Barbara Lea was a bright new voice in the 1950s when she appeared as a fully formed swing singer. Influenced by Lee Wiley and Mildred Bailey, she recorded several notable albums before dropping out of active performing in the 1960s. In the early 1970s she made a successful comeback as a highly expressive singer whose performances straddled the boundaries between swing and cabaret. She remained active into the late 1990s, passing away in 2011.
The High Priestess Of Popular Song features Barbara Lea when she was in her early seventies. While she shows her age in spots, the maturity serves her well for she really knew the meaning of the lyrics that she was interpreting. The 19 songs include a few swing standards, some cabaret, and a lot of obscure songs. Certainly “Music Makes Me,” “When You Want Me,” “April In My Heart” and “Come The Wild, Wild Weather” are not sung too often. The repertoire ranges from Hoagy Carmichael to Noel Coward.
On most selections, she is accompanied by pianist Keith Ingham although Bob Dorough plays behind her on two numbers and Ben Aronov helps out on one. Among the guest musicians, trumpeter Dick Sudhalter is a strong asset on four songs.
The High Priestess Of Popular Song gives listeners an opportunity to hear the masterful Barbara Lea during her autumn period, swinging lightly and creating heartfelt renditions of ballads.