You’ll probably know her best for her scenery-chewing star turn in Ken Russell’s film version of the Who’s Tommy, where she tries her best to look seductive whilst rolling about in a pool of champagne and baked beans, but the Swedish-born actress Ann-Margret has also released a number of albums during her long career. She may have gained cult status as an actress with appearances in movies such as Kitten With a Whip and Carnal Knowledge, but it’s her short-lived stab at being a disco diva that we’re interested in here – specifically her self-titled 1980 album, a couple of tracks from which I present for you today.
Ann-Margret began her recording career, with RCA, in 1961 – the same year she made her screen debut (in the Frank Capra comedy Pocketful of Miracles). Her first album - And Here She Is: Ann-Margret – was produced in Nashville and featured Chet Atkins, the Jordanaires (Elvis Presley's backing singers) and the Anita Kerr Singers – who featured among their number one Gene Merlino. An attempt to market her as 'female Elvis' led to her scoring her first minor hit (I Just Don't Understand, taken from her second album) and to co-starring with The Burger King in his 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas.
She went on to release eight albums during the 1960s and appear on a number of soundtracks, but then nothing until 1980, when this mess – simply titled Ann-Margret - appeared in the stores. Short - just five tracks in total – it’s a simpering, unsophisticated disco mess: poor lyrics, insipid production and a vocal performance which could just as easily have been phoned in. A-M’s career was built on her sexual appeal, but this collection is about as impotent as her one-time co-star would have been before he choked down his last fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Badly dated Euro-disco, it’s Barbara Markay without the smut. Luckily her comeback album would not only be her first album for over ten years, it would also prove to be her last for more than two decades.
It took her more than 20 years to get over this diabolical rubbish, during which time she concentrated on looking after her family (she’s been married to actor Roger Smith since 1967), playing Vegas and appearing in the occasional made-for-TV movie. In 2001 she returned to the recording studio, issuing a gospel album God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions, which earned her a Grammy Nomination, and three years later released Ann-Margret's Christmas Carol Collection. Now well into her 70s, it’s doubtful she’ll never again reach the heights (or plumb the depths) touched by this rotten disco mess though.