Michael Feinstein – We Dreamed These Days – DuckHole Records DR-3194-4, 53:10 (Distr. by Qualiton) ***:
(Michael Feinstein – piano, vocals; with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra)
Michael Feinstein has a unique place in the culture of American music. His commitment to the revival and preservation of The Great American Songbook is laudable. Great composers like Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin continue to reach audiences due to the tireless efforts of this talented pianist and singer. He has been nominated for five Grammys, owns a popular Manhattan club and has been appointed by the Library of Congress to the National Recording Preservation Board, safeguarding America’s musical heritage.
We Dreamed These Days is familiar ground to Feinstein. Lush orchestral arrangements and emotive singing comprise the thirteen song album. The opening track “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” is vintage Michel Legrand. Elegant melody lines are captured by the throaty vocals (and a falsetto) in unison with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra. From the film of the same name, “Two For The Road” is another Henry Mancini gem. It feels like Feinstein is trying to maintain the same level of intensity on every song. “As Long As She Needs Me” has seen dramatic covers (most notably Shirley Bassey), but this one is too sedate. Anthony Newley’s Broadway show stopper “What Kind Of Fool Am I” cultivates a restrained build up, but revives at the finish.
On older songs, the deliberate pacing is more effective. Two medleys coalesce with the orchestra. “When I Fall In Love/My Foolish Heart” exudes the gossamer romanticism of its era. String accents and woodwinds add some depth to the presentation. “The More I See You/ There Will Never Be Another You” has a concise piano and voice construct for the first song. As the symphony joins on the second part, it is an effective transition.
A nod to “modern” composers appears in the inclusion of Peter Allen’s “I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love”, and Neil Sedaka’s “The Hungry Years”. The latter song benefits from the sparser participation of the orchestra. It would have been interesting to see how Feinstein would interpret current (and perhaps destined to be great American composers) pop songs. Many singers—including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles—were comfortable in exploring a new generation of composers.
We Dreamed These Days will be greeted warmly by devotees of the crooner.
TrackList: How Do You Keep The Music Playing; Two For The Road; As Long As She Needs Me; With You; The More I See You/There Will Never Be Another You; Dream A Little Dream Of Me; What Kind Of Fool Am I; I Remember You; The Hungry Years; When I Fall In Love/My Foolish Heart; If They Ask Me; I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love; We Dreamed These Days
The counterculture movie from the 60x