This week's CDs are by three of Australia's leading
cabaret stars. First up is Judi Connelli, a name, that
I am sure is very unfamiliar to anyone outside of
Australia. Judi made her American debut 2 years ago at
the Cabaret Convention in NYC where she blew everyone
away with her powerhouse voice. Shortly after that she
returned home only to meet with a near-fatal car accident.
But, before she left NYC she had started to make plans
to have a career here in the states. Having since fully
recovered, she is making good on that promise and to kick
it off, she just released her first CD here.
On My Way to You is quite possibly the cabaret CD
of the year. Ever since I first purchased this CD, I have
been unable to play anything else. This is an eclectic set
of mostly showtunes and standards with a few pop tunes
thrown in for good measure. Judi possesses a rich, robust
alto voice that wraps itself around each of these songs
and takes control until it has rung every last bit of
emotion out of it. While she has a big booming voice,
she knows when to hold back when necessary. She starts
the set off with a touching rendition of "A Piece of Sky"
from Yentl. She seems to favor Michel Legrand
because she also covers his "How Do You Keep the Music
Playing?," "On My Way to You" and "Ordinary Miracles."
She also favors Sondheim, her "Moving On" is one of the
best I have heard since Bernadette Peters. "Stay With Me"
is done in counterpoint to the melody of "No One is Alone"
and is quite beautiful as well. But the highlight of the
CD has to be "With One Look." She was up for the role
of Norma Desmond in her homeland of Australia. Why she
didn't get the part in the first place, I couldn't tell
you. Her's is quite possibly the second best version of
this song of any of the recorded Normas, Betty Buckley's
being the best. In fact, Judi's voice is quite reminiscent
of Betty's in that she can belt it out to the balcony
without the use of a mic. But this is not a perfect CD.
There are some sound problems, as when Judi sings in
almost a whisper, you have to pump up the volume. But,
when she lets loose, you must lower it. It is only Judi
and a piano, but it sounds as if it were recorded in a
concert hall with a bit of echo.
This is a CD not to be missed by any musical theater or
cabaret fan. Judi has just begun to make her mark here.
She will no doubt take the NY cabaret scene by storm.
Hopefully, one day we will be able to see her in her
Taking the Wheel is David Campbell's second CD
for Polydor Records. This CD is similar to his first
except there is more of a pop-rock sound to some of the
songs and that might upset some of his fans who first
fell in love with his sensitive interpretations of new
and old standards. Mr. Campbell possesses a nice light
tenor that glides easily across most of the tunes he has
chosen. On his first CD he exhibited a knack for choosing
tunes that had great melodies; on this, his second CD, he
has done the same except I could have done without "I
Honestly Love You", which is much too sappy for me. I
think the highlight of the CD is his thrilling version
of "Storybook" from the upcoming Broadway show, The Scarlet
Pimpernel. The lyrics are a little too female oriented,
but he does a great job and it has a great arrangement.
"Old Devil Moon", "I Got Rhythm" and "It Will Always
Be You" are also worth the price of the CD. I don't buy
his gospel version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" which
comes complete with a gospel choir I could have done without
it. They almost sound better than he does. I also am a bit
confused by his medley of "The Nearness of You" and "Not a
Day Goes By." I think it's just that "Not a Day Goes By" is a
bit too modern sounding to go with the former, at least, for me.
Overall though, not a bad sophomore CD. This young man has a
bright future ahead of him and this is just one stop along
the way. I look forward to many good things coming from him
and I think he will live up to it. Next up, for him, is the
role of Marius in a new Australian production of Les Miserables;
let's just hope they decide to do a recording for his fans
Julie Anthony has a warm and inviting soprano voice.
Live at the Tilbury is a live concert recorded last
year at the Tilbury in her native Australia. This concert is
a career retrospective that covers her 25 years in show biz.
She covers everything from the first song that she
fell in love with, "Cathy's Clown" by the Everly Brothers to
the present. Along the way she tells us of her first
experience on stage, filling in for a missing singer, and winning
two talent contests before she became a star. She also covers
the few musical theater roles she has done, such as the title
role in Irene and Maria in The Sound of Music.
In between she tells us of the different experiences she has
had in her career. Earlier in her career she used to do some
amusing impersonations of Cyndi Lauper, Better Midler and Dolly
Parton which she recreates here. Tying it all together is
"Putting it Together" with new lyrics written just for this
concert. Her friendly chatter in between makes you feel as
if you are reminiscing with an old friend. She seems very
unhindered by the celebrity status she has achieved.
All three of these CD's are available from Lisa Dawn Popa
at Cabaret Connection, just call 1-888-666-3482 and she will
ship anywhere in the world.
Join me in two weeks when I will be taking a look at recordings
by two former Norma's. Until then, happy listening.