The Shadows of a Song (Music Thoughts: Out Of The Shadows, Parry Ray)

Parry Ray is a London based everything – she is a singer first and foremost, a blogger, an influencer – and she even likes perfumes as I do, so I feel an instant connection to her. And she sings show tunes, which make me love her even more. And based on her new album, ‘Out Of The Shadows,’ it looks like she can sing. I saw her song selection and gasped – wow she has chosen some of my favorites: ‘All That Jazz,’ ‘You Will Be Found,’ and she even does ‘Losing My Mind,’ and let’s see how she does that.

And while her rendition is not very Sally-like, I like it. Ray has a full-bodied voice that is clear, and she sings in a very direct manner. It’s very cabaret, although her arrangements have a bit of a jazz setting. She definitely evokes more mood than rhythm, though. She knows how to express these songs concisely – she doesn’t give as manic interpretation in ‘Losing My Min d,’ but more ‘losing my mind over love for you’ stand. I dig it. Her songs skew more ballad, and I don’t have a problem with that, though listening to the album non-stop could be somewhat of a downer. But I think she’s swell, and this is a much listenable album. I bet she would be great live.

Pop Goes the Show Tune (Music Thoughts: R & H Goes Pop, Concord)

Pop versions of theater songs are as old as the hills (are alive) and this continues with Concord Musicc’s ‘R & H Goes Pop,’ which is based on the successful YouTube series of theater actors singing Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes. On video form, they can be kind of amusing, but on just an aural level, do they still work?

For me, sometimes yes and most times no. But look, I can be a curmudgeon with show tunes – it is one of the few areas where I tend to lean on the conservative side. So the more ‘successful’ tracks for me here are the ones where the singers veer closest to the melody. Gavin Creel’s ‘Something Wonderful’ is close enough that the message of the song isn’t diluted, and by God, I would never think a Rodgers/Hammerstein/Jason Robert Brown mash-up would ever work, but there you go, Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes’ duets in a wonderful ‘The Next Ten Minutes Ago.’ On that track, their voices blend effortlessly – chemistry is really key. I had higher hopes with Matt Doyle and Jelani Alladin’s ‘We Kiss In A Shadow’ but here they sound like they are both singing to walls – there’s just no spark there. And speaking of walls, when the arrangements try to go extreme, I just put up one. In Ariana DeBose’s ‘Shall We Dance,’ I thought the whole thing was atrocious, and maybe I could take Ashley Park’s ‘Do Re Mi,’ but really, does that song ever work out of context?

Look, I tried. I thought the whole album was challenging, and I tried very hard to just listen and let go, but….maybe I just can’t.

Bond Karaoke (Music Thoughts: In These Shoes, Susie Vanner)

Susie Vanner’s claim to fame is her appearance as ‘Log Cabin Girl’ in the James Bond film ‘The Spy Who Loved Me,’ and she uses the bond theme as an ‘intro’ to her album ‘In These Shoes.’ This is more a ‘personality’ album than anything else. I wouldn’t call Vanner’s voice as significant, even interesting, but she does bring a certain personality in singing these songs which is a collection of tunes that has made a significant impact in her life. Of course, the theme from her film, ‘Nobody Does It Better’ is here, but I don’t know if I would consider it memorable.

The same can be said for the rest of the album – songs which are competently sing, but otherwise mostly karaoke versions of pop hits like ‘Sweet Dreams are made of This,’ and ‘Tainted Love,’ among others. But, I think the album has a gorgeous cover so there’s that.

Differently (Music Thoughts: New Sounds From the Jazz Age, Lizzie Thomas)

Different is nice, but nice sometimes isn’t enough. Thats what I thought after listening to Lizzie Thomas’ album ‘New Sounds From the Jazz Age.’ Look, I get it – these songs have been sung innumerable times and it would be very tempting to spin them differently. In this album, most arrangements aren’t run of the mill – there’s a fast paced ‘One Note Samba’ that usurps the samba beat. There’s a somewhat fascinating take on ‘Fascinating Rhythm.’ But I thought a lot of it didn’t have the one thing I am looking for when I want to listen to these songs – heart. I listened to the album quite a few times and at first I couldn’t figure out why I felt so bored listening to it. And then I realize that, for e, there was no connection between singer and song. I didn’t hear it, anyway. And sometimes that’s all you need to make something work.

The Real Teal (Music Thoughts: They Say It’s Swing, Clare Teal)

I first discovered Clare Teal in the mid 90s. I remember being in Tower Records in London perusing through their jazz vocals section and saw her disc prominently displayed. And at that time, it was an ‘import,’ and not available in the US locally. I grabbed the album and quickly became a fan, grabbing everything I could get from her. But to be honest, I haven’t listened to her for a while, until I discovered she had a new album, ‘They Say It’s Swing.’

