INTERVIEW: Mary Testa & Michael Starobin on Have Faith

Music often meets us right where we are in life. No matter your faith background, you have to admit that the gods that be have a hand in everything we do.

Recently, I attended Oklahoma! on Broadway. The show’s Aunt Eller, Mary Testa, took me aback. Her voice struck a chord in me that I cannot shake. My initial thought on hearing her Tony-nominated performance was, “I hope she has an album.”

Mart Testa and Michael Starobin, Have Faith

And to my excitement, she does, in collaboration with Michael Starobin. I’m telling you, the Gods know what they are doing.

Michael Starobin, a Tony-winning orchestrator, provides all the arrangements for Have Faith. He seamlessly gives each song an utterly new facade while preserving its original integrity.

What truly makes this album genius is Testa’s interpretation of each song and Starobin’s combination of classical orchestral techniques mixed with technology. Although Testa did not write these songs herself, she acts as the songwriter as her voice completely rewrites each composition. Mixed with Starobin’s exquisite arrangements makes for a record that is just as relevant in 2019 as it did five years ago when it was recorded.

Have Faith is a masterpiece that cannot be placed into words; it demands to be sung. Many styles of music are touched as Testa lends her voice to Aerosmith’s “Pink,” Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April,” and a Bjork/ Rodgers and Hammerstein mash up. Through these pieces, Testa and Starobin tackle dozens of subjects from cultural contradictions, to love and spirituality. This album doesn’t just dare to go there; it’s already come and gone.

I had the extreme pleasure to speak with both Testa and Starobin about Have Faith, its striking innovation, and how their ideas collided to create a musical monument.


  1. 1. Have Faith is a cohesive album that addresses a distinct set of themes. How did this album come about?

Mr. Starobin: The thing to remember is that Have Faith was not conceived as a recording first. It was conceived as a live show. Mary and I had done a show together soon after we first met in the early eighties. Around 2000, we said, “Let’s do something again.” We slowly started pulling a piece together, and it was about a woman getting through the night, questioning her faith. We did it as a staged performance with costumes and props.

Michael John’s “What If” at the beginning of Have Faith is about all the things that she’s afraid of. That was written for that show, and it captures the fear and fright of the woman before she goes through this journey. In a way, this is a cast album.

Mary Testa: This album came about over a long period of time. We were always trying to musicalize a completely sung-through story, using different songs to create a narrative. We had done another show called Sleepless Variations at Barrington Stage at least ten years ago. Some of the songs on this album are from that show.

Michael wanted to do it all electronically. The stage version was just his computer, piano, and cello. We purposely tried to put together something that resonated and was different. Sleepless Variations was about the way your mind works when you can’t sleep. Some of these songs made it onto Have Faith, and it became a whole new narrative.

We love to smash into something. You know, be really funny and then smash into something serious. We’ve always done that. Like going from “Pink” to “Sometimes It Snows In April.” You are having a great day, and then somebody will fucking die.

  1. This album was recorded nearly five years ago, yet it’s incredibly relevant today. How does this album speak to the state of the world now?

Mary Testa and Michael Starobin, 54 BelowMs. Testa: The title is very apt. It’s about finding out who you are, and against all the odds, know that life will throw stuff at you when you least expect it. It ‘s about having faith in yourself to make it through to the end and be grateful. Those are themes that will always resonate, because that’s the human condition, in a way. I think now is a very trying time. It was trying five years ago, but more so now. We had a beautiful president at that time.

The state of the world today is even more dire. Knowledge comes from within. It’s like a microcosm of a macrocosm.

If you don’t believe in yourself and have a spirituality about trying to lift the consciousness of the world, then you’re lost. You have to begin with yourself. I think that’s why it will always resonate, or at least I hope that’s why it will always resonate.

  1. From a composition standpoint, what is the common thread through each of these pieces? How did you place these songs, which are worlds apart, together?

Mr. Starobin: We were harking back to when music was albums. You sat and listened to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club because it was a journey. A lot of people made albums like that, and that’s been very much abandoned nowadays. We were looking to do something in the old-fashioned way of an album being a single conceptual endeavor.

The use of electronics and sequencing was done because this was originally a live performance. Numbers like “Change” and “Heroes” had to be rhythm numbers, and that wasn’t going to work with me just sitting at the piano. I thought, “Let me sequence these and run them off of a QLab.” It provided this energetic rhythm section feel for a couple of numbers.

