Carole J. Bufford – “You Don’t Own Me: Fearless Females of the 60s”

Carole J. Bufford – “You Don’t Own Me: Fearless Females of the 60s

Bay Area Cabaret- The Venetian Room, San Francisco, November 24, 2019


Award winning performer Carole Bufford made her solo cabaret performance a smash for Bay Area Cabaret’s third show of their amazing 16th season. The petite dynamo recently completed a 10-week solo run at NYC’s Birdland receiving rave reviews from The New York Times. For her theme, Bufford chose the powerful singer/songwriters of the 60’s whose music changed the artistic landscape both in the US and abroad. With her musical director Ian Herman and local favorites Daniel Fabricant on bass and David Rokeach on drums, Bufford delivered a nostalgic throwback to our memory banks while transporting the anthems of power, courage and emotional strength from a female perspective to contemporary times.

Bufford opened the show with the title track, Lesley Gore’s 1964 strong ode to independence “You Don’t Own Me”. David White and John Madara’s lyrics aptly apply to Bufford herself – “I’m young and I love to be young, I’m free and I love to be free”. Bufford possesses a strong voice with amazing control; able to hit the power chords when necessary, and flip on a dime to a passionate softness. A mashup of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s wonderful “Anyone Who Had a Heart” with the dramatic “I Who Have Nothing” (Giulio Mogol Rapetti / Carlo Donida / Mike Stoller / Jerry Leiber) are bows to Dionne Warwick and Dame Shirley Bassey.

Bufford has done her homework on the songs and artists selected, offering backstories on the tunes that add to their luster. She moves easily among genres, seamlessly flowing between pop, rock and blues. With a decade chock full of female performers struggling with equal rights and prominence in a male dominated field, Bufford’s smart selections made sense and formed a cohesive glue to the show. Etta James “Spoonful”, a blues tune by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf deals with the men’s sometimes violent search for pleasures. From a female perspective, it’s both a warning and an indictment.

A delicate rendition of Judy Collin’s1966 hit “Turn Turn Turn”, Pete Seeger’s musical adaptation of lyrics from The Book of Ecclesiastes, is as powerful today as when it was written. It’s an opportunity for Bufford to show her soft side, as is her cover of Mama Cass’ huge 1968 hit “Dream A Little Dream of Me”, a 1931 collaboration of Fabian Andre / Gus Kahn / Wilbur Schwandt. From pop ballads right back to rock, Tina Turner’s sultry “Rock me Baby” (B.B. King / J. Josea) and her cover of Jerry Butler and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” display Bufford power and vulnerability.

The great Dusty Springfield is represented with “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”, a fantastic arrangement of Cher’s “Bang Bang”  and Nancy Sinatra’s self-confidant recording of the previously male-centric Lee Hazlewood tune “These Boots Are Made For Walking” (with a heavy back beat from Daniel Fabricant) are delivered with confidence and strength. Dazzling and charming with her sequined minidress, pixie haircut and huge blue eyes, Bufford had the audience in the palm of her hands, closing with a sensational Nina Simone cover of Bob Dylan’s gospel influenced song of redemption “I Shall Be Released”.

Comparison are made in the press to a young Barbra Streisand, but I see her more in the Liza with a Z camp. She has the style, charisma and pizazz of those two in their early days. She’s won of a Nightlife, Bistro and BroadwayWorld Award for Outstanding Vocalist, and her star is rising and most deserving.