I am a big Megan Hilty fan. (I was always #TeamIvy when I was watching ‘Smash’) So of course I am first in line listening to her new album “Megan Hilty: Live At The Café Carlyle. I have been waiting for it, but they keep on moving the line (bah-dum-bum. I’ll be here the whole week!) Kidding aside, I wish I had seen her at The Carlyle, but I guess this disc is the next best thing. Hilty is in fine voice here, and it’s full of feeling, though seeing her live I’m sure adds more depth to her renditions. And the show gives insight to a lot of things Megan: we find out before she sings “Bye Bye Baby” that it was her audition song for Smash. Of course, she sings a lot of her Smash songs in here”…moving the line,” “Second Hand White Baby Grand,” and the duet of “That’s Life.” (Matt Cusson takes over Kat McPhee’s duties on that last one) The rest of the repertoire here are standards like ‘Someone To Watch Over Me,” ‘The Best Is Yet To Come,” and songs associated with her like ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.’ She does great service to these songs, but when I read reviews of her live show, I read she sang more interesting songs like ‘A Place Called Home,” and I had wished they included that here. She even does a (missing here) Rosemary Clooney Medley. I think her personality would shine in these numbers. But I am still thankful for what we get here, like a touching ‘Autumn Leaves/When October Goes’ medlette and torch numbers like ‘The Man That Got Away.’ We even get a wistful ‘Rainbow Connection’ at the end (which I think is a studio version) This is a great Megan Hilty souvenir, and I will keeping it close to my heart.
I’ve played Julie Budd’s new album. “Remembering Mr. Sinatra” teice now (in a row) and I frankly still can’t decide if I like it or not. Budd should really know what she is singing about: this album is a tribute to Sinatra, and she used to be the opener at his Las Vegas concert dates. But she never inherited any of his subtleties in interpreting material. Budd bulldozes through these songs like there’s no tomorrow. Everything is big, each note is huge that it’s exhausting to listen to at times. Each track is done as a “showstopper,” and there is glitz and glamour in all the arrangements. Where is the heartbreak in “I’m A Fool To Want You”? Where is the tenderness in “All the Way”? Budd has no time for that, but, you gotta give her credit. Though I have never seen her perform live, I am told that she gives all in every set, every song, every time. Even when she tries to slow it down, as in “in The Wee Small hours Of the Morning,” she infuses her reading with so much drama that it sounds like radio soap opera. I honestly did not know if someone was pulling my leg. On record, she does the same, and you feel the bold bombastic energy on record. I have to admit that it makes me sit up still while I am listening. Would Frank have wanted a tribute to him this way? I guess she would know.
Checking off my bucket list: seeing Diana Ross in concert. I can’t say that I am her biggest fan, but I do like her recorded output, though in reality I like her solo recordings more than her work as a member of The Supremes. But she obviously is one of the few living legends we have nowadays and it would be a treat, I thought, to see her. I wasn’t mistaken. She still has that voice, and it’s as robust. Sure, the styling is wispy, whispering, but it has always been that way. This is a Vegas show, so “The Essential Diana Ross: Some Memories Never Fade” barrels through all her hits in a seventy five minute show. Blink and you’ll miss one. I guess she is more a ‘nostalgia’ act nowadays, as evidenced by the older-skewing demographic of the crowd. Still, the energy was palpable, and she got off on that – she is one of those “divas,” I suspect who gets her kicks from people adoring her. Seventy five minutes go by very quickly here, and it mostly satisfies like junk food: before you can appreciate a song, she is moving to her next one. The repertoire is heavy on the uptempo, and even in the ballads (where I prefer her) she seems to be barreling towards them. And of course, her trademark sparkling sequins and feathers are in evident here. It seems like she spent just as much time changing as performing. But, no complaints there – she has a magnetic stage presence and you can’t help but stare at her on stage. The whole experience felt like a drive-by shooting: quick fast, does what it is supposed to do. I think it’s money well spent.