Echoes Of Long Ago (Music Thoughts: I Honestly Love You, Delta Goodrem)

245595-l-loWhen I saw Delta Goodrem’s new album, ‘I Honestly love You,’ on Spotify, I got excited, as I see that it is a tribute to one of my beloveds, Olivia Newton John. And it even has a kitschy cover of her ‘being’ Olivia. But I then realized that these were scenes from a  biopic for Australian television (I wanna see that!)  And essentially, this album is the television soundtrack. I was going to gripe about the sameness of the arrangements here but then realize Goodrem didn’t really have much room for that here. Still, she sings these songs with gusto, and I am just glad she included my favorite ONJ song ‘Magic.”  I also liked that they dug deep into the ‘Baby Olivia’ country-tinged discography, and love the ‘bonus’ of the two tracks, ‘Love Is A Gift,’ and ‘Let Me Be There’ where Olivia herself duets with Goodrem. And you gotta give Goodrem credit for a flawless rendition of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You.’ All in all, more a souvenir piece, so good to have.

I Obey (Film Thoughts: Disobedience)

Disobedience-poster-600x890Someone described ‘Disobedience’ to me as ‘Call Me By Your Name’ for lesbians, and it really is not an apt comparison. There’s an inherent huge conflict in ‘Disobedience,’ which is religion, that towers over the whole film, and that is quite different from the mostly internal struggles of Oliver and Elio.

And as a film, ‘Disobedience’ is not as fully realized. This film was directed by Sebastian Lelio, who directed ‘A Fantastic Woman,’ who won the Academy Award last year for Best Foreign Language, and also one of my favorite films of 2017/. But something ‘Disobedience’ feels hollow. It is about Ronit (Rachel Weisz) who goes back to London for her father’s funeral. The father is a renowned rabbi in the Orthodox Jewish community, and his obituary they mentioned that he did not have any children – Ronit is an modern woman, long real hair, leather skirt. She goes to live with the man his father has been mentoring to take over the synagogue, and she finds out he has married her old friend Esti (Rachel McAdams)  but wait…there’s more… Esti and Ronit used to be lovers. So sure, the plot is soap opera, but Lelio’s treatment is quiet and classy, and the film feels filmed under an Instagram filter. All that serves as smoke to distract from the story, and that’s all fine. But I wish we got a little more – this was based on Naomi Alderman’s novel and I bet there’s a lot that didn’t make it to screen.

Still, the film isn’t a total loss, we get fantastic performances from both actresses, and it’s always a treat to see these kinds of stories on the big screen.

Olivia, Rough (Music Thoughts: Juliana Hatfield sings Olivia Newton-John, Juliana Hatfield)

71cxqpESKqL._SX522_Juliana Hatfield and her music will always remind me of the 90s. I remember her music along with my memories of that era.  I guess it should not come as a surprise that Olivia Newton John influenced her music, although I don’t really see it sonically – I think Newton John’s spirit was more influential for her. And here we are at 2018 and Hatfield has recorded an album dedicated (hopelessly dedicated?) to Olivia Newton John.

I think it’s great. Hatfield stays true to her indie folk sound that made her famous. There are times I think it sounds dated, but for sure that is just a projection of my memories with this particular sound. It’s amazing how most of these songs work in these context – it’s a tribute that doesn’t get lost in karaoke. The syrupy sweetness of ‘I Honestly Love You’ with the electric guitar gives it a certain kind of honesty – it won’t be lost in the soundtrack of a young rom com, or ‘Reality Bites.’ (That last point was a joke – I think ) Even Xanadu is laid out with a lot less cheese, and ‘Please Mister Please’ has never sounded more urgent. I love this album as I really thought I was listening to all new songs by Hatfield. I think Olivia will be good with this.

For The Boys (Music Thoughts: The Fellas, Melissa Manchester)

81GtHfqQKyL._SY355_I love Melissa Manchester and her pop hits, but in the 80s she did an album called ‘Tribute,’ where she pays tribute to female singers, and that has become one of my favorite album of hers. And here we are in 2018 and she does another tribute album, now to the male singers she admires. So of course I am listening to it with enthusiatic anticipation.

