Susanna Sixties (Music Thoughts: The Look Of Love, Susanna Bartilla)

album_image_largeSusanna Bartilla is a singer based in Berlin and has released a new disc titled ‘The Look Of Love,’ which is a collection of songs from the sixties. Her disc’s blurb caught my attention: “Bluesy torch songs, swinging pop and latin grooves – the vibe of the Sixties, when Dusty meets Dionne with a touch of Mama Cass.” I also read that her biggest influence is Peggy Lee so that also was a plus for me (She previously released a tribute disc to Peggy) The disc is a little bit different, selections wise, and I give her props for this: ‘Sunny Afternoon,’ ‘Our Day Will Come,’ ‘Sealed With A Kiss.’ I do hear the Peggy influence, but they are from latter day Peggy, and I don’t know if it is good or bad, but it is kind of interesting – it’s light and airy, and does give an impression of carefree swing, which matches these songs perfectly. I had to listen a couple of times to some of the tracks because Bartilla sings ‘under the notes,’ and I could swear some of them are way under, making her sound like she is singing out of tune. This is the kind of recording that probably sounds better with each listening – it is very intimate and she caresses the notes so it’s perfect for headphone listening.

Not Just A Blur (Music Thoughts: Blurred Lines, Lea Salonga)

26CE0D24F-FBFB-3594-A50B00B871D8BCABIt’s telling that Lea Salonga chose ‘Blurred Lines’ to title her new album. She sings the Robin Thicke hit – seemingly an unlikely choice – on her newest album, which is a live performance from her residency at 54 Below in New York City last Spring. The song is a bit of a departure for her ‘persona,’ as she is known to sing nice wholesome songs. Here she gets too ooh and cooh and gets to show her sexy side. She takes on a couple of pop songs here – One Directions’ ‘The Story Of My Life,’  John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ – and she mostly does well with them, but she sounds like she is slumming, because, her voice – one of the greatest voices in theater today, with its peerless precise perfect pitch – stands out best when she is singing theater songs and standards. For example, I love her version of Jeff Blumenkratz’s ‘I Won’t Mind.’ It may not replace my all time favorite version, which is Audra McDonald’s, but it comes close. And I love two of her medlettes: the closer – How Do You Keep The Music Playing/How Deep Is the Ocean – and the combo of Beatles and Kander & Ebb in Blackbird/A Quiet Thing. there’s even a slight huskiness in her voice on the latter, probably because she had just finished her run in ‘Allegiance’ at that time. The ‘A Song For You/I Can’t Make You Love Me’ arrangement is a miss for me – in the slight uptempo version here, the poignancy in the latter song is missed. Her ‘Greatest Hits Medley,’ where she sings all her ‘signature’ songs, seems like an afterthought here, but it is very well remembered.

All in all, the disc is a nice souvenir of her cabaret act. But I still long for a nice studio album from her. It will suffice all our Lea Salonga cravings, but we all sure want more!

For Quiet Nights (Music Thoughts, Turn Up The Quiet, Diana Krall)

MI0004192319Whenever I listen to Diana Krall, I remember my old and dear friend Joel. He hated her music, and thought she was all flash with nothing to show for it. He’s somewhat correct – just look at the album cover of her newest album, ‘Turn Up The Quiet,” and look at its cover, and you can see she spent a huge amount of effort for the album cover. I never totally agreed with my friend Joel – I have always enjoyed her music over the years, but I do get where he was coming from.

Her new album is an all-standards affair, and it’s nice to see her go back to form in this one. Again, look at the cover and you can see what she is trying to convey – a modern sense of nostalgia, with vinyl records casually and artfully placed. This is an album that’s is probably meant to be romantic – the arrangements are soft (she only lightly swings at the most)  and her vocals barely register over a whisper. Backed by a trio, quartet, and quintet, at times it reminded me of Julie London, and I wonder if that was intentional. I liked some tracks – her ‘Night and Day’ is cooing cool at its finest, and when I saw ‘Sway,” I thought it would be a generic version of that song, and I was surprised she slowed it down, and found some meaning in its pop high. But there are also tracks that made me a little mad – like she kept on repeating the phrase ‘isn’t it romantic’ on that song, and did not end all verses with ‘Isn’t it Romance,?’ ruining not only the rhyme, but the whole point of that song (I can see my friend Joel’s ears flaring up)  But all in all, this is a harmless baby-making album that I suspect will be popular with a lot of people. Turn off your lights, light a Diptyque candle, and play this to ‘turn up the quiet’ and it will be a good curated experience.

Your Voicemail Sings (Music Thoughts: …feels like Love, Marsha Bertenetti)

FrontMarsha Bertenetti, also known as Marsha Graham, is known as “The Voicemail Queen” because hers is the voice you hear when you get a wrong number. You know, the one that says “The number you called has been disconnected.”  According to her bio page on her website, she has guested in a number of talk shows become some dubbed by the press as “The Voice America Loves To Hate.”

