Lyn Stanley's Daring “The Moonlight Sessions- Volume One”

It’s not an insult to call singer Lyn Stanley’s fourth album “formulaic”. Not when the formula includes bringing onboard some of today’s best studio and touring jazz musicians and arrangers, recording in the best studios and hiring the greatest engineers. Another part of the formula is the cover art: highly stylized, glamorous black and white photos of Lyn.

All of this is what her fans expect and she gives it to them. Here she goes a few extra steps, or should I say two fewer. The vinyl uses the “one step” process that’s not new but was recently resurrected by Mobile Fidelity. Lyn calls her version “SuperSonicVinyl™” (the graphics that explain it in this album’s insert uncomfortably knock off Mo-Fi’s). No doubt everyone reading this now grasps what is the one step process but in case you don’t read the review of Mo-Fi’s Abraxas where it’s fully explained.

This record is the first of two “The Moonlight Sessions” volumes, the second of which will soon be released. The revolving cast of “name” musicians is impressive: Mike Garson, Christian Jacob and Tamir Hendelman on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ray Brinker Bernie Dresel and Joe LaBarbera on drums, Luis Conte on percussion, John Chiodini on guitar, Chuck Findley on trumpet, Rickey Woodard on tenor saxophone, Bob McChesney on trombone, and Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica.

You can search any or all of them and you’ll find impressive credits. And of course the recording engineers are Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick at Village Recorders (where completely by coincidence I ran into Lyn while on a tour of L.A. Studios. Lyn was kind enough to briefly allow me [and my video camera] into the session), as well as at Capitol and LAFx.

Lyn had told me she’d had the arrangers weave classical music themes into the charts, which sounded like an interesting idea. The album opens audaciously with “All or Nothing At All” the song written in 1939 that catapulted Frank Sinatra to stardom when he joined the Tommy Dorsey Band. The song was recorded with the Harry James orchestra eighty years ago to the day that I’m writing this. At the time it sold poorly (8000 copies) but once Frank’s star rose Columbia reissued it in 1943 and it went on to sell a million copies.

This is a forlorn song in which the singer is ending an unsatisfying relationship, explaining to his former significant other that in love it’s “All or nothing at all”, that in this relationship it’s been “half a love”, and that “half a love never appealed to me”. Could it have been put more coldly? Only at the very end could the lyric and especially in Sinatra’s reading be thought of as one final challenge for the full measure of love, but that’s a considerable stretch.

Lyn’s version begins with Chuck Findley’s solo trumpet playing a mournful variation on the “Rhapsody in Blue” theme, which sounded appropriate for a song about dissolution and regret but from there it all goes horribly wrong, with Rawlins’ chart and Stanley’s singing turning this into some kind of steamy, dangerous drama. It really isn’t.

The song is an after the fact declaratory “kiss off”—a look back at what was and what might have been. It’s a regret-filled “it’s over” song.

If you don’t think so, listen to either Frank’s original or his later “swinging” but still brutal version arranged by Nelson Riddle on the Strangers In the Night album (or play your own record). Hell, listen to Bob Dylan’s masterful take on Fallen Angels. No, Bob’s not got much voice left but he too knows how to tell a story and turn a phrase.

Ms. Stanley’s odd version, from the arrangement’s sultry, luxurious mambo rhythm to her seductive singing simply doesn’t make sense. This is not a seduction song, nor should there be any drama other than in the bridge, which the arranger inexplicably turns into a breezy bounce that’s at odds with the meaning and would trip up even the most experienced vocalist.

All or nothing at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, never could yield to me
Then I'd rather have nothing at all

After the opening few bars that set an inappropriately “saucy” tone Ms. Stanley chooses to “bite” the microphone with a startling, accentuated island of an overdramatic “all” that attacks and decays and disconnects from the “or nothing at all”. Rather than saving the bigger (but not too big!) dismissive “nothing” for the second verse repeat, Ms. Stanley delivers it in the first.

