Kelli O'Hara -- Always (Ghostlight Records)
O'Hara displays not only her virtuoso soprano on this tremendously enjoyable new album, but also her gift for a broad array of musical styles.
Many of the songs on the disc come from musical theater's Golden Age, and it's little surprise that she can easily and beautifully whisk through Lerner and Loewe's "I Could Have Danced All Night" (from My Fair Lady) and the Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green standard "The Party's Over" (from Bells Are Ringing). In fact she has performed both works -- in presentations by the New York Philharmonic and City Center's Encores! series, respectively -- to both critical and popular acclaim.
Other selections on the disc find O'Hara undertaking numbers that she would never get to perform within the context of a musical, including Rodgers and Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine" (from South Pacific, and normally sung by the show's lead male), in which she makes the heartbreak of lost love genuinely palpable. Similarly, her haunting, smoky voiced interpretation of Sondheim's "Finishing the Hat," a number for the title character in Sunday in the Park with George, proves to be quite moving.
This latter number is one of two on the recording from Sondheim. The other, which opens the disc, is a marvelously sunny rendition of "What More Do I Need?" (from Saturday Night). With other contemporary writers, O'Hara demonstrates that her silvery tones can glide over dissonances and minor shifts with ease, particularly "Another Life," a song from Jason Robert Brown's aborning musical The Bridges of Madison County.
The album takes its title from an Irving Berlin classic and it's one of the two that highlights arranger and music director Dan Lipton's enormous contributions. The song's been reimagined as a bluegrass tune, complete with a dandy fiddle solo for Antoine Silverman. Lipton also infuses "He Loves Me" (a gender-reversed take on Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's title song for She Loves Me) with an infectious Latin beat and this propels O'Hara to bubbly heights.
Lipton, with co-writer David Rossmer, also provides the opportunity for O'Hara to display her gifts for comedy and twangy country western music with "They Don't Let You in the Opera (If You're a Country Star)." It's an absolutely hysterical combination of material and performance, and provides just the right amount of levity on this gorgeous sounding disc.
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