I don’t hate her album “…feels like Love.” Bertenetti has obviously a pleasant singing voice. But it is kind of bland, and I am instantly bored by it. Her style is relaxed, which doesn’t help. I mean, she sings in a nice and pleasant manner, and would probably do well at a hotel lounge if she has great personality, but on record is just too vanilla. For example, ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ is a mine for a lot of expression, but she sings it here like she is teaching how to bake chocolate chip cookies. She titled her album “…feelis like Love” but I don’t feel anything.

Barry In The City (Music Thoughts: This Is My Town: Songs Of New York, Barry Manilow)

61dGkzyqq4L._SS500It’s no secret that I am a Fanilow so of course i am going to pay attention to ‘This Is My Town,” Barry Manilow’s latest release. This is another one of his ‘concept albums,’ with it being a tribute to New York, where he is from. Once a New Yorker, always will be one, I think – you will never get that sensibility out of your system, and being that I fall into this category, the album has special meaning for me.

I wish I loved the album, but at this point, only like it. I wish the songs touched me more. There is a lot of nostalgia here, but few that hit my heart – Manilow spends a lot of time making sure he hits all the right marks that the effect for me is more academic. There’s a lovely ‘Lonely Town’ here, but lately a couple of people have covered that song better (Tony Yazbeck’s, for example) And the original songs still fail to male an instant great impression. There’s no ‘Mandy’ here. The New York medley at the end of the disc is a lot of fun, but sounds like something from a cabaret show at 54 Below – not very Manilow-like in my book. And one of the songs, Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown,’ really isn’t about New York

I always thought Manilow is a better songwriter than singer, and I wish he would go back to the romantic songwriter mode that made him famous. Sure, he and I love the Great American Songbook, so he should be emulating it more than singing it. He isn’t called the modern Irving Berlin for anything. This is his first albums since ‘coming out’ and wouldn’t it have been more fun if he had taken advantage of that by writing song from his experience? I am just musing, of course. Wishful thinking, perhaps? ‘This Is My Town’ is the kind of disc that is fine while you listen it, but it’s instantly forgettable. I want my Manilow back, the one who allegedly wrote about Provincetown in ‘Weekend in New England’ or went inside his heart for ‘All The Time.’  I just hope that Manilow is not forever gone.

For Faith (Music Thoughts: Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope, Reba McIntyre)

Reba-McEntire_Sing-It-Now-Album-Cover-1481844683I am far from being the most religious person in the world, but I am kind of a sucker for some religious music.  Don’t tell anyone, but I do have a playlist of such songs, and sometimes when I listen (or sing along) to these songs, I feel like I am praying, and connecting to the spirit above. To be honest, McIntyre is not my most favorite singer in the world, but I do get why she appeals to her fan base.

‘Sing it Now: Songs Of Faith and Hope’ is a two disc set, wherein the first disc is a collection of traditional standards (well, not standards in the Great American sense, but more of the church kind) and there is a second disc of newer material. I read that the first disc was released as a stand alone in 2010, but I cannot be certain. Well, that’s the disc I liked better – you can her heartfelt interpretation these songs, like ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ and ‘Amazing grace,’ among other songs. I really loved her version of ‘How Great Thou Art,’ even though I heard and loved numerous versions of that song already.

The second disc, the newer material, is more generic sounding to me. Or maybe this is because all these newer country songs sound alike to me. These songs go from one ear to another without any retention.

But that’s fine. I wanted to write about this as we start Holy Week. Maybe I will play Disc One and not feel like too much of a sinner.

Heart Barely Beating (Music Thoughts: Two Hearts, Jacki Evancho)

2heaAll Trump supporters are now fierce Jacki Evancho fans after she was the main attraction at his inauguration.  And she has embraced them all after he tweeted that she sold hundreds of millions of records right after she announced her undying support for him. So of course strike while the iron is hot. She has now released her new album ‘Two Hearts,’ and I will not dare spend a penny on her so thank God it is available for streaming on Spotify so I could listen to it. I am not a big fan of hers, obviously.

Well, the album isn’t the worst thing in the world, to be honest. But I would not categorize it as good, either. It’s just – blah. Her soprano is unrefined and without any kind of personality. She hits the notes, but that’s about it – I don’t think the legacy of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi are in jeopardy. And she tries to straddle the line between pop and classical, but ends up failing on both. Her ‘Music of The Night’ is unimpressive, and she definitely has no idea what she is singing about there. She includes ‘How Great Thou Art’ for her Conservative Christian Fundamentalist fans and well, that’s all I am going to say about that. And I am surprised she included ‘The Way We Were’ as it is a song popularized by one of the most liberal personalities out there, Barbra Streisand. She does nothing to the song.

I would never play this album again, and more power that I gave her some spins on Spotify (I kind of regret that now) but whatever – I hope her Republican fans are happy.