Nancy Anderson and D.C. Anderson (no relation) both have intriguing album releases. Her songs are old, his are new. It's her first solo album, he's made half a dozen. Each has won the Bistro Award from Backstage for cabaret work. Both have graced stages on and off Broadway. Also, a look at an album of Broadway songs by Pamala Stanley. First, the Andersons.
Performed with great flair, Ten Cents a Dance is a fond and flashy flashback to an earlier era, with songs from the period 1929-1940. If Nancy Anderson had not already become familiar from appearances in A Class Act, Fanny Hill, Jolson & Company and Kiss Me, Kate, one might be fooled into thinking these were vintage recordings. She happily and accurately immerses herself in the period style and attitude that much. However, an attentive listener will hear that the sound is a little too "good" and the affectionate and energetic singing style is a little too self-aware for such confusion. With some notable exceptions, most of what's on the menu comes off like a big platter of cream puffs: sweet and irresistible and great fun. My compliments to the chef. Playful, exuberant, teasing and uber-adorable, Nancy's renditions of the light and bright material are the epitome of musical pizazz.
The CD doesn't show the full scope of Nancy's talents as a singer or actress by any means. It serves the material well and is quite entertaining, but the purer and crystalline tones in her voice as well as its power are not exploited. A lot of this is in the "novelty" category - but wonderfully done and gratefully received.
The musical accompaniment is deliciously period - period! On 10 of the 15 tracks, the arranger/pianist is Ross Patterson and his band of merry men add immensely to the flavor, with work that is zingy, energetically goofy at times and always a treat to hear: clarinet (Steve Kenyon), trumpet (Warren Vache) are especially well used. Antoine Silverman is on violin, Chuck Wilson on sax and Gene Lewin from GrooveLily is the drummer. Don Falzone (bass) and J. McGeeshan (banjo, ukulele and guitar) are heard with Ross as part of his Little Big Band on Broadway by the Year concert recordings, where Nancy made a splash singing even older material (1925 and '26). Among the spunky Patterson-arranged cuts, I'm especially drawn to the catchy opener, "The Trouble with Me Is You" and "It Ain't Right," having a wink at the headache called romance, with a Betty Boop touch. Especially zippy and toe-tappy happy is a great romp through "How'dja Like to Love Me" by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser, from the 1939 film College Swing.
Danny Whitby takes over on keyboards and did piano arrangements for the remaining five tracks, all from musicals. Four of these have cello arrangements by George Small, with Arthur Fiacco the cellist, and these four are the least frivolous, adding some tenderness. They are among the best known selections: three by Rodgers and Hart ("My Romance," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "It Never Entered My Mind") and, most impressive, the Gershwins' "But Not for Me." Nancy starts the verse with the aural equivalent of pouting and eyelash-batting that's in evidence elsewhere, but then as she eases into the chorus, the sense of being peeved gives way to puzzlement. Then, resignation. The song progresses with increasing vulnerability. She does all this without abandoning the basic soubrette characterization she's adopted for much of the album, and it's very effective. The Whitby wit is showcased in the arrangement of Cole Porter's odd "Tale of the Oyster."
Nancy Anderson will be joined by her able labelmates from Thoroughbred Records, singers Connie Pachl and Bill Daugherty, also the CD's producer, at Tower Records, Lincoln Center on September 27 at 6 p.m. for a free mini-concert. Wherever she is, she sparkles.
For more information, visit www.nancyanderson.name.
In his slice-of-life musical snapshots on I Am Still, singer-songwriter D.C. Anderson tackles life's big and small experiences. With a lack of artifice, he has written and sings the lyrics about the challenges of successful couplehood in the serious "Sad Man" and "Hard This Goodbye." On a lighter note, cupcakes with sprinkles are sprinkled into a mix of childhood memories in "Sandy Lysaght's Ma." Reflections on grief and loss make this a more downbeat collection than is typical of D.C.'s work, but his funnybone is not entirely absent. He's co-written all the songs, collaborating with several different people, including three who also play on the album: pianists Steven Landau and David Robison, and guitarist Geoff Packard.
"Hello Nancy, Goodbye Ron" is a genuinely touching song about his reaction to the death of President Reagan, as D.C. found himself responding to the humanity and history beyond the politics. Like the songs here about the loss of his mother, it's cathartic but with restraint and craft. Wisely, he ends the CD on a strong note of hope with "Fixed Up Heart" wherein he exults, "Found a way out of my sadness/ Found a path that leads to start."
With his modest persona and gentle but heartfelt singing, D.C. comes across as sincere and vulnerable, whether plainly stated ("It's late and it's dark and I'm lonely") or poetically ("tears are frequent visitors"). In his light and quirky songs, his observations and wit are both sharp. He imagines what a baby might be thinking as his paternity is determined thanks to DNA and the producers of tabloid TV in "Maury"; it's clever and funny, but also has an underlying social commentary. There's a theatricality in the way he sets up and sings his story-songs. I'm not sure if any of that comes from his 14 years performing in Phantom of the Opera, but he's clearly someone who sees the drama in real life and can capture and recreate it.
D.C. Anderson's voice is one that's pleasing in his role as a singer and thought-provoking in his role as lyricist. More information can be found at www.dcanderson.net.
UNDER THE RADAR
One song that D.C. Anderson has heard countless times, "All I Ask of You," appears on the next album among other Broadway selections. The singer has been in the music business for years, but with her prior work in disco outside our genre and her performing out of the country, this CD of stage songs might need a spotlight.
Pamala Stanley has a big voice that works well for some big Broadway songs. A 2002 album included some show tunes, but, billed as a jazz set, it showcased her warm side, whereas This Is the Moment showcases the showy side. There are two numbers from Wicked: "Defying Gravity" and "For Good." Both are done confidently without ripping through them and raising the roof with histrionics. The title number, of course, is the one that may still be ringing in your ears from Jekyll and Hyde, a show that's also represented by a lusty and bravura "Bring On the Men."
Many synthesizer arrangements and phrasing and tempi that very closely follow the original versions make some tracks frustrating. They lack needed freshness. This is especially true with overexposed songs. Accompaniment sometimes sounds "canned"; the tracks with just piano are far more rewarding and classy and seem to inspire freer readings of the lyrics. "Send in the Clowns" has many relaxed and fresh moments, as Pamala uses more voice and legato than many others do with this classic. "I Dreamed a Dream" is also more "in the moment" than most of the tracks on This Is the Moment. I'd like to hear this vocalist with a real orchestra doing this kind of material. There's always room for another belter burning up Broadway.
But for now, while we await the new Broadway season in the present, we also look ahead to known CDs coming our way soon, such as The Broadway Musicals of 1963, the newest Broadway by the Year Town Hall concert to be issued, including the aforementioned Nancy Anderson.