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!

Church Hymns (Music Thoughts: Can’t Get Out Of This Mood, Beverley Church Hogan)

61RzAZiB1FL._SX355_I always love it when a singer sings and you can tell right away that they know and understand the song they are singing. Beverley Church Hogan is apparently 84 years young, and you can feel every one of those years in the way she sings these songs. There are some pitch problems, for sure, but that is quickly overcome by the way she tells a story with each song, and each note she sings sounds authentic. I liked her versions of songs like ‘Wait Till You See Him,’ and even if I normally don’t like it when singers improvise lyrics on standards, the way she added her own words on ‘Time After Time’ was just fine by me.

Vickie Vocals (Music Thoughts: Under The Influence, Vickie Van Dyke)

61Bwvzt4zQL._SS500_I was listening to ‘Under The Influence’ by Vickie Van Dyke, and there was a certain something I noticed in her singing – there seemed to be a lot of passion here, and I could feel instantly her love of the material.

Then I read the ‘back story’ of the album. Apparently, she recorded this as a tribute to her mother. who had recently gone to hospice. She was struck by the kindness of the people she encountered there and pledged all the sales of the album to go to the facility, Hospice Wellington, in Ontario Canada. She also recorded this a tribute to her mother, who introduced her to the Great American Songbook. After learning this, I loved the album even more. Her love for the music fills every second of the album. While she doesn’t posses the most technically proficient, but I like it’s smoky and husky quality. And there is certainly care in her lyric interpretation. My favorite track is ‘Let’s Make The Most Of A Beautiful Thing,’ which I know from Nancy Wilson. her slightly quivering interpretation gives it a lot of gravitas. I don’t know why I have been so enamoured by that song of late, perhaps from where my life is right now? But truly, the rest of the album is a good listen.

Starting from Barbra’s Start (Music Thoughts: Starting Here Starting Now, Cornelia Luna)

cornelia-luna-starting-here-starting-now-cd-cover-tmr-december-2018What a way to start the New Year but with an album titled ‘Starting Here Starting Now.’ It is by Cornelia Luna, who I remember being one of the Kims in the Original Broadway Cast of Miss Saigon. Initially, I thought that the album would be Broadway songs but I read up and saw that the inspiration of the album is Barbra Streisand. These are songs that are associated with Barbra, and she culls from the earlier albums, when Streisand was singing arrangements by Peter Matz.  Backed by the Bill King Trio, Luna sings with jazzy inflections. I don’t dislike her interpretations, but I probably have to get used to these arrangements of her songs. I don’t know if her stylings, for example, work on a song like ‘Will Someone Ever Look At me That Way?’ a song so personal that this version seems cold and impersonal. But on ‘Gotta Move,’ you can tell that Luna knows how to interpret and sing songs her way. And on the title track, there’s a high reached there that tells the full story of the lyric. It is interesting to me that she chose to sing songs from Barbra’s last duet album, ‘Any Moment Now,’ and ‘Loving You,’ (the former she duets with Gavin Hope) because stylistically they are very different from Barbra’s early material and they really don’t gel well together, but that is forgiven by her tender ‘I Had Myself A True Love,’ my favorite track from the album.

Not Lena (Music Thoughts: Classy & Sassy: A Lena Horne Tribute, Julia Breanetta Simpson)

lena-horne-tributeOh, the albums you find on Spotify. ‘Classy and Sassy, A Lena Horne Tribute’ was recommended to me, and it is a collection of songs obviously giving tribute to Ms. Horne, sung by someone named Julia Breanetta Simpson.  I haven’t a clue who she is, which is sometimes good because I won’t have any pre-conceived notions as I listen to the tracks. And while I think the album cover is on the amateurish side, the music, thankfully, isn’t. She sings these songs well, if not too straightforward at times. Miss Horne had a unique, distinct voice, and I wish I could say the same for Ms. Simpson.  While she sings well, and in tune, it is on the blander side, compared to Lena Horne. Taken as a group of songs in an album, they are fine, but looming in the shadows of the Horne Legacy, they pale in comparison.

No More Monika (Music Thoughts: Windmills, Monika Ryan)

Monika-Ryan-Windmills-1400Who doesn’t love the Alan and Marilyn Bergman Songbook? And any record that celebrates it deserves to be heard.  Monika Ryan’s ‘Windmills’  is a collection of these songs, and I appreciate her effort, but I have to say I can’t remember the last time I listened to a singer and disagree with how she mostly interpret songs. ‘A Love Like Ours’ is one of my favorite Bergman songs of all time and I don’t think I have heard such a bad version of it till now. Her careless lyric interpretation strips all the tenderness and poignancy of the song’s lyrics. Look, I know that she probably fancies herself a jazz singer, and sure, this album shows more ;rhythmic’ takes of these songs, but let’s just say I probably will never spin this record again. Her versions just do not appeal to me, and actually, if I may be honest, I think she does not give these songs any justice. More power to those who enjoy this record, but for me, it’s a HARD pass.