Saturday, August 28, 2010

Torch Songs: Torch Song Trilogy

I couldn’t resist using the title of this post this week. I knew it had to be a three-song post at week’s end. Fortunately, there are plenty of great songs available.

k d lang: Black Coffee


We’ve been hearing the name Peggy Lee a lot lately, and yes, Black Coffee was one of her signature tunes. It was also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, so it certainly qualifies for our theme. K d lang did this wonderful version with the legendary Nashville producer on her album Shadowland. Lang’s voice is perfect for this or any torch song. If she ever does an album of torch songs with a small jazz ensemble, I’ll be the first one in line to get it.

Lyle Lovett: All My Love is Gone


Lyle Lovett is known for not-quite country music, as well as his later large band experiments. His songs are often quirky, with his droll sense of humor and taste for bizarre and absurd scenarios coming through. But All My Love Is Gone is a fine example of torch song purity, and Lovett nails it with his performance. He plays it straight here, and it really works.

Was (Not Was) featuring Mel Torme: Zaz Turned Blue


Not that I have anything against the bizarre and absurd. Mel Torme, in his heyday, was known as the Velvet Fog for his silky smooth vocal delivery. In the early days of Was (Not Was), David Was was working as a jazz reviewer, and he wrote a glowing review of a Mel Torme concert. Torme, in gratitude, reached out to Was (Not Was) and offered his services. A hasty decision, perhaps. The result was Zaz Turned Blue. The Wases wrote it as a spoof of the crooner genre, setting a strange tale to a melody and arrangement that sound like torch song heaven. This one fits right in with our theme, until you catch the words. But a funny thing happened. Mel Torme not only performed the song on the album, he also added it to his concert repertoire. So in the eyes of Was (Not Was), this one may have started as a practical joke or Torme, but if so, it backfired.

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