Monday, December 12, 2011

Boom! (CD Review)

What happens when jazz and musical theatre singers and siblings Ann Hampton Callaway (Swing) and Liz Callaway (Baby) decide to explore the music of the sixties and early seventies? You get their entertaining new live CD Boom! 

If you are a fan of the music of that fascinating decade, the song list will probably delight you, as it delighted me: "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," "A Case of You," "Joy to the World," "Blowin' in the Wind,""These Boots Are Made for Walking," and many more.

As people who follow the Callaways' work already know, Liz's soprano and Ann's huskier voice work together beautifully, offering both blend and contrast, and their connection and love for one another adds an extra layer to their wonderful duets. The sisters nail "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Happy Together," and their version of "The Way We Were" is haunting and evocative. The Stevie Wonder medley is a great finale, and their sweet, loving, simple rendition of "You've Got a Friend" is a perfect encore.

Liz's solos work well. Her mini-medley of "I Know a Place" and "Downtown" is particularly successful; she captures the wistful joy and sweetness of the originals while adding her own lovely sound. On the other hand, I can't decide what I think/feel about Ann's solos. Ann can do balls-to-the-wall like no one's business; her version of "Blues in the Night" from Swing! is nothing short of thrilling. But some songs don't profit from that level of intensity, and I think Ann oversells/oversings "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "A Case of You." I've listened to the CD many times, and sometimes these solos strike me as, well, kinda silly. However, other times, damned if they're not flat-out impressive. I'd be fascinated to know how these interpretations strike the songs' writers, Barry Mann, Phil Spector and Cynthia Weil ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'), Bob Dylan ("Blowin' in the Wind"), and Joni Mitchell ("A Case of You").

On a whole, Boom! is a charming trip back in time with excellent hosts.

Thanks as always to PS Classics for separating the patter tracks from the song tracks. Good songs can be enjoyed a million times; even the best patter is ephemeral.

(press copy)

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