Comedienne and jazz singer Lea Delaria takes on songs from Patti Smith, Soundgarden,...
Nick Reynolds 2003-11-04
The mood is intimate and late night; a chanteuse in a little club somewhere with a piano trio augmented by sax, vibes and guitar. But New York singer and comedienne Lea Delaria is singing an unlikely mix of pop and rock songs. Can you make jazz out of Jane's Addiction or Patti Smith? The results are interesting but not completely successful.
Lea takes a witty, urbane approach. She reminds me a little of Peggy Lee, although she has a broader vocal range and lacks Lee's vulnerability. The more she underplays her singing, the better the results. Blondie's "Call Me", is light and engaging. "Just A Girl" sets up an amusing tension between the sarcasm of the feminist lyric and the swing of the small combo. Soundgarden,'s "Black Hole Sun" is low key but effective, with the best instrumental performance of the album.
Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing" is recast as jazz funk. It doesn't work. This is a song about shoplifting: it has to be put over with a maximum amount of in your face rock attitude. Delaria's version is just too polite. And the mixture of grimy contempt and lust that is Chrissie Hynde's "Tattooed Love Boys" is given an inappropriate swingin' arrangement and misses the point completely.
It might have been better if this had been recorded live in a club. The production is weak, and at points badly mixed. This is a shame, as Delaria's band work hard to create atmospheric textures on "Philadelphia" and Robert Wyatt's threatening polemic "Alliance". When you hear what the likes of E.S.T can do with the studio, this unimaginative approach to recording just doesn't cut it anymore. But Peggy Lee never sang lines like "Chomsky got it right" or "masturbation's lost its fun". Until we can access the parallel universe where she did, this CD gives us a clue to what it might have sounded like.