By Marilyn Lester
Jamie deRoy has long been a champion of songwriters, especially under the aegis of her Jamie deRoy and Friends live and televised programs. In her 2006 CD, If I Sing: The Songwriters Album, she’s chosen the cream of the crop, a baker’s dozen of songs by writers who’ve had success in musical theatre, pop and country. These are tunes that can claim a lofty status. Many of them are now considered standards of the new American Songbook, such as Judy Gold’s 1991 Grammy-winning song, “From a Distance.” Each of the numbers is fully realized, with superb musical backing of varying degrees of instrumentation, and each with gorgeous arrangements and their authors singing and playing (mostly piano). It’s a wonder how many of these writers also have lovely voices. If Andrew Lippa, for instance, decided to give up writing, he’d easily make it as a vocal artist. His “Live Out Loud” (lyric by Brian Crawley) from A Little Princess is beautifully timely as a stand-alone tune. From the world of country, Larry Gatlin’s big hit, “All the Gold in California” is a frisky toe-tapper that shows why the Gatlin Brothers have been so enduringly popular in the music business.
There are quite a few story songs dotting the album—the kind of tune where melody is minimal and takes second place in favor of strong lyrics. Among them is the number giving title to the album “If I Sing” (David Shire, music, and lyrics and vocal by Richard Maltby Jr.) from their musical Closer Than Ever. For total, upbeat fun and clever-as-can-be lyrics, there’s Maury Yeston’s “Nowhere to Go But Up” from the unproduced musical Ramayana; and a tune cut from Avenue Q, “Tear It Up and Throw It Away,” with both writers, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, on vocals. “Daddy’s Girl,” a song vocalized by deRoy herself and written with Lanny Meyers is a treat that could have been comfortably at home in any classic jukebox. Closing the album is “For Good,” from the long-running Wicked. Writer Stephen Schwartz delivers a heartfelt interpretation of a work that’s a brilliant play on words as well as a new classic. If I Sing: The Songwriters Album is available on Amazon and is well worth the purchase for those who love superb songwriting (and who also love to hear the tunes played by the folks who created them).
John Meyer, self-described Memoirist, Novelist and Songwriter, is of a generation of creatives capable of writing in multiple styles and genres, with an emphasis on melody and harmonics as well as solid, literate lyrics. His 2011 CD, Bringin’ Out The Beast is a showcase of such work, populated by vocals of the famous and Meyer himself (a very passable singer). For Judy Garland, whom he knew well, Meyer wrote the “perfect Garland song,” “(I’d Like to) Hate Myself in the Morning.” This version is an aircheck, of which Meyer writes: “Note the false start and ballsy recovery… A revealing insight into Judy’s fearlessness as a performer.” Several beautiful ballads are included, with “It’s All for You” being notable, not only for the lush melody but for the singer, the legendary Margaret Whiting. With Frank Owens at the piano, Whiting’s rich vocal tone, phrasings and storytelling ability are all on glorious, full display.
In the realm of genre comparison, “Survivor,” sung by Rita Gardner could also have been perfectly delivered by Edith Piaf. The song is from Meyer’s comic thriller Zazou, a play about a French music-hall songstress who commits murder! From Brazil comes a classic bossa nova tune, “Wait and See.” The original has music by Chico Buarque with a French lyric by Claude Nougaro. Meyer’s English translation, he says, “gives new meaning to the word obsession.” The guitar accompaniment is by the gifted Brazilian virtuoso Romero Lobambo. Fun is to be had with Betty Rhodes, in another aircheck at one of her club acts. Meyer devised the arrangement of the traditional “Happy Birthday” (attributed to Patty and Mildred J. Hill) for her and it’s a hoot. There are plenty of other gems on Bringin’ Out the Beast, some of which famously reflect Meyer’s earthy and wry side. The CD is available at multiple outlets for purchase and is also streaming.