The name of Patti LuPone is hardly unbeknown to the musical theatre aficionados all over the world. For the last 25 years she has been one of the ultimate divas in the genre, memorable both to the American and London audiences and cast recordings collectors as the big, passionate and brassy voice of Evita, Norma Desmond, Fantine, Reno Sweeney or Mrs. Lovett.
Seven years have passed since Ms. LuPone's last studio work, the wonderful album of intimate love songs, called "The matters of the heart", which `The New York Times' rightfully labeled as `the album of the year'. This new album deals with the same emotion put in a different context: this time, it's about the unrequited love. More specifically, we are treated with the carefully selected famous American torch songs. The concert entitled "The lady with the torch" has been Patti's sold-out show for quite some time and this album represents the highlights of the evening.
Some may wonder about this selection of the material, especially when the ground has already been covered in the past by the likes of Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. It will take just a few sung notes from Patti though, to put everyone's mind at ease. There are several points that make this album so special. First one, obviously, is the famous golden voice who delivers the songs. Approaching 60, Ms. LuPone's vocal power with its incredible range still sounds at its best, secure and lively as ever. Each song on this CD is a proof of that. Also, one cannot help but feel she gave these songs a whole new life, making them her own, as if they were written especially for her, judging from the way she decided to not only sing them, but interpret/act them as well. The best examples are the shy and touchy deliverance of `The other woman' contrasted with the fierce and gradual determination of `I wanna be around', the latter portraying a vengeful lover who has been discarded. All the other songs, including the standard `The man I love', are a winner.
Secondly, the orchestrations are done wonderfully well. They are a testament of the age when songs were created while at the same time they don't have the same expected sound and successfully blend the tune with the voice.
Lastly, the album has Patti LuPone's candid and hilarious remarks about the whole concept of the show and each of the songs. This again confirms her sense of humor, often seen in her interviews and her official website.
So in the end, `The lady of the torch' has all the Patti LuPone fans will want: wonderful and unique vocal interpretation, carefully selected material packed together with some good tunes. They certainly won't need any convincing into buying it. For the others, interested in hearing the old standards, this is also the best way to start discovering why this lady has been a toast of musical theatre fans for so many years.