An Orchestra’s Need: Liza Minnelli, Results

In 1989 an odd, yet unparalleled event, occurred in the world of music. Liza Minnelli, known for her theatrical performances of classic songs and her impeccable acting both on stage and Broadway, decided to make a dance pop album.

FullSizeRender 6Often times I would almost shy away from this idea, a veteran singer taking on dance pop, but I have never seen the two mix so flawlessly. Minnelli teamed up with The Pet Shop Boys to produce this musical gem, her 9th studio album, Results.

Now I am a long time fan of Minnelli’s. I first saw the genius of Minnelli when I was a little under five in The Judy Garland Christmas Show. She performed “Steam Heat” from the musical The Pajama Game with Tracey Everett. This number had me instantly clicking my fingers. Later in the show, she sings “Alice Blue Gown,” a stunning performance to say the least.

As I got older and began collecting vinyl, I quickly started to pick everything up of Minnelli’s I could find. I soon had a stack of live recordings and albums full of American Songbook, jazz, pop, and easy listening standards. Minnelli is at home with a big band or just a piano and presents astute song interpretations. So when I came to the album Results, I was expecting the same…results.

At first, I thought I had picked up the wrong artist after hearing the first couple of beats! This album opens up with “I Want You Now.” This wasn’t the Liza I was used too. The song includes a rhythmic beat you could easily find at Studio 54. I was immediately taken a back.

Did Liza Minnelli just sing a pure dance tune with the conviction and deliverance she used with such songs as “Maybe This Time” and “But The World Goes Round?”

Damn straight.

FullSizeRender 5The album then goes into the lead single, Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.” Now I was hooked. Only Minnelli could mix Sondheim and synthesizers. Her vocals could easily be lifted from this track and laid upon the traditional orchestration of this song and sound just as brilliant.

Then one meets the first ballad of the album, “So Sorry I Said.” Minnelli’s vocals simply flow over the consistent percussion and light keyboards. Her voice sounds unreservedly lush. She then finishes out side A with “Don’t Drop Bombs,” a song about a destructive relationship mixed with an irrefutable dance rhythm.

Side B opens with a mid-tempo song and one of the best tracks of the complete album, “Twist in My Sobriety.” This was a cover of Tanita Tikaram’s hit from 1988. Minnelli’s version opens with a remix of the chorus from her signature “Liza With a Z.” I feel this song is verbally unexplainable, but it makes complete sense at the same time. It seems to resonate with Minnelli as a personal testimony. She again reaches the core of a song.

Next is my personal favorite from the album, “Rent,” a ballad of emotion and strength. The strings and synthesizers effortlessly surround Minnelli’s voice to convey the message of giving up ambitions and self for comfort and responsibilities.

We then have Minnelli’s version of Yvonne Elliman’s disco hit, “Love Pains.” This song has the listener easily seeing lights flash mixed with lasers and strobes. This is a dance floor anthem made for commercialization.

Minnelli with The Pet Shop Boys. By Terry O'Neil. http://psb-atdeadofnight.net/spoluprace/collaboration.php

Minnelli with The Pet Shop Boys. http://psb-atdeadofnight.net

Minnelli closes the album with two ballad-esque songs. Both of these tracks are met with an interpretation that only Minnelli could present. First, there is “Tonight is Forever.” Minnelli sings with such command in her voice. I always enjoy a soaring high note from Minnelli, but this song simply doesn’t need it. Lastly there is “I Can’t Say Goodbye,” a perfect mid tempo song mixed with a jazzy saxophone rift to close this album.

What struck me the most about this album was its production and orchestration. Minnelli’s vocals are so in tune to the songs meaning and assembly that the instruments sound as if they are playing to her. It’s like her vocal track was laid down and then they decided to add music.

Minnelli has made a profound impact on both recorded music and the world of musical theater. There seems to not be an area of show business she cannot conquer. This album proves just that feat. She is the best at song interpretation and her talents transcend every musical genre. This album demonstrates this incredible talent, while showing Minnelli isn’t your typical singer.

Through Results I realized listening to Minnelli sing is like listening to an orchestra, for Minnelli doesn’t need instruments, instruments need her.

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