I wish I loved it. There are parts o fit I really like. For example, her ‘They Say That Falling In Love Is Wonderful’ is tender-filled, and is perfect interpretation of Irving Berlin’s romanticism, and her ‘How Do You Keep The Music Playing’ is just right in its questioning. But I seriously hated the bossa beat of Johnny Mathis’ ‘Chances Are,’ as it didn’t serve the message of the song well. Plus, the band stand arrangements, like in ‘Aint That A Kick In the Head,’ felt too busy and noisy. It’s sad that Manchester isn’t with any label, and she had to go to Indigogo to have this record funded, but the result, for me anyway, is a mixed bag. She could do better.

Maybe The Moon (Music Thoughts: How High The Moon, Matt Alber)

51qzlZTmxBL._SS500Something always crazy happens during a full moon, they say.  Matt Alber’s ‘How High the Moon’ is a very straightforward album, though. And (joke coming) perhaps that’s odd because Alber is openly gay. The great thing about this album is how at once you realize that Alber is not your run-of-the-mill wannabe crooner. His styling and phrasing isn’t reminiscent of a Sinatra or a Bennett, like most male crooner are. He definitely does not sound like he is imitating someone, even while his arrangements are steeped in these singers’ influence.

I wish it stood out more for me. I have listened to the album a couple of times and it has yet to make an imprint besides that first impression. Perhaps it is very nuanced that I need to listen more to it, but I ask myself, do I have the time? The ‘moon theme’ is cute, but have been done before, and he actually did a great job of compiling a good collection of lunar tunes. I like his longing ‘Blue Moon’ that has a lot more angst than I am normally used to when I hear that song. But other that that, all’s a blur – like a liar’s moon.

Unidentified Sass (Music Thoughts: Impressions, Viki Ryan)

51dl6of5FpL._SS500Viki Ryan describes her album ‘Impressions’ as a collection of ‘timeless tunes with a sassy style.’  I am sure Ms. Ryan is sassy and is probably a great performer – I do hear a lot of ‘performance’ in her singing in this album – but I am willing to bet that her live show is much much better than what is represented here. After all, she has Cuban blood in her, and I sense that in her lively version of ‘Besame Mucho’ here (she even phrases Besame correctly)  The rest of the album, though is bland city, reminiscent of what I would her at the lounge of a hotel near the airport. As a matter of fact, I could even imagine the scenario in my mind of ordering a drink while I listen to these songs here. There’s a spitfire there somewhere – something sassy, as she herself has described, but for the life of me I cannot understand why the album shows her tempered. As such, this sounds like one of those albums I will never listen again. But I bet her show I would go back to.

Taking Care of Ann (Music Thoughts: Finding Beauty, Josephine Sanges)

268x0wAs everyone who knows me knows, Ann Hampton Callaway is one of my favorite musical artists, and person, ever. And I just discovered that singer Josephine Sanges has recorded a tribute album for her, titled ‘Finding Beauty.’  I don’t know anything about Ms. Sanges, and the bio on her website isn’t much help, but one thing I am certain – she has good taste. In this album, she covers Ann-dards (songs written by Ms. Callaway) as well as some standards that Callaway has recorded.

And they mostly work. Her voice has a different timbre than Callaway, so these sounds sound different. And she chose some of my favorite songs – like ‘I Gaze In Your Eyes,’ and ‘Perfect,’ and ‘Bring Back Romance’ To my ears, the vocal arrangements still sound a little too Ann, and I wish I saw more of Sanges’ personality in those songs, but I won’t complain as much. She certainly knows and understands these songs, and I feel the love. When she does other standards, I kind of get Sanges more – she has imaginative arrangements in songs like ‘Out Of This World,’ and ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead,’ and on ‘How High The Moon,’ she scats a la Callaway that is as much a tribute as an original rendition. With that said, after listening to the whole album (multiple times, don’t mind me) I still don’t have a full understand of who Sanges is, but I am looking forward to knowing. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is the perfect romantic soundtrack to bring back romance in all our lives.