An extended-play offering well worth the admission price.
Mike Diver 2011
A between-albums five-tracker, originally packaged as part of the deluxe edition of Sarah Blasko’s last solo LP As Day Follows Night (where it was titled Cinema Blasko), Cinema Songs runs no risk of upsetting the Trade Descriptions Act. The Sydney-born singer-songwriter, a mainstay of the Australian top 10 since 2006’s What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have set, has long been a fan of musicals; so for this compact collection she covers numbers from The Sound of Music, Xanadu, Cabaret and Fame, with the opener, Seems Like Old Times, taken from the soundtrack to Woody Allen’s 1977 comedy Annie Hall.
Throughout, it’s just Blasko and a piano, allowing the singer to get right into the heart of these songs, articulating the emotion beneath the original arrangements in quite startling fashion. The listener need not be a fan of musicals – Blasko makes these her own with a style that’s uncommon in cover projects, injecting her personality into proceedings to such an extent that the songwriters themselves are rendered bit-part players. A longer set might become somewhat samey, singularly paced, its one-dimensional approach leading to disinterest; but by keeping things curt, Blasko delivers a most appealing distraction, with no track stretching to longer than four minutes.
Its slightness ensures that Cinema Songs doesn’t stand up to intense scrutiny – beyond the stark piano accompaniment and Blasko’s skin-tingling purrs and sighs, there’s little to focus on. But the simple delight of hearing a song like the titular number from the bonkers, and ever so slightly crap, 1980 fantasy Xanadu (if you’ve not seen it, don’t bother), retreated as a delicate torch song can’t be beaten. Maybe This Time (Cabaret) is all smoky cool and suggestive stares across a dancefloor – albeit when the crowd’s all but left, and there are just a handful of slow-dancers shuffling under a giant disco ball. And Seems Like Old Times might date from 1945, but its sentiments haven’t aged a day, and here it’s a lump-in-the-throat opener possessing no little lasting impression.
Blasko’s fondness for this material is what really sells Cinema Songs, clearly evident in her exquisite performances, making it an extended-play offering well worth the admission price.