Sunday, 22 January 2017
My Top Ten (Late) Albums of 2016: Number 9
9. Rumer - This Girl's In Love
I know a lot of people (even cool bloggers and muso critics) praise Adele for her undeniably excellent achievements in the field of current chart pop (i.e. not being unlistenable when so many of her peers are). However, whenever anyone starts banging on about what a great voice she has, I always want to shout back: what about Rumer? Truly the most beautiful voice of her generation; it's a voice which echoes back to the golden age of pop (hence the frequent Karen Carpenter comparisons) and is more at home singing classics from that era than on more modern compositions (although occasionally, as on her debut hit Aretha, she somehow manages to do both).
To date, Rumer's greatest achievement was her stunning 2012 collection Boys Don't Cry, featuring reinterpretations of lost classics by the cream of male singer songwriters from the 60s and 70s, including Jimmy Webb, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Clifford T. Ward, Stephen Bishop, Hall & Oates, even Neil Young. Most were as good, if not better than the original recordings. When I heard that her new record returned to that era, but focused on two composers only (the untouchable kings of easy listening: Bacharach & David), I wasn't sure what to think. It seemed almost too obvious: yes, Rumer's voice was made to sing these songs, and the fact that her producer-husband Rob Shirakbari had worked with Bacharach many times seemed like a match made in heaven. I knew the songs would sound great, but I worried I'd miss the variety that Boys Don't Cry offered... that it'd all end up sounding a bit samey.
After a few listens, those fears were put to rest. The selection is impeccable, as is the ordering of the tracks. Rumer switches effortlessly from the obvious classics like the title track, The Look of Love and You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) to less well-known Bacharach & David compositions such as the 5th Dimension's One Less Bell To Answer and Luther Vandross's A House Is Not A Home. Along the way she takes on Dionne, Dusty, and, yes, Karen Carpenter, and gives as good as they deserve. Her cover of (They Long To Be) Close To You is equal to the Carpenters version yet not identical. Rumer's phrasing is different in places, turning the song from a bittersweet love song into something else. She made me hear the lyrics in a slightly different way. When I do my Top Ten Songs For Conceited Oafs, this will now be a strong contender.
If you've ever been a fan of the Bacharach & David songbook, I urge you to seek this one out. It's as sumptuous and perfect as these compositions deserve. It could have been released any time between 1965 and 1975... but it certainly doesn't sound like 2016. That's probably why it appealed to an old fart like me right now. I'm just so sick of the present. I wish I could go back and live in the past...
That said, there's one song in the collection which is as timely now as when Jackie DeShannon recorded it back in 1965. If not more so.