The trumpet then enters with an inappropriately “sexy” rather than wistful fill and then comes the elegantly written, stinging declarative line “half a love never appealed to me”, which, with a straightforward delivery would devastate (Frank excruciatingly drags out the “half”, using it as a dagger) but instead here it gets a choppy rendering that swallows the crucial “half” in “half a love” and overinflates for unknown reasons the “never”.

The line is supposed to be derisive and dismissive, not dramatic. The drama in this relationship is essentially over though as always in love affairs, a dangerous residue remains that shows up in the bridge. That line demands but doesn’t get a flat, dispassionate, dismissive reading.

The next two lines (“If your heart…nothing at all”) explain the break up in bleak, disturbing, accusatory terms: “you never gave me your all, so I’d rather have none of you”. But why the heavy accent on the word “rather” when the key word is “nothing” in the phrase “nothing at all”?

All or nothing at all
If it's love there is no in between
Why begin, then cry for something that might have been
No, I rather have nothing at all

The reiteration of the song title in the next go round of course can’t add anything to the first because the “nothing”’s been fully and prematurely exploited. Lyn’s best delivery is the line “If it’s love there ain’t (she changed “is” to “ain’t” and it works) no in between” but then it’s back to a too big “Why” and a mysterious pause between “that” and “might have been”.

Why is any of this sung seductively and/or dramatically if she’s telling an ex the unsatisfactory relationship is over? If there’s any emotion to be drawn it’s the singer’s regret and hurt. Frank delivers the hurt on the older version and the derision in the later one. Lyn delivers none of that. She seems more interested in cozying up to the microphone and impressing the listener (you) with her singing.

Then comes the “bouncy, swinging bridge” where the song should have an injection of regret and especially of danger and vulnerability (listen to Frank’s version) but instead turns rhythmically “jaunty” and skips along almost gleefully, forcing Ms. Stanley to sing joyfully and with bounce “but please don’t put your lips so close to my cheek” (all that’s missing is the Vegas “hey”!) when it should be delivered as either a haunted plea or perhaps as a threat as in “back off”.

The singer admits to still being vulnerable and so rejects the former lover’s enticements begging: “please don’t bring your lips so close to my cheek, don’t smile or I’ll be lost…. I could fall and be caught in the undertow”, before steeling him/herself with so I’ve got to say “All or nothing at all”. That “all or nothing at all” is not a “put up or shut up” but rather a statement of “nothing at all” fact!

There’s no way to successfully deliver this song as an enticement or an attempted seduction but that’s what the arrangement pretty much demands and since Lyn Stanley produced, she’s got to take full responsibility.

The merry bridge gets a second, even merrier go round in a post-musical solo reprise. That one turns unintentionally comical in Ms. Stanley’s unusual reading of the line “so you see, I’ve got to say no, no”. You might argue that the closing triumphant exclamatory declaration of “All or Nothing at All!” is a “put up or shut up” one last chance challenge to the ex, and a “surprise” ending, but if that’s the angle, this version makes even less sense.Thus the album opens with a bizarre rendition of a great song I never again want to hear, well recorded though it is.

I picked apart that one song because it’s emblematic of why this album, while Lyn Stanley’s most ambitious and musically eclectic, is also her most ill-conceived, in great part because it was self-produced. With no outside force to put a brake on some really bad ideas, Ms. Stanley was free to self-indulge as in some cases were the hired musicians and arrangers.

Once you’ve gotten past “All or Nothing At All” you get to a cover of “Willow Weep For Me” wherein Lyn’s swoopy, over-exaggerated, elongated “weepiness” quickly becomes cloying. And again she’s singing seductively “come hither”, this time to a tree. And if that’s not what she’s aiming for why is it amplified by Rickey Woodard’s even more annoying burlesque-style tenor sax growls? Were those his or her idea? Is she singing in character or trying to seduce audiophiles?

