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A Poor Imitation of a Glittering Genre
on 25 October 2000
Firstly, a explanation of my standpoint. I write this review as a fan of the genre known as the great American songbook, musical Standards written primarily in the first half of the century and reaching the culmination of vocal interpretation in the mid-late 1950's and early '60's. Leading exponents of the art include Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat "King" Cole et al.
The concept: Jane Horrocks impersonating several leading female vocalists of the golden era of pop and interpreting great songs that each vocalist never actually recorded.
Horrocks cannot be decribed as a good vocalist and- gimmicks aside - lacks in almost every area except sincerity. It is nice that someone is making this kind of music these days but second-rate impersonations are not the way to go. "Billie Holiday" is denuded of any emotional presence, "Bassey" lacks range and so on. Some of the impersonations go way off course - one of them (I'm not too sure of the subject) gets lost by way of Kenneth Williams. Some casual listeners may be duped though.
Monroe, for example, was a poor vocalist to start with, so perhaps "Dream a Little Dream of Me" is the best cut here. At least the arrangement is spirited.
Robbie William's contribution is mindless drivel. It is a sad time if we need a "big name" from contemporary pop on the front cover to push the sales, especially when the artist is completely unsuited to the genre and unwilling to adapt his style. Williams treats the lyric with contempt and gives "That Old Black Magic" a banal, knock-off rendition. Williams is popular and no doubt good at what he does, but his appearance here is misguided.
An artificial link-up with Dean Martin. Inexplicable.
The arrangements are a glossy mimicry of the great arrangements crafted in the 50's for Sinatra et al. but without the wit, substance or energy. They are nice but insubstantial - which is a good summary of the album, really.
Nothing here is unlistenable (except William's "contribution") but why buy this when you can buy any number of first-rate, well-recorded re-issues from the original legends of the genre at the same price?
If you want great music of this kind try Frank Sinatra's "Songs for Swingin' Lovers!" or Fitzgerald's "Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson". You won't regret it.