Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Lisa Howard: Songs of Innocence and Experience (CD Review)
I've since seen Howard's wonderful performance in Spelling Bee (and also saw her be terribly underutilized in 9 to 5 and South Pacific). And now she has released a solo CD called Songs of Innocence and Experience (Ghostlight Records), which is a collection of songs by William Finn. Although I don't think the CD is a home run, there is much to like about it. Howard's voice remains beautiful, and her interpretations are well worth many listens. Particular highlights include "When the Earth Stopped Turning" from Elegies and "Bad Boy," "Listen to the Beat," and "I Don't Know Why I Love You" (a duet with Derrick Baskin) from The Royal Family of Broadway.
But, and this is a fairly large but, Finn's songs don't offer enough variety for a solo CD. Mind you, I love Finn's work. March of the Falsettos changed my life. Spelling Bee is amazing. I hope that The Royal Family makes it to New York. But (1) his songs are mostly character-driven and can be awkward when taken out of context, (2) some of his music has a sameness to it, and (3) his awkward and odd rhymes, while charming and funny in his shows, can become annoying on the multiple listens that a good CD deserves.
However, the CD's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. The 14-person band is a treat, and the orchestrations by Carmel Dean, Eugene Gwozdz, and Michael Starobin, among others, are excellent. And while there is a sameness to some of the songs, there is great texture and variety to Howard's singing.
When I like a CD, I listen to it over and over without interruption. This CD won't get that treatment. However, I am sure that I will pull it out again and again over the years and always be pleased.