Are you familiar with Sinatra at the Sands where Frank’s backed by The Count Basie Orchestra and on “I’ve Got a Crush On You” one of the sax players does a salaciously comic growl and Sinatra stops singing, laughs and says “you want to meet Monday and we’ll pick out the furniture”? Well on this track Woodard (who is a talented, experienced player) follows Stanley around (musically) laying down similar salacious growls but not for comedic effect. It’s just too much (this is again repeated on “Girl Talk”). It’s not “sexy”. It’s creepy, especially on a song in which the singer is metaphorically looking for shelter from a broken heart. Again, this reading makes no sense. If you want to hear a clean, fresh version, listen to June Christy’s with Stan Kenton.

The first side of this double 45rpm set side ends with Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” with a thankfully understated, elegant Christian Jacob arrangement (featuring a gorgeous Chuck Findley trumpet solo) that demands from the vocalist elegant phrasing, precise control and most especially, given the wide open spaces and Lyn’s insistence upon “in your face” fully exposed miking, first class interpretive skills.

Honestly, though Lyn’s surrounded herself as always with great musicians and has yet again improved her vocalizing, she’s not yet fully realized any of those, particularly in her interpretive skills, which leave many of these songs devoid of depth and resonance, which she attempts to cover with road blocking pregnant pauses, hyper-enunciation and a few other diversions. The halting, breathily delivered opening lines of “Moonlight Serenade” are excruciatingly hyper-dramatic and completely inappropriate. Why accentuate “stand” in “I stand and I wait”? There are dozens of “why”s in this and in every song here because I’m not sure Lyn has imagined a back story, invested herself in the character she’s playing and considered that woman’s life history, or the person to whom she is singing, or the place, or any of the pre-singing “prep” needed to bring life to a song.

So while there are a few fine moments of vocal promise, many of those, like some impressively long held notes, or skillfully turned phrases that do show Stanley’s growth as a singer, they tend to stand out almost as ‘stunts’ intended to showcase technique rather than as organic elements of a musically realized whole vocal performance.

Thus the overall results range from passable, okay and pleasantly surprising, to flat, stilted, repetitive, devoid of genuine, heartfelt emotions, ill-conceived and occasionally flat-out embarrassing (“My Funny Valentine, “Embraceable You” and “Crazy” are painfully hollow).

With but a few years of experience, Lyn Stanley has daringly chosen a repertoire well-covered by some of the greatest singers of our time and presented her voice “out front” and unadorned in the mix. Few singers, even the most experienced put themselves “up front” this way. I don’t know why she did it.

Give her credit for daring, but her phrasing, where she too often substitutes pregnant pauses and volume shifts for genuine drama and emotion, remains unsure and sometimes clumsy, her control, particularly of volume, unsteady, and her diction over-pronounced, unnatural and sterile.

But aside from all of that, there’s one fundamental problem Lyn needs to address that I only gleaned after listening to 22 female vocalists for an Analogue Productions compilation for which I’m writing the liner notes. They include Ella Fitzgerald, Jennifer Warnes, Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Joan Armatrading, Patsy Cline, Julie London, Dusty Springfield and others—as well as after listening to Diana Krall’s excellent new album Turn Up the Quiet. And that is Lyn’s “fourth wall” problem.

As with either stage or film acting, when you sing it’s critical to not break the “fourth wall”, which is the one between you and the audience. You need to keep that distance and block out the audience even if as on stage you might turn towards it. Break the wall and the illusion is destroyed. You can only establish the desired emotional connection and intimacy with the audience by keeping your distance.

On just about every track on this album Lyn not only breaks the “fourth wall”, she denies its existence and sings directly to the audience. She’s “in your face” and it’s not comfortable.

I went back to Krall’s new record and it made for comfortable listening even though there are obvious flaws in her vocals. It’s not perfect, but that’s what makes it human and engaging. But more importantly she’s definitely not singing to you! She’s keeping her distance and singing the story, which makes you, securely situated behind the “fourth wall” an observer, comfortably listening in.

Since I've known Lyn for a few years now, writing this review was not comfortable either, but listening made me more uncomfortable, and glossing over my true reactions would only have compounded my discomfort. The sound is stupendous and if you enjoy these performances don't let me or the $99.95 price tag stop you. This recording is available on 45rpm "one step" vinyl, hybrid SACD and reel to reel tape. Volume II coming soon.