So you’re doing this big electronic groove thing that’s loud, and in the middle of it, the tuba will start playing. The idea was to make these sharp turns in orchestration sound.

We wanted to create transitions where we’re doing one song, and you suddenly find yourself in another song without an introduction, without being prepared. You think you’re still in the old song, and suddenly, a lyric comes at you, and you go, “Oh wait, I’m someplace else.”

That transition surprise is the kind of jump-cut editing they do in film. You’re suddenly standing there in the middle of the next scene, and a transition hasn’t been provided. Your brain is suddenly spinning. “Oh, oh, where am I? Oh, oh, okay. I’m here now.” It was an attempt to do that musically.

Mary Testa: Everything on this album is deliberate. The “Lost” and “Over The Rainbow” mash up speaks to me about where we are now. We need as a species to get back to that “Over The Rainbow” optimism. Because we are lost I think, spiritually and soul wise…these are deliberate mash ups, not just musically, but idea wise.

  1. This album touches spirituality in many ways. Can you speak to that?

Mary Testa: I grew up as a Catholic. I went to Catholic school. I saw great hypocrisy from a very early age with the Catholic religion. I am not a practicing Catholic in any way, shape, or form, but I’m an extremely spiritual person. I’ve seen evidence of spirituality all around me and within me.

I prefer to be a spiritual person because I want to believe there’s a greater power than just us. I try and lead a life that is connected to that higher power, so I have no problem making it evident in my work.

  1. What were the difficulties, but yet similarities, to combining both the classical orchestral approach while embracing the technology?

Mary Testa and Michael Starobin, Barnes and NobleMr. Starobin: It wasn’t a difficulty at all because it’ssomething I’ve spent my entire life doing in the theater, using the synthesizer as part of an orchestral sound…

In “Lost,” I play along with the piano, but there are other times where we just let the track play. It’s a lot of fun because it brings a much wider dynamic range to the evening. It’s not only fun to jump in when the electronics come in; it’s also fun when it comes down. When you perform transitions like “Pink” to “Sometimes It Snows In April,” where you go from a loud volume to soft, I try to quietly start playing the introduction to “Sometimes It Snows in April” underneath “Pink” while it’s still loud. So it’s like, “What is he doing? What’s going on there?” I don’t try to overcome it. I don’t wait until it’s clear. I try to do it underneath the loudness. It is revealed by the music fading. It is a lot of fun to use the dynamics of pre-recorded electronics and then switch to live accompaniment and make use of the difference in energy between the two.

  1. Ms. Testa, your voice is piercing and bold, but it’s also vulnerable and empathetic. “Hallelujah” will have you in tears, while in “Heroes” you sing boldly of cultural inconsistencies. When you are preparing songs like these, what is your creative process?

Ms. Testa: I am blessed with the ability to sing a wide range of songs…I go with what the music calls for. It’s a visceral reaction. Because I can do a wide range of things, like musical theater, I can also do rock, and I can do jazz. I can do a lot of different things. Musically I adapt. Then, as an actor, I take whatever I’m singing and apply what I think is the proper feeling behind it.

  1. I read where you moved to NYC to solely be an actress, and musical theater just happened. What is your musical training?

Ms. Testa: I trained vocally for six years when I first moved to NYC. I trained with an opera teacher. I also went to Mannes College when I first moved here but never completed anything because that’s just how I am. I pick things up very fast. I don’t really read music, but I pick up stuff fast…My training has been experience.

  1. Can we expect any new music in the future?

Mary Testa and Michael Starobin, Barnes and NobleMs. Testa: Michael and I are very busy. He’s an orchestrator and doing a million things at once. We don’t have any fresh ideas right now. I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll come together and do something. We enjoy working together and collaborating. We don’t have any burning ideas right now. I’m sort of void of ideas. I think I’m exhausted, so I don’t really have any (laughs).

I don’t plan things out; I go with what comes my way. Right now, I’m doing eight shows a week. I don’t know what’s next, but I’m sure something will be next. Something’s always next.

  1. Last question. Pick one song. Why did you choose it, and what is its story?

Mr. Starobin: If I had to pick one, I’d pick “Lost,” which was a song Mary picked out, just because I find it beautiful. It’s where we combine electronics and live playing. We use a little bit of a Bach cello suite to introduce the song, and then the cello plays a big role within the song.

