Terrific melodies combine with handsomely crafted lyrics on this delightful disc of ten songs written and performed by Lutvak at the piano, including "Exit Right," from Songs From An Unmade Bed. And while this song typifies the kind of sparking humor that can course through the writer's work, the disc also has some gorgeous love songs, particularly "Unexpected Complications" and "A Lover of High Wire," and a remarkably touching, classically inspired tribute to his father, "Museums."
Robert Creighton - Ain't We Got Fun (LML Music)
Creighton, currently on Broadway in Anything Goes, turns the clock back 100 years on this merry disc, featuring such classics as "My Buddy" and "I'll Be Seeing You," as well as the title track. There's an ebullience to Creighton's vocals that truly evokes the period he's toasting, and when he's joined by the likes of Joel Grey ("Give My Regards to Broadway") and Heidi Blickenstaff ("You Are My Sunshine"), the effects are sublime. The biggest tribute to Creighton's work may be that two of his original songs for a musical about James Cagney perfectly blend into the tapestry of older tunes.
Cautiously Optimistic: The Music of Scott Evan Davis (Sonic Landscapes Music)
Songwriter Davis has an ear for the classical in his melodies and one for the edginess of the contemporary in his lyrics, and these two seemingly contradictory aspects of his music collide with remarkable ease in the 12 songs on this disc. Davis has attracted some A-list talent, including Faith Prince and Joshua Dixon for "Walk a Little Slower," an enchanting duet about the support mothers and sons can give one another; and Lisa Howard, who finds the pain in the wryly amusing "He's Perfect," about a woman rationalizing about the man she's choosing to marry.
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International)
Seventy six of Dylan's songs -- both familiar and obscure -- are brought to life by an extraordinary array of performers on this four-CD set that's been put together to raise funds for Amnesty International. A great number of the artists involved are familiar from their theater work, including Darren Criss' delicately intense "New Morning," Pete Townshend's driving and slightly honky-tonk "Corrina, Corrina," and Patti Smith's deeply felt take on "Drifter's Escape." Also notable are such tracks as Ziggy Marley's "Blowin' in the Wind" and Carly Simon's "Just Like a Woman."
Wilfried Van den Brande - Cole Porter Sessions (coleportersessions.com)
A trans-Atlantic love affair with the songs of Cole Porter has resulted in this ambitious and expansive five-disc set that encompasses not only vast numbers of the songwriters' best known hits, but also many rarely heard tunes. In fact, there are two songs that are getting first-time recordings (including the jaunty "Longing for Dear Old Broadway"), along with tunes like "The Kling-Kling Bird in the Divi-Divi Tree" (from Jubilee) and "A Little Skipper From Heaven" (from Red, Hot and Blue). Such tracks, which also feature Daniel Capelletti's lush arrangements for the Nueremberg Symphony Orchestra, make the albums de rigueur for Porter aficionados.
David Merrick Presents Hits From His Broadway Hits (Masterworks Broadway/Arkiv)
Songs from some of the most successful shows from the late 1950s and early 1960s are collected on this swell disc. John Gary offers up songs like "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (from Stop The World...) and a gender-reversed "Small World" (from Gypsy) with a warm, almost dreamy, tenor, while Ann-Margret is on hand to purr her own brand of innocent sexiness into "Love Makes The World Go Round" (from Carnival) and "As Long As He Needs Me" (from Oliver!). Bigger numbers -- like "Hello, Dolly!" -- are handled with fizzy aplomb by The Merrill Staten Voices.
The Doyle and Debbie Show (Doyle and Debbie)
The songs of great country western stars from the "Red States" may echo in listeners' ears as they listen to this recording of this Chicago hit, but the laugh-out-loud-funny lyrics of the show come decidedly from the "Blue" ones. The show stars Bruce Arntson, who's written the numbers, and Jenny Littleton, both of whom have the chops to belt these country-fried gems out with gusto, whether it's "Blue Stretch Pants," an ode to love found at a county fair, or "For the Children," a wickedly conceived anthem about 21st-century child-rearing.
T. Oliver Reid - Do I Love You (Yellow Sound Label)
Reid uses his lightly smoky baritone to celebrate romance in all of its joyous, exuberant, and sometimes sad incarnations on this 13-track disc. The singer has selected a host of standards from the American Songbook, including Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Let's Fall in Love," Rodgers and Hart's "I Wish I Were in Love Again," and the Bergmans' "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which have been given some smooth jazz/R&B arrangements by Lawrence Yurman. The genuinely satisfying disc also contains a couple of nifty surprises, including Gary Geld and Peter Udell's "I Got Love" (from Purlie).
Steve Tyrell - I'll Take Romance (Concord Records)
Tyrell brings a classic bluesman's earthiness and grittiness to this album of love songs, filling each with a palpable soulfulness. The singer, supported by Bob Marin's excellent arrangements, offers up numbers with theater roots, including an ethereal take on Cole Porter's "All of You," as well as ones from the world of pop music, including William Best and Deek Watson's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," which courses with a 1950s beat. One further highlight: Oscar Hammerstein and Ben Oakland's "I'll Take Romance," a grand duet with Judith Hill.
Inside Out (Original Off Broadway Cast Album) (Kritzerland)
This cast recording of the 1996 Off-Broadway show about the members of a women's therapy group and their leader has been out of print for a while, which has been a pity, because it features some wittily conceived and executed songs from Adryan Russ and Doug Haverty that brim with pop appeal. Adding to the luster of the album is the show's top-notch cast, which includes the likes of Ann Crumb, Harriet D. Foy, Jan Maxwell, and Cass Morgan.