Posts Tagged ‘Tony Bennett’

Over the years, there have been many people who have gone in the direction of reinventing songs from different eras. Artists like Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra even Pat Boone with his In a Metal Mood release have all created albums that pay tribute to other time periods while bringing that era’s music into the present day. Granted, they have given the songs new life by doing jazz interpretations of those songs, but the music lives again because of those reinterpretations.

Portand, Oregon’s Barbara Lusch is the latest artist to create a Songbook-style release of older tracks. Having already released several albums of music before, Lusch kept to the jazz music of certain time periods and simply recorded new versions of those tunes. This time, she went in the same direction as Stewart, Bennett and Sinatra and created an album of reinterpretations. The music being reinterpreted on the new release is songs from the 1980s. Each and every track on Lusch’s new release of Rock Me Sweet brings back memories of the eighties while taking each track in a much more jazzy direction.

While Barbara Lusch is the main focal point of the release, the Rock Me Sweet album from Barbara Lusch comes to life with the help of Earl Rose who adds the strings to the music on the release. Rose also gives the release its magic through his production quality. Throughout the eleven tracks that make up the album, the music maintains a certain amount of jazzy feel.

Rock Me Sweet by Barbara Lusch begins with the Bruce Springsteen song “Dancing in the Dark”. The piano-based version of the song slows the pace of the song down quite a bit. The slower tempo may not be the greatest for Rock fans but it is great for slow dances. The vocal delivery from Lusch gives the lyrics the sensual feeling that they should have had all along. This new arrangement of the song feels just as natural as the original version from The Boss himself.

The new album from Barbara Lusch continues with the song “Hot Blooded”. Originally recorded by the band Foreigner, the track was one of the heaviest rockin’ songs of the eighties. With Lusch’s version of the song, she takes the track and turns into a great jazz track. The song feels as if it had been written specifically for the Middle of the Road music fans. The soulful delivery to the lyrics by Lusch feels like the vocal equivalent of a wink and a flexing of the finger to entice the listener.

While many of the tracks included on Rock Me Sweet by Barbara Lusch are instantly recognizable, perhaps the most unusual song on the release is the David Bowie song “Cat People”. Having been taken from the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, “Cat People” the track once had a strong New Wave feel. Now the version by features a lot of strings to help create a musical approach that features a lot of classical feeling and the strings on the song give the song a lot of emotion.

One of the most beautiful arrangements on the album belongs to the U2 song “Where the Streets Have No Names”. The unusually slow pace of the music mixed with the strings that add a nice orchestral sound to the track. The arrangement of the music takes the song in a different direction than the original version and still keeps a certain familiarity to the song. The song ends up being easily one of the best tracks on Rock Me Sweet.

Rock Me Sweet by Barbara Lusch is one of the best and most original cover albums to be created in a long time. After listening to the entire album, you will find a new appreciation for jazz arrangements as the song included in this release sound very good having been done in a jazz setting. You will also long to hear the original songs once again…for old time’s sake.

Reviewer: Matheson Kamin Rating: **** (four stars)

Within the music industry are a few artists who are influenced so much by the music of the past that they fall in love with that music. One such musician is singer Barbara Gracewood.

Barbara Gracewood recently got together with a band of musicians who were capable of creating a variety of musical styles so that the resulting music created by the musical ensemble had a very full feel to it. With this band, Gracewood recently created a self-titled album of covers in the style of albums like The Classics by Tony Bennett or The Great American Songbook by Rod Stewart.

The self-titled release from Barbara Gracewood begins with the track “Cold Cold Heart”. Having already been one of Hank Williams’ best loved songs when he released it, the track had one life as a Country and Western classic. When Barbara Gracewood and her band took hold of the song, the track took on a totally different feel as the ensemble created a track that feels more like something that Tony Bennett would sing than something from a Country star. The lyrics to the song still contain a certain amount of sadness to them as Barbara Gracewood gives them the emotional feeling they deserve.

Barbara Gracewood’s self-titled release continues with the song “If”. Originally recorded by the band Bread, the song initially had a very laidback soft rock feel to it. While the song still has a bit of that soft rock approach to it, Gracewood’s arrangement of the song adds some of the energy the original hit version by Bread seemed to lack. The version by Barbara Gracewood even outshines the version of the song that was later released by actor/singer Telly Savalas when he did his spoken word version of the tune. Of the three versions of the song that I am aware of, Barbara Gracewood’s version definitely has the most energy to it.

One of the most unusual arrangements of any of the songs included in the 2014 release from Barbara Gracewood has to belong to her version of the song “Torn”. Originally a hit single by Natalie Imbruglia could easily be categorized as pop/rock, Gracewood and her band make the song their won. The track feels as if it had been created by someone like Bonnie Raitt. The song now has a deeper bluesy feel to it. This version is so strong that if Imbrulia had not had her hit version of the composition that is now such a bit part of pop/rock or Top 40 radio formats, this version could easily have made its own history on those same radio stations. As with people like Jimi Hendrix, Manfred Mann and even Link Wray, Barbara Gracewood adds her name to the long list of musicians who have created a cover version to one of Bob Dylan’s songs. Along with the aforementioned musicians who have done covers of songs like “All Along the Watchtower,” “Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn),” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Gracewood adds her version of “Make You Feel My Love” to that list. And just like the others, Gracewood has put her mark on the song. While the original version of the song had an unmistakable Bob Dylan feel to it, the new arrangement for Gracewood takes the song back in time so that it would feel right at home on soft rock formats of the seventies. With this arrangement, both the band and Gracewood sound very relaxed and comfortable while they create a track that truly brings new life to Dylan’s words.

As on the song “Torn” earlier in the release, the track “Come Away with Me” finds Barbara Gracewood and her band creating their own special take on the song made famous by composer Norah Jones. While “Come Away with Me” by Jones has a very jazzy and laidback feel, the version found on this release again finds the band making the song their own. Instead of a jazzy and soothing pace to the music, the ensemble trades the jazzy feel for some blues and creates a track with a bluesy groove to it. The vocals by Gracewood seem to find a balance somewhere between the original jazzy delivery from Jones and the bluesy delivery of the music by Gracewood’s band. The track stands out as one of the strongest moments on the self-titled from Gracewood.

You can tell who a person’s influences are if that person happens to include several songs fronm that influence on their release. One such influence for Barbara Gracewood must be Rhonda Vincent as Gracewood included several tracks from Vincent on her self-titled release. Songs like “The Lucky One” and “Now That I Found You” are absolutely recognizable as part of the playlist for Rhonda Vincent and The Rage. And while the versions of the songs by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage have that undeniable country twang, the versions by Gracewood and her band fall into a more pop-oriented category. The versions of the two tracks that are included on this release as just as well arranged as any of the other tracks that make up the release.

While the ten tracks that make up the self-titled release from Barbara Gracewood come from many different writers with different writing, they all fir together as each arrangement seems to have been done to create one specific style that helps to bind the ten tracks together into one solid release that still features plenty of variety in the music. And although some of the songs are better known than others, they all show off the talents of the musicians involved and most importantly, help show off the talents of one Barbara Gracewood.

As Barbara Gracewood has no videos for any of the songs from this release up on YouTube, check out her CDBaby profile to preview tracks from the album.