Ms. Testa: I love “Heroes.” Although I love everything on the album, it’s all purposefully selected. I’m often asked, especially during Tony season, “Who are the people that mentored you? Who are the people that inspire you?”

I’m inspired by everybody. I’m inspired by great performances, but I don’t have any heroes. I find that if you have a hero, you’re bound to be disappointed in them. There are people that I’ve admired, and then I meet them, and they’re jerks. The song “Heroes” is great because the lyrics are very funny, but it’s also really smart and serious. All of these people that we revere were jerks. (laughs)

Bonus: Dang, I was hoping somebody would say, “Sometimes It Snows In April.”

Ms. Testa: I can talk about that one! I’m a huge Prince fan. I miss him dearly. I cannot believe he was taken off this Earth. “Sometimes it Snows in April” always made me cry. I think it’s a beautiful song. I love Michael’s arrangement. I think of a particular friend of mine whenever I sing it. I’d like to do a Prince album of all my favorite Prince songs. I’d like to do a Prince show. I’d also like to do a Frank Zappa show…


In the end, Testa and Starobin weave a vivid image of struggles and triumph with Have Faith, while having a conversation we need now. Through each composition, Testa creates a bold narrative that allows room for fault but requires one to keep looking forward. Starobin’s arrangements give this album an identity that holds the record together as a unit while opening your mind to ideas you may have never seen. Together they created an album that pushes boundaries, socially, musically, and spiritually.

Every listener is granted permission to interpret music, both in its composition and lyrical content. The artists are the facilitator in leading the conversation, but it takes a rather unique voice to lend advice at the same time. That’s where Have Faith will leave you. It listens like an old friend while giving you a pertinent message. The message can change with each listen, but it will always remain profound.

As a simple listener, I am forever grateful I heard this album. As a music connoisseur, this album leaves me speechless. I’ve taken away many messages from Have Faith, but I’d love to leave you with the one I find most important and universal to every human (And yes, Testa approves).

Life is hard and often ridiculous, but nobody makes it out alive. Be kind, fight injustice, and love one another.


Purchase Have Faith at Ghostlight Records.



Connect with Mary Testa:

Connect with Michael Starobin:

ALBUM REVIEW: Janet Jackson, Damita Jo – BLACKLISTED

Since I cannot quite get through Justin Timberlake’s new album, I have continued to listen to Janet Jackson. Partly in protest to his halftime show, and partly because she is exceptional.

It’s really a shame though. Since 2004, Jackson has released 4 studio albums of brand new music. Not one of these albums has reached the success it deserved. Like I’ve stated before, it’s not her best work (because you can’t top Janet or The Velvet Rope), but it’s not shabby. It’s the classic R&B Jackson has always provided for us with each album.

To continue my series of blacklisted albums by Janet Jackson, I decided to look at her immediate follow up to “Nipplegate,” Damita Jo. 


Damita Jo was released 5 weeks after the Super Bowl performance. Viacom and Clear Channel’s ban of Jackson’s singles and videos contributed to its underperformance. I’m not going to be a Jackson purest. Damita Jo is not Jackson’s best work, but there are some incredible gems within this album.

The album opens up with another one of Jackson’s classic interludes that introduce you to the tone of the album. We are then met with the upbeat and autobiographical “Damito Jo,” before heading straight into an uptempo sex scene with “Sexhibition” and “Strawberry Bounce.” All three songs are incredibly aesthetic to the ear.

Next, we come into the album’s groovy and funky portion with the songs “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” “R&B Junkie,” and “I Want You.” What’s fun about these songs, besides the beat, is Jackson’s vocal tone. She isn’t using her normal sensual purr, but she is dancing with her voice. They slightly compare to “Scream,” her duet with Michael Jackson, in the fact that they push Jackson out of her comfort zone.  The same happens with the closing song “Just a Little While.”

The last takeaway I had from this album is “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex.” With the song’s beginning guitar rift to its smooth chorus, this song returns Jackson back to her sensual side with a flush of vulnerability.


What I really took away from this album is how every one of Jackson’s albums since Rhythm Nation 1814 listens like a novel. Each album is perfectly curated into themes (scenes) with narrative introductions (interludes) while cumulating in a resolved ending.

