Liza Minnelli - Confessions (Decca)
This splendid new CD reveals the legendary singer in a subdued, jazzy light. Indeed, the overall tone brings to mind not the Halston sequined ensembles which have long been her signature for her concerts where she's entertained thousands, but rather a smartly tailored black cocktail dress which might be worn for a small gathering at an intimate cabaret venue or in someone's home.
The delicious subtlety of her work becomes evident as soon as one starts listening. The disc's title track finds Minnelli deftly delivering Howard Dietz's cunning lyrics with perfect phrasing and a shrewd sense of understatement; she never overemphasizes either their comic or bittersweet meaning. And even when she moves to a more uptempo number such as Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's "You Fascinate Me So," the singer resists the temptation to oversell the song.
Other highlights include a wistfully languorous take on Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost in His Arms;" a bluesy and richly earthy version of Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh's "I Must Have That Man;" and the disc's final track, in which Minnelli takes Harry Warren and Mack Gordon's "At Last" and turns it into a new anthem for herself.
Throughout, Bruce Roberts, Billy Stritch and David Tobocman's arrangements beautifully support Minnelli's vocals and Stritch's efforts at the piano consistently complements the singer's work. The disc has been released in both a 10-track standard edition and a 14-track deluxe edition, and it's an easy call which version listeners should gravitate toward. The additional four tracks are all gems, from a deeply felt rendition of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's "All the Way" to her gloriously playful delivery of Peggy Lee and Francis J. Burke's "He's a Tramp."