Considering the strength of Ute Lemper's later work Life Is A Cabaret comes across as being a little dissappointing. It's not bad by a long shot, but nor is it on a level with Punishing Kiss or the Illusions Project. Admitedly it's a recording from early in her career (1987) but you do get the feeling that she hasn't quite found her voice yet, and could have done with slightly better arrangement on a number of songs.
So the down points first. Some of the songs just don't seem to go anywhere. Non C'est Rien and Miss Celie's Blues both fall a little flat. Not bad exactly, but certainly not as good as they should be. And the cover photo is possibly the worst picture you'll ever see of Ute Lemper. Whoever persuaded her it was a good image really should be shot.
However there are a lot of things to recommend this album. All the songs from Cabaret (especially Maybe This Time and Don't Tell Mama) are excellent, even if her Cabaret doesn't quite match up to Liza Minelli's definitive version. One Night Only and Arthur's Theme are both excellent, if a little dated in their arrangement, and The Rose is clearly the outstanding track on the album. If you've heard Bette Midler's version then it's virtually impossible to tell which is the better version.
So it's certainly not the album to give to some-one if they've never heard Ute Lemper before, but nor is it simply for the Lemper purists. Sure some of it's cheesy, and some of it passes you by without really registering, but on the whole it's far better than a lot of the shouting and sweeping strings that todays 'divas' churn out.