This album deserves a lot more praise then what it received in 2004. The reviews were tainted with “Nipplegate” influences, instead of objective musical reviews. Although this album did not get its time in the light and greatly underperformed compared to Jackson’s previous releases, it still went on to be certified platinum.

This album shows, even in the face of adversity, it’s hard for Jackson to make a flop.


Check out my first article in my Jackson Blacklisted series here.

Check out my halftime protest playlist of Jackson’s music here.


ALBUM REVIEW: St. Vincent, MASSEDUCTION

It has been awhile since I have written any of my musical musings and it’s not for a lack of words. I have discovered TONS of great music over the past few months. My job went crazy and my life went into an awkward spiral, but now I’m back, thanks to St. Vincent.

Over the last few months I decided to rejoin Vinyl Me, Please. I was once a member and I don’t particularly remember why I stopped. Through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram reading all my browsing history and spying on my personal life, I received many advertisements for Vinyl Me, Please, and November’s record of the month, St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION, caught my eye.

St. Vincent Music Review, MASSEDUCTION
Vinyl Me, Please Special Edition

Now, who hasn’t heard of St. Vincent? The record stores back home in Oklahoma take pride in her career because she was born in Tulsa, but my research tells me she moved to Texas before she was 5. I’d like to call her an Okie, but I don’t know if she would accept it.

Anyways, MASSEDUCTION quickly took me by surprise. Although I had seen a lot about St. Vincent’s music, this is actually my first foray into her catalog. I already have more of her albums on order.

To be candid, I really love MASSEDUCTION. This album served perfectly as an intro to St. Vincent’s work. I understand her earlier work is different, but this record has served as my gateway drug.

There are many reasons why I love this album, so many that it is hard to pinpoint exact reasons. Each song is like an impressionist painting. St. Vincent lays out what she sees, yet she leaves much to the imagination. Like many impressionist paintings, this album is also full of color as the orchestration ranges from heavy synthesizers to basic piano.

This album explores many themes, especially in relationships and self-discovery, but the reigning motif for me was self-acceptance. St. Vincent asks to be someone’s flawed foundation in “Hang On Me,” while calling BS on this world’s standards with “Pills” and “Los Ageless.” She knows what it’s like to be lonely and how her decisions have impacted her plight in life with “New York,” Fear The Future,” and “Young Lover.”

St. Vincent Music Review, MASSEDUCTION
The Telagraph.

At the end of all these emotions and trials, she is working on accepting herself, because ” “she can’t help what turns her on” in “MASSEDUCTION.” Although this doesn’t result in her over confidence, because she is still completely vulnerable in tracks like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “Smoking Section.”

For me, MASSEDUCTION is not a musical journey, yet a musical process, set to the tone of purposeful “pop” if you will (Disclaimer: I think being “pop” is one of the most freeing “genres” of music. It is never a diss in my writings). Through this album’s instrumentation one can find influences of rock, dance, jazz, and electronica. This is easily seen from the rapid tempo of “Pills” to the string arrangement of “Dancing With A Ghost.”

One last note, St. Vincent’s vocals are nearly pristine on this album. Ballads, like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” really show off her “classic” vocal talent. She may be considered an indie or alternative artist, but she can sing circles with the best of them.

MASSEDUCTION completely accomplished it’s title, as it has completely seduced me into the world of St. Vincent and, apparently, I’m not alone. I was online today trying to buy tickets for her shows in New York City this weekend and they are completely sold out. Off to StubHub I go!

Check out St. Vincent’s official website here.

Check out St. Vincent’s Twitter: @St_Vincent.

Check out St. Vincent’s Instagram: @St_Vincent.

Check out St. Vincent’s Facebook here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Coldplay, Parachutes – I’m Growing With It

I recently found out a friend is a really big fan of Coldplay, and that may be an understatement. He has seen them approximately 27 times since the beginning of their career.

Again, I am late to the game. I have never given Coldplay a fair listen. It’s not that I don’t like them. In 2011 I did purchase their album Mylo Xyloto and I loved it. I planned on getting into their music more, but then some other artist happened. Which speaks to the mantra of my life; so many artists, so little time!

