Rod Stewart and other performers that made their name in another genre and later came to the standards

Rod surprised me…

…with his Merry Christmas, Baby holiday album release (Verve) … it’s actually pretty darned good! This came as news to me so it seemed apropos to land this mini review in the VS News section.

I have nothing but respect for Rod Stewart. The attention, appreciation and new listeners he’s brought to the Great American Songbook is a beautiful thing.

That said, Rod’s raspy interpretations of the standards have been largely lost on me (no surprise to regular VS readers, assuming you exist) with his high “gravel & smoke” vocal style firmly set in the ’70’s rock scene of my personal music perspective … think “Maggie May”, “Mandolin Wind” and the like.

Ray shamed me…

My trombone wielding buddy Ray, rang me up gushing about how much he liked Rod’s new release … really? I gave the LP a cursory listen and then I played my typical “I can’t get my head around Rod singing the standards” card and moved on … cold heartless bastard that I am.

But then, while stuck in traffic and really not wanting to spurn by changing the channel, I actually LISTENED to a few tracks off the album as they came lilting across the radio waves and a funny thing happened … I, uh, liked it. Weird, I know, right! [Read more…]


Man, I wanted to like this album…

Glenn Frey has been one of my favorite artists for longer than some of you younger readers have been on the planet. His blend of vocal style and musical talent has rendered a slew of solo pop and rock hits, and of course he was/is a cornerstone of the Eagles — a pivotal player in their decades spanning massive popularity.

However, none of that amazing talent and tenure seems to have impassioned Glenn to deliver a defining work with After Hours — his sojourn through the American Songbook.

The production quality of this Universal Music release is wonderfully resonant — a beautiful soundstage. Sadly that production value is wasted on an array of mostly two dimensional numbers with uninspired arrangements that underpin unexpectedly dispassionate vocals from Frey. [Read more…]


Even a guy that lives for vocal artists…

…enjoys just letting the instrumentals roll over me every once and awhile.

I know, the site’s named “VOCAL” … and I’m not backing off my love for the great standards singers that we ply here the vast majority of the time, but every now and again I find that I really like to get all “instrumental” up in the game.

My schedule of late has allowed me to regularly take in TheStandardsChannel’s Sunday Jazz Breakfast show … the jazz interpretative numbers and regular instrumental pieces Jim Raposa spins on that cool show have re-fired my instrumental jazz sensibilities!

I particularly like to have jazz piano/trio style instrumental standards stuff on while I write, and recently I’ve been plowing through the vast album array from Beegie Adair and dialing up a Beegie Adair “artist channel” on Pandora to lay down my soundtrack for writing. [Read more…]


~ with a touch of Tommy

Immersing myself in Peter Marshall’s wonderful and fun homage to Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey’s early 1940’s musical run — Let’s Be Frank… With a Touch of Tommy — turned out to be a very personal experience for me.

My first exposure to the Great American Songbook came at the hands of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey … the records I dug out of my dad’s wartime record collection back in the 60’s (he was a fighter pilot in Europe during WWII).

Singing out in front of these amazing bands were the likes of Dick Haymes, Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, The Moderaires, Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers … there were many many more including, of course, a young crooning sensation named Frank Sinatra.

Peter Marshall and the amazing team of singers and musicians he assembled do a great job of honoring the stars of the era on this gorgeously produced album. The sense of respect for the period artists and regard for the material is clear, and Alan Copeland’s refreshed arrangements and fun turns with the lyrics take it to a level beyond respect. [Read more…]


…in the house Sinatra built

A couple of months back, I was presented with the opportunity to catch Robert Davi’s headline act last Friday night at the Venetian and jumped at the chance.

Experiencing Robert’s passion play On The Road To Romance tribute to Frank Sinatra in any venue would be great. Getting a chance to see him perform on the hallowed ground that once was the Sands Copa Room — now the Venetian Showroom — was just too good to pass up.

As high as my expectations were for this gig, I have to say that I was overwhelmed … blown away by Davi’s performance.

I’ve listened to Robert many times before from the Davi Sings Sinatra – On the Road to Romance LP, but seeing him perform with his great stage band  — pouring out his passion for Frank’s music, the man and the Rat Pack era through these wonderful ballads was special.

Especially in this place…

This place — the playground of Sinatra, the Rat Pack and their many friends during the Summit years. It may have a new, fresh face but when Robert took the stage and pushed into his classic Sinatra set list you could feel Frank and his gang in the room … in the ether. It was a special evening. [Read more…]


Oh my…

So… I’ve been a little worried ever since I heard this album was in the works. It’s not that I EXPECTED it to be bad or for Paul to struggle, but my experience with Rock genre crossovers has not been a good one for the most part.

(Heavy sigh) … sadly Kisses On the Bottom does not disabuse my cringing perspective of many/most rock artist attempts to ply the Great American Songbook.

Let me be clear here … this record doesn’t suck. Paul does a good job on a small passel of tracks — even great on a couple, and Concord Records deliveres yet another excellently produced LP. The music is wonderfully arranged and beautifully rendered by an awesome all-star cast, but in the end… [Read more…]


Bobby landed the gig squarely at the corner of Rhythm & Blues…

…and that was just fine. Though Caldwell has turned out a couple of standards albums, far and away his hit singles come from the R&B realm and he pretty much stayed there for most of his One World gig last Saturday.

Bobby draped songs he wrote for Al Jarreau, The Commodores and the like in and around some of his own chart toppers — none bigger than his claim to fame … the huge hit: “What You Won’t Do For Love”. I thought an Earth, Wind and Fire concert was going to break out at any minute! 😉

Hey, the R&Bness was to be expected, perfectly OK by me (my wife was in heaven!) … the mixed bag part comes from obvious production issues that I’ve never experienced at One World before.  [Read more…]


© Seth MacFarlane and Epix HD

Music is better than Words

Especially when it is rendered as well as he does it on Music Is Better Than Words — MacFarlane’s exceptional Sept 2011 Universal Records album release.

With Joel Neely’s deft conducting baton and charting pen near at hand, Seth delivers a beautifully arranged and produced standards album indeed, but “exceptional”? … Really?

Yup, “exceptional” … in the true sense of the word. There are three aspects of Seth and Joel’s effort with Music is Better Than Words that make it exceptional and well worth a look. [Read more…]