Will pleasantly surprise those who might not have expected him to take up the challenge.
Adrian Edwards 2010
Bold as Brass realises Cliff Richard’s lifelong ambition to record a selection of timeless classics from the Great American Songbook with a band of Nashville’s best swing musicians, a crew of collaborators that the Rat Pack themselves would have loved.
As an opener, Love Me or Love Me is an ambitious, vocally tricky choice. It’s a demanding song, with its descending octave in the second bar; arguably, it sounds better as an instrumental. And under the microscope Richard’s limitations are revealed: a catch of the breath here, a clipped phrase there. These tend to make for a somewhat jumpy delivery. Sometimes at the end of a number, Night and Day for instance, he strives too hard to sell the song.
But Richard’s vocal timbre, so identifiable from songs like The Young Ones, still shines on in this collection; one can imagine that it’s been something of a learning curve to acquire the knack of performing these numbers. It’s good to hear him reviving the likes of Teach Me Tonight, a hit for the DeCastro Sisters back in 1954 but seldom sung today.
Let’s Fall in Love, with a genuinely poetic verse, is a carefree interpretation with a light accompaniment that goes very well. Sinatra previously sang Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered but it was written originally for a woman to sing and, in translation, the lyric loses some of its impact. Also susceptible to criticism is the running order of this collection. Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore has been programmed at track 10, though it’s one of Richard’s most stylish interpretations. He’s excellent too in catching the mood of the bluesy I Just Want to Make Love to You.
The band shines throughout, leaving their mark on I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, where the arrangement, with cabaret piano introduction, switches from Latin to swing. There’s a welcome change of pace for They Can’t Take That Away From Me, which arrives after four swing numbers, and an all-male vocal group joins Richard for the gospel-intoned Accentuate the Positive, where one can envisage them as southern Baptist preachers. On Lazy River, another song rooted in the American south, Richard’s vocal recalls Bobby Darin’s much-loved interpretation.
In retrospect it seems a shame that Sir Cliff has waited so long to record this. He clearly loves these songs and his interpretations, endearing if not enduring, will pleasantly surprise those who might not have expected him to take up the challenge.