Since my friend had such a conviction about the greatness of Coldplay, I decided it was time to dive into their catalog. I’m determined not to become distracted again (Well, until the next record sale). So I got on Discogs and purchased their first album from 2000, Parachutes.

On my initial listen I thought Coldplay was boring. It wasn’t anything like the album Mylo Xyloto. The album seemed melancholy and I really didn’t get excited about any of the songs. A few stuck out to me, but nothing I was going to put on repeat. Convinced this must not be one of their best albums, I texted my friend and expressed my feeling of indifference. I asked him if this was a boring album. Maybe there is better things to come? A progression in artistry if you will.

His reply: “It’s one of their best.” Clearly, I was missing something.

I gave it a second listen and read all the lyrics along with the songs. Then I gave it a third listen. Sometimes I find myself hating an album on it’s initial listen, but I fall in love with it on the third and fourth. Yet with Parachutes, I still find myself in the middle.

This album is not my favorite (at the moment), but it has given me a deeper respect for Chris Martin and Coldplay as a whole. I think Martin is a brilliant vocalist and the band writes intuitive lyrics. I do find this album fascinating, because often times the musical tones of the music do not match the lyrics.

As I listen to this album more, I am finding it more appealing and I am beginning to relate to their music. Oddly, I feel it somehow get’s me. The music is alive. Each song is up for interpretation, which gives this album an “I’m here for you” tone.

I may have gone off the deep end here.

My takeaways from this album are “Spies,” Yellow,” “Trouble,” and “Everything’s Not Lost” with “High Speed” coming in very close. These tunes are growing on me more and more, and I’m finding myself liking new songs with every listen.

So really I cannot write much about this album for I cannot figure it out, but I like it. I’m not ready to move on to Coldplay album two because this one has so many facets to it. This speaks to the brilliance of the album. How does an album that is nearly 17 years old speak relevance to listeners today? **Mind Blown**

So I would say that my Coldplay journey is starting out rather interesting. I’m excited about listening to their next albums like I haven’t been for a “new” artist in a long time. Martin’s voice has many layers and together the band makes penetrating melodies. Not to mention the lyrics are like clay and mold to different situations.

Parachutes is going to be on repeat for the next week. Although I feel this album is not going to grow on me, instead I’m going to grow with it.

ALBUM REVIEW: Happy Birthday Amy Winehouse, Reliving Frank

Today Amy Winehouse would have been 33 years old, had numerous more critically acclaimed albums under her belt, and multiple Grammys to go with them.

Winehouse was before her time, yet she was also a beacon of the past. Her vocals proclaimed a renaissance in modern music while being distinctly reminiscent of legendary vocalists past. I cannot find a word that penetrates to the core of Winehouse’s artistry. She was simply unexplainable and for me, completely intriguing.

fullsizerender-9Although Winehouse is mostly remembered for her album Back to Black, in which she won five Grammy awards, her previous record Frank is just as memorable. This album is one of the best compositions of the 21st century and is a must for every lover of music. It doesn’t belong to any one genre.

This album has a completely different vibe then Back to Black. It again defies all genres, but in a different way. Throughout this album Winehouse’s vocals remind me of a pure jazz singer, but not every song is necessarily jazz or has jazz elements.

The essence of jazz music is that each time you sing a jazz song it can be sung a different way through different stylization and emotion. It’s truly an artist’s genre and is completely freeing to the vocalist. This is where Winehouse’s vocals lie in Frank, completely free.

Frank begins with the song “Stronger Then Me.” Like most of the tunes on this album, this song is co-written by Winehouse. This song mixes R&B, soul, and jazz. Winehouse sing’s over these lyrics with her distinct brass and sarcasm. This song sets the tone for the entire album.

Although Winehouse is distinctively wanting someone stronger than her current boy, she immediately goes from the woman in charge straight into the one down position with “You Sent Me Flying.” This sentiment is quickly forgotten as she sings about her new friend, “Cherry,” who has now taken the place of her boy. I’ve never heard someone explain a guitar so affectionately.

Moving on down side A, we have the song this album is most known for, “F*ck Me Pumps.” The lyrical content of this song is about those women that seem to make clubbing a living while seeming to live shallow lives, when they actually just want to settle down. We all know the ones. This is a hard one not to get caught in your head with its addicting rhythm and piano riff.

