This trio of album reviews covers Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, The Maury Yeston Songbook and There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates
“You don’t know what you do to me”
There’s something of a deliciously old-school feel about Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, these vignettes of song that recall even Noël Coward in their ability to capture mood and tone as well as telling a damn good story. David Hyde Pierce’s ‘Goodbye to Boston’ is probably the best, most heart-breaking example, Gavin Creel’s ‘Greenwich Time’ coming a close second. There’s levity and humour too, ensuring the collection doesn’t become too downbeat, but there’s definitely a musical and lyrical gift here that deserves to be more widely known.
Someone who is more well known is Maury Yeston, the composer of such musicals as Grand Hotel, Nine and Titanic. The Maury Yeston Songbook collects a range of tracks from across his songbook, puts them together with some of Broadway’s finest and the result is (mostly) exceptionally good. The undersung Philip Chaffin soars through the gorgeous ‘My True Love’, ‘Now and Then’ showcases Laura Benanti’s crystalline soprano beautifully and Christopher Fitzgerald’s ‘You’re There Too’ is so deeply felt. There’s a couple of big misfires (*looks at Betty Buckley and Alice Ripley*) but they really are the exception and when an album contains as sensationally good a reinterpretation of ‘Unusual Way’ as Brian d’arcy James’ here, you’re inclined to forgive a lot.
And swinging back to the not-necessarily-that-well-known, There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates showcases not only the impressive breadth of writer/actor/director Kates’ address book, but his skill with an uncomplicated melody. He’s a big fan of an exclamation mark and a comic song (Lynda Baron’s ‘A Hard Man Is Good To Find! and Lucy Benjamin’s ‘I’m A Stripper!’ are both good fun) but he’s also got mid-tempo MOR down pat, Claire Sweeney’s ‘He Means A Lot To Me’ and Alison Jiear’s ‘Take A Look’ hit that 1990s TOTP beat perfectly for me. Best though is Bonnie Langford’s innate jazziness elevating ‘Taking The World By Storm’ to show-stealing heights.