10 Vibrant Vocalists
Reviews of CDs from David Campbell, Mark Salling, Jennifer Sheehan, and seven more singers.
This lavishly produced album from this Australian performer could be considered notable simply by virtue of the fact that it has the premiere recording of "Goodbye," a song from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's soon-to-be-on-Broadway Catch Me If You Can. But Campbell's consistently dynamic vocals -- and a full orchestra led by Rob Fisher -- mean that each track seems to be an event unto itself, be it a brash brassy take on "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls, or a delicately considered "Some Other Time" from On the Town.
Jack Donahue - Parade - Live In New York City (www.jackdonahue.com)
This 11-track disc, comprised primarily of live recordings from his gigs in New York, has such a wonderful intimacy that listeners may feel as if they're getting a one-on-one performance. The arrangements come from Erik Privert and Randy Ingram and cast such tunes as Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg's "If I Only Had a Brain" and Jerry Herman's "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" in marvelously new lights, while providing the jazzy canvas for Donahue's supple voice and shrewd stylings.
Bing Crosby - Bing Sings The Great American Song Book (Collector's Choice)
Songs by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwins, among others, are served up in Crosby's signature smooth tones on this tremendously enjoyable 20-track disc culled from his radio performances in the mid-1950s. Four of the numbers have previously been unreleased, including a delightfully buoyant rendition of Lerner & Loewe's "Almost Like Being in Love" (from Brigadoon). The easygoing arrangements match Crosby's style perfectly, even the calypso rhythms found on a grandly conceived take on Porter's "Anything Goes."
Jennifer Sheehan - You Made Me Love You (www.jennifersheehan.com)
Sheehan's versatility and the pleasures of this disc can be highlighted by describing the disc's first two tracks: Her beautiful and gossamer interpretation of Jerome Kern and Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are" is followed by a rendition of Shelton Brooks' "Some of These Days," in which she channels her inner Sophie Tucker. Meanwhile, a medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening" (from South Pacific) and Adam Guettel's "Fable" (from Light in the Piazza) proves to be shrewdly conceived and expertly rendered.
Harolyn Blackwell - Strange Hurt (Masterworks Broadway)
Two songs cycles by theater composers are delivered with subdued passion and urgency on this 1994 recording that's re-emerging in on-demand format. Blackwell's gorgeous soprano is beautifully suited for each of the pieces on the disc: Maury Yeston's December Songs and Ricky Ian Gordon's Genius Child, which are musical settings of ten Langston Hughes poems. The singer's work is exquisitely supported by the arrangements for both composers' work.
This 18-track disc is a cornucopia of Mercer's work, both familiar tunes like "Moon River" and lesser known ones like "Harlem Butterfly," and there are times when Culver's generally laidback approach to the music often brings to mind the inestimable Tony Bennett. Not all of the tracks are completely successful: he strains in songs like "Drinking Again" and "Skylark," but his work here doesn't diminish the overall effect of the disc, which includes some fine supporting work from a bevy of talented musicians, particularly Nolan Shaheed on trumpet.
Mark Salling - Pipe Dreams (www.marksallingmusic.com)
This debut disc showcases the handsome Glee star as both singer and songwriter to wildly divergent effects. Interestingly, his missteps (a strangely trippy "Mary Poppins," for instance) are almost as intriguing as his successes: including the instantly engaging country-western title track, "Higher Power," in which he imaginatively samples the disco classic "I Will Survive," and the earnest ballad "Musical Soulmate," which has some of his most ear-catching lyrics. This is an emerging artist who deserves notice well beyond his television work.
Howard Fishman - Better Get Right / The World Will Be Different / No Further Instructions (Monkey Farms Records)
Whether listeners are sucked in by the gospel sounds and wailing jazz trumpets on Better Get Right or by the scratchy accordions and strummed guitars that give No Further Instructions a decidedly Eastern European feel, there's no denying the artistry of this triptych of discs that are inspired by three distinct periods and places (New Orleans, New York, Romania) in the singer-songwriter's life. Each disc stands on its own splendidly, but listen to them back-to-back and a fascinating musical biography of sorts springs vividly to life.
Peter Allen - Making Every Moment Count (Masterworks Broadway)
Listeners can turn back the clock with this digital release of Allen's final album from 1990. Among the highlights on the recording are two duets: "When I Get My Name in Lights," from Allen's musical Legs Diamond, which he and Harry Connick, Jr. deliver with infectious gusto, and "Making Every Moment Count," a lush pop ballad in which Allen's voice sublimely blends with singer Melissa Manchester. Equally enjoyable is "Why Not," a tune by Allen and Dean Pitchford, that he imbues with a decided wink in his voice.
Anne Steele - Anne Steele: Strings Attached (PS Classics)
Steele offers up a wide variety of pop music on the 14-track album, and moves just once to the realm of musical theater: a conversational interpretation of "Move On" (from Sunday in the Park With George), which has a decided folk song feel in Sean Harkness' touching arrangement. Other highlights include the singer's optimistic, yet bittersweet, take on Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," and her piquant interpretation of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son."