First of all, I love the title. It’z a play from the lyric from ‘They Say It’s Spring,’ one of my favorites which I know from Blossom Dearie. Teal has a nice formidable voice, and is very at home with the jazz setting. She sings all these songs masterfully, most with light swing arrangements that showcase her strengths. She is a jazz singer, but is not too ‘out there,’ respecting these songs and their wonderful melodies.

And she has a nice repertoire as well, with some of my cherished songs, like ‘I Walk A Little Faster’ (She must really like Blossom) ‘Something Happens To Me.’ And she even is effective in ballads like ‘I Can Dream Can’t I’. This is a much pleasant listen, with depth to sink your teeth into.

Easy Peasy Willie (Music Thoughts: That’s Life, Willie Nelson)

Willie Nelson has dipped into the Great American Songbook before, and successfully. His new album, ‘That’s Life,’ is a tribute to Frank Sinatra (it’s his second one) and is one of those nice easy-breezy albums that will put a smile on your face. It is perfect oin a lazy afternoon just lounging around in your lanai. He sings this songs effortlessly – he makes it look too easy. You know that he f=knows and feels for this music, and it shows. You can feel the twinkle in his eyes as he slowly croons these songs. Check out his duet with Diana Krall and you can see two people having fun. It’s kind of my favorite album this month.

That London Feeling (Music Thoughts: I’m Feeling Mellow, Molly Hammer)

Molly Hammer died late December 2020, and I thought I had never heard of her when a saw a jazz singer friend post about her death. Them I realized later on that I had written about her, in this same blog, r: her previous lie album. (I described her as someone who reminded me of Baby Jane Dexter)

I am listening now to her last album, which I also realize was in my ‘New Arrivals’ playlist. This album is a tribute to Julie London, and she sings these songs with very spare backing, a la London. Hammer’s voice has a lot of personality, and at times the vocals seem overwhelming. But no mistake, personality counts. On ‘Guess Who I Saw Today,’ for example, you can really sense and understand the story she is narrating.

The rest of the album is pretty solid as well. I rad that she had been battling cancer the past decade or so, and you can tell in her singing how she knows life. I hope people discover her recordings, as they narrate a life fully lived.

No Connection Morrison (Music Thoughts: Warm & Cozy, Barbara Morrison)

Sometimes you will just never ‘connect’ with a singer. Over the years, I have tried to listen to the singer Barbara Morisson, even seeing her live in concert, and I just felt…nothing. I find nothing unique with her voice – to me she sounds like any generic sounding ‘soul’ voice, and her lyrical interpretations leaves me very cold. But I still give her a chance with every new album she comes up with, to no success for me.

I feel the same with her new album ‘Warm & Cozy,’ which for me is anything but. Backed by Stuart Elster, to me her singing is colder than over. What’s worse, I think she has turned even pitchier, and the way she interprets lyrics to me a big loss.

Case in point: there should be a tinge of sadness in ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ but her version is of tone-deaf jubilance. Is she being improvisational, or she just does not respect the lyric? After that, I just got so bored with the rest fo the album. I felt wasted time.

Katie Quietly (Music Thoughts: The Sweetest Taboo, Katie Noonan)

I know Katie Noonan has a bit of following in her native Australia, but I can’t say that I am familiar with her music at all. She has a nice, frail-ish voice that is very expressive (similar to Sinead O Connor’s) and I kind of like it a lot. I am listening now her new album, which is a cover album of songs from the 80s, supposedly her main musical influences. And even though it is titled ‘The Sweetest Taboo,’ you would think she covered the Sade song, right ? (It’s an 80s song, after all) But curiously, she doesn’t sing it.

These are mostly stripped-down versions of these songs, in a mostly jazz setting, although she doesn’t sing it like a jazz singer would. But I do like her acoustic versions of ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ and ‘When Tomorrow Comes.’ I don’t know if they will replace Whitney or Annie’s versions, but these are pleasant to listen to.

What I have a problem with is the sameness of the arrangements. One song blurs into the next, and after a while it just gets boring. Maybe taken as track by track, they have merit, but as a whole, it’s a big yawn

Hindle Handle (Music Thoughts: Just In Time, Josh Hindle)

Josh Hindle is a singer based in the United Kingdom, and his album ‘Just In Time’ was recommended to me by Spotify. So here I am, listening to it, and it’s alright. He has a nice voice that is more pop oriented, and he does well by these standards that he is singing in this album. You have solid renditions of songs like ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I,’ and ‘Fly Me to The Moon,’ for example. He hits the notes, if a little on the plain side.