Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me by Jane Monheit

This is another CD review from my blog archives. I originally reviewed Jane Monheit's The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me in February 2009.

The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me is Jane Monheit’s eighth album and second for Concord Records (following 2007’s Surrender). Monheit doesn’t stray too far from the dreamy bossa nova rhythms that populated her previous offering, and depending on what you’re looking for the disc will satisfy or disappoint largely on that point. This time around there’s less of a Brazilian-influenced sound, but the overall feel of the album remains just as mellow and relaxed (and slow) as its predecessor – it depends on your mood as to whether or not that’s a drawback. On this disc, perhaps more than ever before, Monheit spreads her wings a bit and interprets more songs outside the canon of the Great American Songbook. There’s a balance of classics from songwriters like Cole Porter (“Get Out of Town” – the sole up-tempo number on the album) and Jimmy Dorsey (“I’m Glad There is You”) to contemporary songwriters like Fiona Apple (“Slow Like Honey”) and Paul Simon (“I Do It for Your Love”). Two songs bridge Surrender’s style and this album’s slow burning tempo – “A Primeira Vez” and the Ivan Lins-penned “No Tomorrow (Acaso).” I would love to see some more up-tempo numbers from Monheit in the future – something along the lines of the balance of swing songs and ballads found on Taking a Chance on Love (her first of two albums for Sony a couple of years ago, and the disc that introduced me to her talent – those looking for an album with a better balance of ballads and swing songs should check out Renee Olstead’s Skylark). However, I am starting to think that Monheit’s true passion is in interpreting slower, more contemplative songs and arrangements – and when she wraps her smooth, buttery voice around songs like “Something Cool” or “Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” I can’t fault the stylistic choice too much because she sounds so sublime. However, if this path continues with little or no derivation every album is going to blend right into the other. This is the first Monheit album that I can’t give a full five stars based on my view that except for a few standout gems like her lovely lullaby-like cover of the Muppets’ song “Rainbow Connection,” there doesn’t seem to be a willingness to branch out & shake things up a bit artistically. Few vocalists can wring as much emotion from a lyric as she can, but after a while there’s a “sameness” to some of the arrangements. Perhaps with her next outing we’ll get to see her experiment with some fresh musical styles.

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