz. — Martin Richards, Jazz Journal International


1. Look Who’s Been Dreaming
2. Love Held Lightly
3. Buds Won’t Bud
4. Can You Explain?
5. Wait’ll It Happens to You
6. Come On, Midnight
7. Happy with the Blues
8. Bad for Each Other
9. Love’s No Stranger to Me
10. I Could Be Good for You
11. Got to Wear You Off My Weary Mind
12. I Had a Love Once
13. Love’s a Necessary Thing
14. My Shining Hour

Harold Arlen, Peggy Lee and Vic Damone in 1961
Related links
Harold Arlen – Official Website