Fun Life (1961)

Let's Face The Music And Dance
(Irving Berlin)
Runnin' Wild
(Joe Grey/Leo Wood/A.H. Gibbs)
Once Is Enough For Me
(Peter Matz)
Falling In Love Again, Can't Help It
(Frederick Hollander)
Don't Worry 'Bout Me
(Rube Bloom/Ted Koehler)
I'm Not At All In Love
(Richard Adler/Jerry Ross)
The Boys In The Back Room
(Frank Loesser/Frederick Hollander)
Fun Life
from the Broadway production The Nervous Set
(Fran Landesman/Tommy Wolf)
Do What You Wanna Do
(John Latouche/Vernon Duke)
There'll Be Some Changes Made
(Billy Higgins/W. Benton Overstreet)
Blah Blah Blah
(George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin)
I Don't Care
(Jean Lenox/Harry O. Sutton)


Arranged and conducted by Peter Matz.
Atlantic #8048 (1961).

This is the original back sleeve notes:

There are several good things about the mixture of fantasy and musical comedy called "House of Flowers", which arrived on Broadway not so many years ago, that are still remembered with gratitude, and the best of these is the fact that it brought out of hiding and permanently into the public eye  and ear a slim, dark-haired, diamond-eyed young lady named Diahann Carroll. Even while this play with music was messing around beforehand in Philadelphia, the way shows like to do when they are pulling themselves together, it was as clear as her crystal voice that something elegant, graceful, and altogether delightful was soon to be added to the sight and sound of America. In the tropical West Indies setting of "House of Flowers", a good many of us are sure to recall, this crystal voice - then the voice of innocence as well - had its pleasurable way with two of Harold Arlen's most lyric ballads, the one in which the young lady explains that she has never seen snow and the one in which she sets forth the legend of the sleeping bee. Those of us who saw this new and beguiling Peter Pan on her opening night in New York did not have to be asked whether we believed in her; we said so without being asked, and with vast applause.
  Well, since then - so this album tells us - the little one has come upon her first snows and chill of untropical winter, has discovered that the eternal love that sleeping bees foretell is not always true love, but she is still carrying on (yes, carrying on is the precise phrase for her brisk performance), head-and-voice-held-high. For though a few of the dozen songs involved in this particular recording are what we call sad songs, none of them bog down in sentimentality. Self-pity is not the Diahann Carroll way; "That's life," her voice says instead, or, to be more exact, "Fun Life." So, too, says the orchestration behind her - amusic that is firm and even insistent where it needs to be, but never to the point of extinguishing what the singer has to say. It is the work of Peter Matz, an arranger who is given quite a few sopranos a helping hand and band. Half the events that participate in the album are old and familiar friends, but none of them have been sung in anything suggesting the Carroll manner before; the rest are the sort of thing that doesn't get itself sung or recorded nearly enough. Taken together, they afford Miss Carroll the opportunity to be loving, flippant, devil-may-care, wistful, sassy, and companionable, and what more could or should be expected of a fine, healthy American girl? And rhythmic into the bargain, for once noticeable aspect of this album is that it has beat. Not always the same beat, either, for there's no monotony in this effort; second choruses don't even borrow the tempo of the first choruses. And whatever the beat, Diahann Carroll is a Christmas present to all writers of lyrics; never is there a doubt about the words that they have put in her mouth, a fairly important point when many of the words are not at all household ones. Everyone knows by heart the lyric of Falling In Love Again, but who knows the words to the verse, which are here included?
  The cool, intense, collected manner of Diahann Carroll is plain to hear from the moment she goes to work on Irving Berlin's contribution to modern chin-up philosophy called Let's Face The Music And Dance, but the little-girl quality that gave us all such pleasure in "House of Flowers" is there along with the rest. The session next proceeds to Runnin' Wild, which, though it has been around a long, long time, receives from Miss Carroll a dusting-off, easy-going but firm, that will never remind us of what anyone else has ever done with it. Mr. Matzhappens to be the author of another easy journey, which takes her through Once Is Enough For Me, whose idea is this: I've had it with love but I guess I'm going to have it again. Falling In Love Again, from the days when Marlene Dietrich was a Blue Angel, nevertheless sounds as though it was written only yesterday, for it encounters a somewhat reorganized and very up-to-the-minute reception from Miss Carroll. There ensues Rube Bloom's undeniable classic, Don't Worry 'Bout Me, which she converts into a quiet bit of not necessarily broken-hearted meditation. No one could possibly accord it a finer salute than hers. The opening side of the disc comes to an end - and not by any means a bad end - with a handful of fluff put together when Richard Adler and Jerry Ross were still a team - I'm Not At All In Love a declaration of disinterest that gets Miss Carroll's best handful-of-fluff treatment.
  The flip side of the recording gets started with another Dietrich specialty, from the years when "Destry Rides Again" turned out to be the first adult Western movie. It is Frank Loesser's The Boys In The Back Room, and - quite rightly - it is not taken with any great seriousness, the Carroll voice doing looping swoops through it that may well remind you of Cootie Williams getting off a few bravura pranks on his horn. The title song arrives in a moment - Fun Life, which was thought up by a pair of light-hearted writers not especially familiar to most of us but who have been in a way the staff of life of the St. Louis night club called The Crystal Palace, an establishment that has sent forth into the world such valuable citizens as Shelley Berman and the team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. These composers are Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf, and the sample of their work is what could be called a face-the-facts, what-to-do-until-the-analyst-comes code of protocol. It suits Diahann Carroll just fine. On its heels is another up-and-coming piece of advice to human beings, Do What You Wanna Do, a self-explainatory title if I ever heard one. John Latouche and Vernon Duke put their bright heads together to get this one down on paper. There'll Be Some Changes Made, a veteran performer known to one and all, is in for a considerable number of changes by Miss Carroll and Mr. Matz, so much that it comes out on wax a practically brand-new number, but still as good as old, you might say. The Gershwin brothers - Ira and George - are not likely ever to be forgotten, but such a little daisy as Blah Blah Blah, which gave Tin Pan Alley composers a good going over when Fred Astaire, who sang it, was still on Broadway, doesn't get itself heard much any more. It was more than time when Diahann Carroll got around to it, very much in the manner of the tear-jerker singer and writer it burlesques. She signs off with I Don't Care, a high-speed race track that is short and to the point.

