Post ‘Wicked,’ female Broadway singers now usually fall under two categories: the brassy belters (the Elphaba type) or the sassy sopranos (the Galindas) I am of course generalizing, but I guess this has been true for a while (see Ethel Merman vs Mary Martin) Jessica Vosk falls under the former, for sure. I mean, she is the current Elphaba on Broadway. ‘Wild and Free’ is her debut album, funded through crowd-sourcing.
The album is *exactly* what I thought it would sound. It’s not really totally show tunes, because she is probably influenced by pop music. But there’s a fair number of show songs there, and they are not bad. I am glad she sang ‘Nobody’s Side,’ from Chess, for example, although in my opinion, her version is good but nothing I haven’t heard before. Her ‘Music That Makes Me Dance’ is competent, but I still hear Idina doing Barbra in her version. I paid attention a little bit more on her medlette of ‘Help/Sondheim’ (The Beatles and Sondheim do not make a bad combination) and ‘It All Fades Away,’ from The Bridges of Madison County might make into one of those I can take out of context but you know, the typical Jason Robert Brown tuneless mess. (Sutton Foster does it too on her new album) Elsewhere in the album, I found some uninspired moments: a predictable song from ‘the Greatest Showman’ (A Million Dreams) and an all-too-familiar belter choice (Sia’s “Chandelier, always a yawn-inducer from me) So there are some mixed reactions from me here.
Tamuz Nissim is from Tel Aviv and she has released a jazz album. Singers who sing standards always fascinate me because it shows that these songs touch everyone all over the world. But I also read that Nissim has been living in New York since 2015. Perhaps that is why I don’t really hear any of her ethnicity in this album. ‘Echo Of A Heartbeat’ sounds just like another generic jazz album, and those are the worst kinds. I honestly would rather hear one with bad qualities than these ones that you can never distinguish from one another. She doesn’t have a bad voice – it’s thin and reedy but malleable. She sings with a quartet led on piano by James Weidman. Her standards, like ‘Just Squeeze Me,’ and ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do,’ aren’t bad. They are just worse by being boring. And she can be self-indulgent by inserting some of her tuneless originals. This could have been something, but now it’s just blah.
Sometimes, I just don’t get some singers. Most of the times, it’s not their fault. I just do not agree with their interpretations, or vocal arrangements, or sometimes they it’s as simple as – they bore me. Sorry to say that’s how I felt listening to Dolores Scozzesi’s ‘Here Comes The Sun.’ There’s nothing really wrong with her voice – she sings in tune, but her vocal intricacies just leave me cold. They do not speak to me. For example, her version of Randy Newman’s ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ gave me a headache. It went on and on, and seemed pointless. ‘In The Mood For Love’ was slightly better – she at least stuck to the original melody – but it was still a bore for me. I listened to the rest of the album almost tuned out – I did not want to hear anything else she was offering. I even tried to play the album again but after a couple of songs, just turned it off. Life is too short.
Linda Eder posseses one of the great modern voices in theater (and theater adjacent circles) so of course I pay attention whenever she releases a new album. And when the new album, ‘If You See Me,’ is a collection of ‘Broadway & STandards,’ it is even sweeter. My first impression: Eder has still got it – the voice is very much intact. It hasn’t lost luster or varnish, as I read she keeps her public performances to a minimum. And the repertoire seems to be made for me. She starts with a soaring ‘Before The Parade Passes By,’ and I realize very few people sing this song out of context. She can certainly hit the notes. And she also reaches heights in ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye,’ though I do think her singing is more technical than dramatic. I don’t know if I would have paired a faster paced ‘They Can’t Take That Away From me’ after singing ‘The Music That Makes Me Dance.’ And while she sings well on ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘What Did I Have That I Don’tHave,’ the former seems rushed and the latter too similar to Eydie Gorme’s version (And Eydie’s is unforgettable) Her gender-bending ‘Bring Him Home’ is memorable, though, and will be a nice twin-set match to her ‘Don Quixote.’ All in all, her delivery can be on the steely side, but she shows in ‘Losing My Mind’ that she is capable of being expressive. Her version veers on the pop side, but she gives it weight in her personal interpretation. This song can go wrong so easily – she is very right here. She closes the album with ‘If You See Me,’ composed by her son Jake, and it’s jarringly out of place here, but I forgive.
I discovered Carrie Hope Fletcher’s album ‘When The Curtain Falls’ via Spotify’s Discover Weekly ‘recommendations’ playlist designed specifically for my taste. I guess they thought I would like the albu, based on whatever metrics they use to calculate my likes. And this time, they were right. I did enjoy ‘When The Curtain Falls,’ even if I knew diddly squat about Ms. Fletcher. and from a quick internet search, I discover she is quite popular in the West End theater community. And she has a famous vlog! But. I do like that she is one of those big-voiced theater divas, just exactly my kind of theater singer. And she has great repertoire here from mostly modern musicals. I read that she was in teh West End production of Les Miz, so naturally she sings ‘I Dreamed A Dream,’ and while the arrangement here is a bit far out, I am fine with it. The calypso ‘Journey to the Pat,’ though is jarring, and needless, but she saves that by doing a tender ‘Burn,’ from Hamilton. And she does the beautiful ‘Times Are Hard for Dreamers,’ from Amelie, which I think is a gorgeous score. But the best for me is her ‘You Matter TO me,’ and she gets just the right tone for ‘No One Else’ from ‘Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812.’ I really enjoy this album, and I thank Spotify for recommending it.
Katie Birtill’s album stuck out for me because of her song choices. I like that it was showtune-heavy: ‘Baby Dream Your Dream, ; from Sweet Charity for example of ‘Who Will Buy,’ from Oliver are two songs I really enjoy. But when I first listened to the album, I was dismayed. I really disagreed with some of her musical choices – a swinging ‘But Not For Me,’ for example, felt betrayed the song’s lyrics. And a sweet and tender ‘Everyday A Little Death’? Tone deaf! But I told myself to give the album another chance. Sometimes I am too attached to this songs, and maybe these songs don’t need to be in a curio cabinet – perhaps they should be played with and experimented. And yes, I found the album more palatable in subsequent listening. I still don’t love some of it, but I didn’t cringe at some of the other tracks. I kind of get what she did with a jazzy ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ and she actually has a great ‘Goodbye Until Tomorrow.’ (No wonder she made it the title of her album) I don’t know zilch about her – she is based in London and has some credits there – so perhaps I need a little bit of context. I don’t know if I ever have a need to listen to the album again ever (though maybe I will put the title track on a playlist) I really do wish her well, though.
It’s Sutton’s World, we are just living in it. Sutton Foster is a different kind of triple threat – she is great in ‘Younger,’ and of course has won multiple Tonys, and now has released her new album, ‘Take Me To The World.’ And as I listen to her new album, I realize more and more, and it is very evident in this album that she falls more under ‘actress who sings.’ In each of these tracks, we get a glimpse of a character, and she tells the story of the songs via these characters. My favorite track is a slowed-down emotive ‘C’est Magnifique,’ which turns that song upside down. This isn’t a joyous can can interpretation of the song. Here’s what I get – we see a contemplative woman singing by Montmarte about love lost. It is quite dramatic, and never feels heavy handed. The rest of the songs have the same feel, with her medlettes (a fun ‘Everybody Says Don’t/’Say Yes’) and theatrified pop songs (Paul Simon’s’ Old Friends/Bookends’) She has great takes on showtunes old and new: a simmering ‘Stars And The Moon,’ and joyous ‘If I Were A Bell,’ and she does a great balance on classics old and new. This is a great album, one that grows more with each listen, and I hope to play it often.