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MARI WILSON (Buy CDs by this artist)
Born Lucky [tape] (UK Compact Organisation) 1983
Showpeople (London) 1983
The Mari Wilson Chat Show [tape] (UK Compact Organisation) 1983

Joined by the Wilsations (one of whom was future star Julia Fordham), crowned with an awesome beehive hairdo and dressed in formal evening wear, England's Mari Wilson attempts to singlehandedly effect a return to the days when singers were known as song stylists and the loudest instruments on a record were trombone and violin. I can't fathom the pose's appeal — this is so far removed from rock as to lose any satirical value and hardly aimed at people desirous of the real article. If the world was in need of a new Peggy Lee, wouldn't the call go out for a real middle-aged schmaltz-spooner?

Anyway, if you don't have a conceptual problem with it, Showpeople is a likable, grandly produced (mostly by Tony Mansfield) and bountifully tuneful record. Wilson is an almost-very-good singer with a fair amount of versatility, judging by the mock-rock mixed in with the MOR crooning. The centerpiece and virtual statement of purpose is Wilson's smoky cover of "Cry Me a River," a hit for Julie London in 1957. The British release contains a calender poster; the American edition deducts two songs and shifts the running order.

Born Lucky is a live cassette recorded in 1982. Given the problems of recording an orchestra and vocalist in one take, the sound is a bit cluttered, but Wilson sounds swell, her big voice taking charge of the six numbers, most of them not from the studio album. The Chat Show tape is an hour of Mari talking and playing assorted recordings, including outtakes, demos and live cuts.

[Ira Robbins]