As you can see, this collection of songs presents Diahann Carroll with a practically limitless range, and roam it she does, with vehemence, vigor, and verse. May hers be a long and happy Fun Life.

-Rogers Whitaker


A compact disc edition was released fall, 2002 by Collectables Records, catalogue number COL-CD-6192. Digitally remastered and with the original liner notes (as written above).

The following is a review from AMG, written at the time of the CD re-release:

Still only in her mid-twenties, Diahann Carroll had a varied career leading up to her sole Atlantic Records album, including nightclub appearances, several albums on RCA Victor and United Artists, and appearances in such musical films as Carmen Jones and Porgy & Bess (although her singing was dubbed in by others). But she remained best-known for her appearance in the 1954 Broadway musical House of Flowers, a succès d'estime that annotator Roger Whitaker brought up immediately in his liner notes to Fun Life. It was that credit which legitimized Carroll's credentials as an interpreter of show music, but she further made her case here, handling favorites by Irving Berlin and the Gershwins. The obvious antecedent for Carroll was Lena Horne, but her voice had a purer tone and much less archness. She was content to float where Horne might have pounced, and this was most noticeable in her versions of two songs associated with the quintessentially arch Marlene Dietrich, "Falling in Love Again, Can't Help It" and "The Boys in the Backroom." Where Dietrich sang the former with a bored sophistication and the latter with a raucous lustiness, Carroll remained playful and kittenish throughout. As usual, arranger/conductor Peter Matz contoured his charts to match his singer's style and energy; he even contributed a good tune, "Once Is Enough for Me." Carroll's lightness of tone made her an excellent choice for her next defining stage role, which was less than a year away, the black lover of a white writer in Richard Rodgers' No Strings.

~William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide