Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Lana Cantrell is one of those mysteries of the 60's. An over-the-top belter who could compete with the best of them. After Barbra Streisand hit in 1963, each record company had to have their belter;
A young quirky singer who would bust the tubes out of your new amplifier. Somewhere squeezed between Laine Kazan and Diahann Carroll was Lana Cantrell. Lana -- with her six RCA albums, but no hits. Lana -- one of the many reachers of fame in a entertainment world changing so fast that even the best and biggest of the stars were faltering. Lana! Was she just a little behind the times, or perhaps too far ahead?

She hailed from Australia, but as it says on the back of her "And Then There Was Lana" album "You can only go so far in Australia." Coming to America gave her 15 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, on the Kraft Music Hall, and the Red Skelton Show, tearing up the scenery with her explosive high notes and ear shattering emotional endings.

I had never heard of her until I started buying used records at Village Thrift and Salvation Army stores. Her albums had enticing titles like, "Another Shade of Lana", "The Now of Then", "Lana!", or my favorite "Act III" which has her standing on what looks like the set where Samantha would go with Endora to get away from Darren.

I'd never found one of her albums that wasn't scratched so much that they were almost unplayable; As if their former owners played them until they were finally ripped from the record player and thrown into the street. Filled with remorse, they were picked up later to be to played again and again, repeating the cycle. Such is the power of Lana.

Unfortunately, there isn't much on the web about Lana Cantrell. A sketchy bio on a website: Link here. But it just repeats things from the back of record covers; Touting again her going on tour in the 70's with the "Wizard of Oz", and avoiding the rumor that she is a lesbian (which only makes her more interesting). I did find out that Lana, now 63, is working in New York as an entertainment lawyer, and that she has done occasional cabaret gigs. Link here for the review. Come back to us our Lana. All of our divas are gone or are far to expensive to see.

If you haven't heard La Lana sing I offer these examples of her incredible booming voice. As Mike Gross of Billboard said on the back of one of her albums:

"The girl's a natural...She can take a big song and belt it to fare-thee-well... And no matter whether the song is dramatic or emotional or light and frivolous, it automatically becomes a Cantrell-convincer when she takes over."

Regardless, she's a breed of singer that was really only seen in the 60's. Compare her to the milk toast American Idol girl singers. Lana truly could take them to the carpet with one vocal cord tied behind her back.


Link for "Go". A prime Lana song. All over the emotional chart. This is the song that if I could I'd make a beautiful dress out of mother's pretty towels and lip-sync my heart out into any available broom handle.

Link for "Pleased With Myself". Turn this one up on your Ipod and walk down the street proudly as you slowly lose hearing in one of your ears.

Link for "She's Leaving Home". . No self respecting singer in the 60's had an album without at least one Beatles cover on it. Lana was no exception, but she picked one out of the ordinary.

Link for "House of the Rising Sun". She sings the shit out of this song.

Link for "What Now My Love" This song is pure Lana. All the emotions are turned all the way up. Just when you think they can't go up any higher, she turns them up a little more. "All these street are killing me" "I really have nothing!"

Per Mike Gross: "These are the sentiments of a girl who has set her sights high. And yet she is not just another young singer who is reaching for the moon. She's such a bright new star, that the moon is reaching for her."



Marna said...

So fabulous. She's great. Thanks for turning us on.

David said...

Marry me.

Anonymous said...

beautiful! Thanks for posting this charm.

Anonymous said...

Great to see a respectful write-up about Lana Cantrell, and, no, there isn't a lot about her on the web. I do remember in the late 60's that an American singer/pianist called Frances Faye discovered Lana and took her back to the States, and as they say, the rest is history. Wonderful unique voice, and pretty spunky too.

don said...

I saw her at a nightclub in SE Washington, DC about 30 years ago. I have never forgotten "A Time For Us" where she would start so quietly you needed to lean forward and when she built up to the ending you realized you were pushed back in your chair.

She also was the first performer at the Sydney Opera House when it opened. (Can win a few bets on that piece of trivia)

Matt said...

Can't thank you enough for this ;-)

freqazoidiac said...

nice focus on Lana!
I have her LP, LANA!, on RCA victor, and I love it..and likeyour copies, was found with almost gouges in her. :(
She plays through, but some distortion in spots..and I have never seen the LP since ( 8 years ago found it)
Anyone know the Musicians on that LP? It is not listing them on the liners. There is just a fabulous Lite-Psych sound with chimes, percussion, odd instruments, sitars, and Lana of course, going light and dark with her capable voice.

Anonymous said...


Here's a link to a good 1994 NY Times article about Lana Cantrell.