Album Review: Patti LuPone – Matters of the Heart (1999)

 “I’d say someday I’m bound to give my heart away”

There are few things I would like more in life than to be Patti LuPwned but short of spending hundreds of dollars to buy a ticket to be thrown ignominiously out of some Broadway house or other, I have to make do with texting whilst listening to her recorded output. Unusually, LuPone has been sparing in what she has committed to disc in terms of her solo work as opposed to cast recordings and so 1999’s Matters of the Heart is one of her only albums proper, in that respect. 

Which is a shame as the song selection is peerless, pulling from all manners of sources to provide a wide-ranging but largely successful collection. Lennon and McCartney’s ‘It’s For You’ is a revelation, nearly a torch song of new love as is The Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’ in an ethereally lovely version here. And the almost-crushing sadness of Beth Nielsen Chapman’s ‘Sand And Water’ is alleviated with a dynamic piano line that forges on as life must do.

In fact, all the arrangements for piano and strings are truly elegant and matched with LuPone’s restrained readings, offer up some beautiful takes on the standards here. There’s real longing in ‘The Boy Next Door’ from Meet Me In St Louis, South Pacific’s ‘A Cock-Eyed Optimist’ and ‘A Wonderful Guy’ both find new tenderness, and Merrily We Roll Along’s ‘Not a Day Goes By’ is given what has to be one of the definitive interpretations, holding back on the anger to really highlight the regret at the height of this Sondheim classic.

Lighter moments don’t work quite so well for me though – the control and lyrical dexterity of numbers like ‘Shattered Illusions’ and ‘I Never Do Anything Twice’ are impressive but musically insubstantial (I imagine they’d work much better live), and the Piaf pastiche of ‘I Regret Everything’ (as opposed to ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’…) soon wears thin. It’s the more serious moments that work best – Jimmy Webb’s gorgeous ‘Where Love Resides’, John Bucchino’s ‘Unexpressed’, a glorious rousing take on Ragtime’s ‘Back To Before’.

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