WoW!!! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!
With apologies to Stephanie Block for her short reign, Amanda McBroom’s new CD, Chanson, is by far the best all-new cabaret CD of the year.
In the recording, McBroom pays hommage to that other singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.
Now I have seen A LOT of people doing A LOT of Brel material over the years. And the trap always seems to be that somehow singers look like they’re doing an excerpt from a production of Jacques Brel Is… rather than creating their own original take on the material. Even someone as good as Sheera Ben-David on her Brel CD feels like she’s in a production of the show where the music director decided to throw in a rock guitar. And what is particularly interesting about McBroom’s non-Jacques-Brel-Is… work on this recording is the fact that she was a replacement in the original production of the show and toured with it extensively.
As a canny maneuver, McBroom opens the CD with two tracks, Girl in an Armchair and Early Morning Hangers On, unfamiliar to listeners whose only exposure to the Brel songbook is the show. Also, the arrangements by music director Michelle Brourman and arranger Stephan Oberhoff update the sound of the show. They seem to have moved the vibe of the material from a French tinny-accordian cabaret room to a sensuous tango palace.
But above all, are McBroom’s fierce interpretations of the material. Without going into outer space, McBroom finds strong, personal points-of-view for each song and delivers them with conviction and a fabulous sound. I can’t tell you how many times during the CD I found myself thinking “Oh, that’s what the song is about!” — and this is all for material I could have recited! Her Song for Old Lovers etches the disfunction of the relationship deeper than I’ve ever heard it portrayed; No, Love You’re Not Alone is an amazing portrait of the desparation one feels when tring to help a partner cope with their demons; and there’s a deft lightness in I Loved that finds a perfect pitch for the song’s final punchline. I’m especially taken with Ca Va, a song about the Devil’s business report back from earth, all done with an edgy Middle-Eastern sound.
Having seen McBroom’s version of Carousel in concert, I have to admit that no disc could deliver her amazing gestures with the song. But much as her version of the song is the best that one could ever see in concert, it is by far the best one can hear on CD — or at least the 11 versions in my iTunes library!
|1.||Girl in an Armchair|
|2.||Early Morning Hangers On|
|3.||Songs for Old Lovers|
|7.||Ne Me Quitte Pas|
|8.||No, Love, You’re Not Alone|
|9.||You Don’t Forget The Past|
|12.||If We Only Have Love|