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.



11 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of her until today, but can instantly see the attraction. 'What the World Needs Now' is beautifully performed and arranged and I'm keen to hear more - particularly her interpretation of ' A House Is Not A Home', a song I've long been fond of. Thanks for the intro Rol.
    Is it just me, or does Rumer bear a striking resemblance to a young Ann Wilson?

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    1. Happy to be of service. I've not noticed the Ann Wilson similarity before, but I can see what you mean.

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  2. Boys Don't Cry is very good but So is her debut Seasons of the Soul particularly Aretha which would have featured in my name checked series had I not previously posted it

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    1. We set ourselves such strict rules...

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  3. As you probably know my blog could be renamed The Works of Bacharach and David as I seem to revisit their songs more than those of any other song-writing team. Have done posts about a few of the ones mentioned above and love Rumer's voice. This is starting to get a bit weird but I was genuinely listening to Karen Carpenter earlier tonight as I'm so upset about my computer issues (still lost everything) that I decided to have a good wallow and Karen's/Rumer's voice is perfect for that.

    Am thinking that Alfie (Bacharach & David composition) might have had it's day which makes me sad but seem to have hit a brick wall on the writing front set off by technological probs. Bigger probs in the world however and I had a good run I suppose.

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    1. Sorry that your computer problems are still unsolved, Alyson. I hope it doesn't mean an end to Alfie, though I do understand blogger block. I quit my old blog when I felt I'd run out of things to say... then promptly started this one up a couple of weeks later because I found I missed the outlet for my writing: particularly as it's the only thing I really have the time / energy / concentration span for these days.

      I also hope you don't give up because your blog has been one of those which has inspired me over the last few months to change my approach to My Top Ten. My old blog was much more personal but when I quit that I decided I was just going to write about music and keep myself out of it. I figured nobody was interested in reading about me but might still be interested in some weirdly connected lists of tunes. Ironically, since I've shifted back to a more personal approach in recent months I've found more people are reading and responding... as they did with my old blog. I've come full circle and feel I'm going through a bit of a blogging renaissance now and that's largely down to the support and encouragement of certain bloggers... mainly the ones who have just commented on this post.

      Plus, as we seem to have lost Marie's blog again recently, it'd be a double blow to lose yours too!

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  4. One more thing - You are right, I too want to go and live in the past (but without all the untreatable illnesses). It's 1967 for me all the way!

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    1. For all its flaws (from a contemporary perspective) I would have loved to live through the Mad Men era... but (and I feel a bit traitorous for saying this) I would prefer to have been in America. I think they had it a lot easier than the UK in the 50s and 60s.

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  5. I had no idea Rumer put out new stuff in 2016, I'll give the album a try this week. It's a shame she's not more widely known. I remember liking her debut Seasons of My Soul, especially the track Slow I've listened to a lot.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it, Chris. I'd recommend (along with CC above) the Boys Don't Cry album too if you never heard that. It's amazing.

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