This week I am taking a look at CDs by two former Norma Desmonds. First up is the first Norma replacement for London and Broadway, Betty Buckley. Known for her clarion voice that could almost cut through steel, she has just released her sixth CD, titled Much More. She returns to the studio after releasing two brilliant live CDs on which she allowed herself to cut loose and belt out showtunes to the rafters This is the type of music her fans want to hear and Miss Buckley has addressed this issue on her latest CD.
She has chosen to sing classic torch songs mixed with her usual jazz style tunes. Jonathan Tunick, recent Tony-award winner for Titanic, has supplied lush orchestrations for a few tunes, "Much More," "The Man That Got Away," "Laura," "Lush Life" and "It Must Be So." These arrangements allow Miss Buckley to mix her belt with quieter tones that are almost ethereal, as on "Laura," and "Lush Life." Kenny Werner has provided the rest of the arrangements.
Listening to "Come Rain or come Shine" one realizes she is an accomplished acctress. Just listen to how she lets her lover know for certain that she is staying with him, through good or bad. She also performs a lilting "Pretty Women" that shows the quieter side of her voice.
Most of these tunes are orchestrated like they were originally many years ago. Occasionally, she does revert back to her usual jazz arrangements that were prominent on her first three CDs. While they annoyed me on those discs, they seem more appropriate to her song choices here. I must say that I love the arrangement given to Craig Carnelia's "Flight", "Cry Me a River", and, in particular, "Autumn Leaves." They seem to benefit from such arrangements.
Miss Buckley's voice just seems to be getting better and better with age. Overall, a terrific CD and her fans will not be disappointed. So if you are a Betty Buckley fan, I highly recommend that you run out and purchase this CD immediately.
The next CD is by the first and only African-American Norma Desmond, the beautiful Diahann Carroll, who originated the role of Norma Desmond in Canada and can be heard on that cast album. I must say that when I first purchased that CD, I was captivated by Miss Carroll's commanding voice. I have long been an admirer of her lovely voice through her few cast albums, such as House of Flowers and No Strings and was surprised that she still had "it." There are many performers who have not been in musicals for years and when they returned to them many years later did not have the voice they had back then, but I won't mention any names. On her latest CD, The Time of My Life, Diahann Carroll sings mostly standards and showtunes in jazz arrangements. I must confess when I first listened to this CD, I did not like it much, as I was expecting to hear the Diahann Carroll that I heard on the Sunset Boulevard cast album. Most of these tunes are done using a jazz quartet which allows her to be more intimate sounding than she did for Sunset. So I have since changed my mind and now like this CD. She does occasionally belt as in "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" from On a Clear Day. Miss Carroll chose to re-record her hit song from the musical, House of Flowers, "A Sleepin' Bee." Other highlights include, "Old Friends," "September Song," and a little known gem from Love Life, "Here I'll Stay."
Yes, Miss Carroll's voice has gotten a bit raggedy around the edges and may not be as supple as it was, but she knows how to interpret a lyric well. I can just picture her singing these tunes in a small, smoky, little jazz club. Not a bad CD, after a few listens, it grows on you.
That's all for this week, please join me in a couple of
days for my Thanksgiving column. We all know what we have
for Thanksgiving right? Turkey! Well the U.K. has supplied
us theater lovers with three turkeys that I will be taking
a look at. Till then, happy listening!