Another standout on side A is “Moody’s Mood For Love,” a classic jazz  song that has been covered by many artists. This song really shows how savvy Winehouse is in pure jazz. I can just imagine her singing this in an underground jazz club in NYC. This sound parlays into side B.

fullsizerender-10Side B opens with “Take The Box.” This is one of the prize possessions of this album. “Box” takes a ballad turn, while keeping a consistent R&B beat. The metaphorical lyrics are nearly brilliance and I find them to be some of Winehouse’s finest. This song is easily coupled with “What is It About Men?,” which follows the same vibe, yet with a sensual touch.

As I walk away from this album, I am just as intrigued with Winehouse as I was the first time I heard her voice. What I find truly exquisite is how this record reads like a story-book filled with poetry. You can find a different meaning in each song depending on your emotional and physical surroundings, but each has a distinct setting. The same goes for Winehouse’s vocals. They are a never-ending book. There is always something new and profound to find in her stylings.

So today we celebrate her life and music that will last decades. Her legacy is much like that of Buddy Holly’s, although her career short, her influence in music is permanent. This album was named Frank due to her “frank” telling of the truth and also in tribute to Frank Sinatra, one of her biggest influences. This album and everything that proceeded was bound to be legendary.

Now only time will measure the legacy and footprint that Amy Winehouse has left on music. Happy Birthday to this beautiful songstress. May you rest in peace while taking another seat too soon in that heavenly choir.

ALBUM REVIEW: 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.

Liza Minnelli ResultsOften 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.

Liza Minnelli ResultsThe 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.

Liza Minnelli Results
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.

Connect with Liza Minnelli:

Liza Minnelli Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Steve Lawrence, Winners!

Artist: Steve Lawrence     Album: Winners!

I adore Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. Every album they made as a duo or as solo artists I can spin continuously. There is a carefree, genuine love that comes with their albums made together and their solo vocal chops are equally golden.

Steve LawrenceOne of my favorite albums out of Steve Lawrence’s catalog is his 1962 album Winners! This record contains the number one hit single “Go Away Little Girl,” co-written by a then unknown Carole King.  Bobby Vee originally recorded this song earlier in 1962.

Winners! is an album of cover songs. The idea behind the album was to find previous song “winners” and let Lawrence give them his golden take. Listening to this album one would never guess that Lawrence was covering other’s songs because he makes each song his own.

The album starts with “Cotton Fields,” which was originally recorded by Huddie Ledbetter in 1940. This is a quick audience grabber as Lawrence’s vocals swoon over this folk classic. Later he goes into Connie Francis’ smash hit, “Who’s Sorry Now?” This is one of the high points of the album. He takes this song and turns it completely on its head. His vocals are confident and crisp, and all but resist the stinging tone of an “I told you so.” Lawrence’s vocals have class and debonair wrapped into one.

The second side of this album contains “Go Away Little Girl,” but the treasures on this side are Lawrence’s covers of Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and Jack Jones. I would think it would be a bold move for Lawrence to cover his contemporaries songs, but the orignal artist names don’t even cross your mind when listening to his versions.

Lawrence’s smooth vocals gently caress “All The Way,” while he portrays determination to never give up on the one he loves. His rendition of “Moon River” starts out with the conventional beginning, but he ends it with a big band. Lastly, he covers one of my personal favorites, “Lollipops and Roses.” He again is backed by a big band and he gives this song a less vulnerable feel then the original, portraying faith and confidence in his romantic tactics.

Steve LawrenceBesides the fact that I like this album, it is special to me for other reasons. I sent my album cover with a writing I did over an album Steve and Eydie made to an address I found for Lawrence. It was a shot in the dark, but I wanted to try to get his autograph. It wasn’t much more than a week later he sent it back to me with the inscription

“To Gabe, Thanks for all the wonderful things you said about me and Eydie. All the best to you. Fondly, Steve Lawrence.”

This album holds a special spot on my shelf, for both its recordings and the special inscription Lawrence sent to me. As a vocalist myself I consider him one of my models. As a writer I could not be more thrilled that he actually read my post over him and his late wife Eydie Gormé.

Lawrence is just a class act and his vocal cords are plated in gold.

Key Tracks: “Go Away Little Girl,” “Kansas City,” “It’s Not For Me To Say”

Deep Cuts: “All The Way,” “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Teach Me Tonight”