No Garlands (Music Thoughts: Judy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

713h-RCHYXL._SS500_After seeing the ‘Judy’ movie, I was curious how I would react to the soundtrack. In the context of the movie, I was impressed by Renee Zellwegger singing the songs herself. But, on an aural enjoyment level, do the same tracks work?

My answer is no. Taken out of the movie, the songs feel flat. While you can tell that Zellweger wasn’t doing a total imitation of Garland, the songs just fall south of interesting. She sings in tune, and gets some of the Judy inflections, and at times puts her own spin, but all in all, they do nothing for me. Even the original orchestrations sound paltry in comparison. Nelson Riddle’s thrilling arrangement of ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ sounds thin here, and to my ears felt it was missing whole sections of instruments. The two duets she has are more interesting (curiously with two openly gay men, Sam Smith and Rufus Wainwright) but in the end, those two tracks will not enhance my life in any way. I hope anyone who listens to this will be compelled to listen to the original Judy Garland versions of this song, and see the difference.

His High C (Film Thoughts: Pavarotti)

2e5d6aa4b4ade74f04c80ee258eb2c7cWhen I was a college student, I used to take advantage of the student discount for the Saturday afternoon performances at The Metropolitan Opera and there was a time I was really into it – making sure I understand everything about the art, and the singing. I was already a big musical theater fan by then, and it fascinated me how there are similarities between the two arts, but in a lot of ways they are very very different. My heart will also be for Broadway, but there is a part of it that’s for Lincoln Center. I veered towards more the sopranos, but of all the tenors, Luciano Pavarotti was my favorite. I thought he was always larger than life in his performances, and yes that voice – opera is mostly about the technical, but Pavarotti provided heart and soul in what he sang – you felt the passion there.

You feel that passion as well in Ron Howard’s documentary ‘Pavarotti.’  Howard definitely loves his subject, and you can feel it. He builds Pavarotti the lovable figure that he is, and captures vividly that mega watt smile that lit the stages when he was performing. The great thing about opera is a lot of these performances get recorded, so we see all the archival footage of when he performed his classic roles. When we see him hit that high C, we see the visuals that go with it, and it enhances the experience more. Howard starts from Luciano as a kid, all the way to his peak of stardom in the 80s, when he reached superstar status. We learn about the man from interviews from his family and lovers – there’s a tender story when one of his daughters shouts ‘Papa’ after seeing her father die on stage. Even as he moves from one lover to another, Howard frames it as almost adorable. It’s sometimes a bit much – sure he did a lot of philanthropic work towards the end, but Howard really piles it on.  But in the end, I didn’t care. This film celebrates a lot of what he did well – the music he left us – and I couldn’t help but weep as the film is closed by him singing his signature ‘Nessun Dorma.’ I am blessed to have lived in a world where that existed.

Sutton Screen (Music Thoughts: Screen Play, The Tierney Sutton Band)

TierneySuttonI never ever judge a Tierney Sutton album with a first or second listen. i find that I appreciate her stuff as it marinates more. I don’t always ‘get’ what she is trying to do, and at times even vehemently dislike it, but more often than not I warm up, and even learn to love them. Again, that is the case with ‘Screen Play,’  the new album by the Tierney Sutton Band, consisting of pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt, and drummer Ray Brinket.

The album is a collection of songs from films, a familiar concept that could ever be mundane or inspired. Song selection wise, Sutton goes for the eclectic. I was surprised to see not one but two songs from ‘Grease,’ – a no-fills retelling of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ that is the antithesis of the original Olivia Newton John version, and a trippy ‘You’re The One That I Want.’ I don’t know if the latter really works – it’s much too contrived of an arrangement for me – but darn it if I can’t stop listening to it. Her album with Alan Bergamn on ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing’ i seriously heartfelt, and on the medlette of ‘Moon River/Calling You’ she found two song of waiting and wanting that fit perfectly together. But some tracks are just misses for me. Draining ‘The Sound of Silence’ of its granola character makes it dishonest sounding which is a contrast from its lyrics, and ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friends’ didn’t sound like a song about diamonds in her scat-filled vocal flourish. But when she is good, she’s fantastic, and when she finds darkness in songs – like’s Sondheim’s ‘Goodbye For Now’ – she is inimitable.

Emotions In Abstract (Music Thoughts: Portrait, Greta Matassa)

NYkojRI hadn’t heard about Greta Matassa in a while, and no wonder, since it has been eleven years since she has released an her album. Her new album, ‘Portraits’ is pretty good, and I had forgotten how an appealing a singer she can be. She has spoken about her interpretations as being abstract, and I get her comparison, and I mostly don’t like when singers get too ‘out there,’ but she knows when to pull back and when to go off. My favorite track is ‘The One Who Loves The Most/Softly,’ probably because I love the latter song (which I know from Lena Horne) She has great eclectic style – from Ennio Morrriconne to Bob Dylan to Duke Ellington. I have to be in a mood sometimes to play this album, but when I am, it fits my bill sensationally.

Used To Be Me (Music Thoughts: From New York to Paris, Nicki Parrot)

61J5w+WaQpL._SS500_Nicki Parrot is one of the most prolific jazz artist that I sometimes take her for granted. I read somewhere that she has released twenty seven albums, and it feels like it.  I have seen tribute albums to every single Songbook composer out there, and I even think she has made one for The Carpenters, and that’s a-ok in my book, by the way. I chanced upon a track of hers from her new album, ‘From New York to Paris,’ and it’s her singing ‘Do You Miss New York,’ a song that has always been dear to me. It holds a special meaning now more than ever for me, because there are days when I miss New York a lot, and when I heard the track, it fell on one of those moments. One line struck me, when you see someone who used to be me. I am sure there is someone out there in New York City who is living the life I used to live, and I wonder how I would feel if I saw that person. The song stayed with me for the rest of the day.

A Decade Of Boyle (Music Thoughts: Ten, Susan Boyle)

71O+Df-reOL._SY355_Can you believe it has been ten years since that viral video of Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent. I do admit that I was one of those people who was touched by it, and certainly her back story added to my appreciation of her. I like her quite a bit, and I thought that she was one of those artists who had good records,. especially the first one. It was atmospheric, and played to her strengths. I had some problems with some latter albums, but more from the uninspired song selections than anything else. I feel like she is one of those singers who is probably bet on record – I once saw her live in Las Vegas with Donny Osmond and she was suffering from a set of nerves.

Now comes ‘Ten,’ a retrospective of her best tracks from her first six albums, in addition to four new tracks. The album showcases what makes her albums soar – great renditions of ‘Wild Horses,’ “Amazing Grace,’ and of course ‘I Dreamed A Dream.’ The new tracks are also quite good: I was immediately drawn to her slowed down soulful version of ‘500 Miles,’ and her duet of ‘A Thousand Dreams’ with Michael Ball is primo. I maybe could have done with ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ but I do get it. All in all, this is a great collection of songs, and should be a great addition to any playlist.

Back To the Racks (Music Thoughts: Sings Bachrach, Laura Avanzolini)

LauraOne of the great things about the music of Burt Bachrach is his intricate melodies. There is something great about the way his music swoops and sways, and whenever an artist sings his songs, I always look at the way they navigate themselves in his song. Laura Avanzolini has a new album called ‘Sings Bachrach’ and for most of these songs, she finds ‘different’ ways of interpreting these songs. FAIL. She at times goes against the melodies, and…they just don’t sound good to me. At times it feels like she is trying too hard, and the rest of the time she veers too much away from the melody that I instantly get a headache. I very rarely give a very negative review but seriously i cannot find anything redeeming about this at all. Skip this!