Bob D.'s picture

why so many audiophiles gush over her records. Nice sound, but...

vinyl listener's picture

like most audiophile recordings.

Cal Liedtke's picture

Michael -- Great to see that you are coming around to what most of my LAOCAS friends and I have know for years. Stanley's best quality is that she hires the best artist to surround her. However, she needs to do this because when you listen to her singing she is the most bloodless, passionless, least inventive, self-indulgent female vocalist around. Oh, I almost forgot -- she can't sing, either. Music -100, Sound 9.

hifitommy's picture

she is unable to propel a song, just singing along with the band with no drive. i have her first disc which i bought directly from her at Weinhart Design thinking it would be a gem in the rough. no gem yet and only smooth and uninteresting. and also her second one that i won in the LA/OC Audio Society raffle, both signed. i will be happiest when they are sold.

the musicians are top notch and secret ingredient AL SCHMITT engineering the gigs. apparently, it requires a great primary ingredient, real talent. i know that Lyn has had another career before this one in ballroom dancing, and she is probably ok at show tune singing (as was Amanda McBroom, whom i can't stand), Sheffield recordings or not) but she is NOT a competent jazz singer. you won't be finding her in the same breaths spoken about Shirley Horn, Diana Krall (YES), Carmen McRae, or Billy Holliday.

she has done all the right audiophile things such as hybrid SACD, 2LP 45rpm LP, hi-rez downloads, and even open reel tape. she seems to have fooled a lot of audiophiles, but thankfully not Michael Fremer.

has Michael been harsh? yes, but not unfairly so. i can only speculate what Steve Simels of Stereo Review fame would have said. he must have been a fellow NY/NJ guy like Mikey, as caustic as Drano, and as pure as an element in praise.

Richard Riley's picture

I disagree. I think Ms.Stanley's 4th album is her best. I own them all on 45rpm. I also own all of Krall's albums many on 45rpm and many other artists. All of the people mentioned had a formula(Style). Sinatra has been around forever. Maybe his formula changed a little over time. Lyn has only been doing this for 4 years. The majority of the review was spent on one tune comparing it to other singer's versions.Maybe your focus was fuzzy from the project you are writing liner notes for.

teenage diplomat's picture

Everybody is entitled to an opinion. You know the old saying: "opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one." But the hatchet job you did on this LP, Mikey, left we wondering whether there is more than a difference in artistic taste at play. Lyn Stanley, like any artist, is entitled to reinterpret a song's lyrics. She did so on a couple of songs on this LP, and you reacted as if she took a crap on the Great American Songbook. I wonder? What was your reaction to Willie Nelson's "Stardust" - an LP with highly idiosyncratic interpretations sung in a virtual monotone? I happen to love that LP - and Lyn's latest too. I will happily listen to both because I like them (obviously) but also because I respect the risk taking both represent. I don't enjoy listening to Diana Krall because there is virtually no risk taking, no reinterpretation, and her vocal range runs the entire gamut from A to B. Like I said above, everybody's entitled to an opinion, but I do wonder if there is something else going on here.

Michael Fremer's picture
I love that album. The problem here is that most of the interpretations were in my opinion inappropriate and jarring beginning with the opener. I didn't just express my conclusion. I explained why I reacted as I did. All or nothing at all as a luxury mambo misfires and turning the dramatic bridge into a playful romp ruins the song. Yes that's an opinion but it's grounded in fact. Same with "Willow..." which is a song about shelter sung again suggestively. It creeped me out. Yes I was encouraging to Lyn on previous albums as I am here. I'm encouraging her to rethink what she's doing because I thought this was a serious misstep that accentuated the weaknesses in previous records. My dogs are fine...
teenage diplomat's picture

Michael, glad to hear your dogs are alive and well. If you've read the other posts on this thread, you will know that there is a lot of angst among Lyn fans flowing from your review. Some can be dismissed as fanboys or fangirls being distraught at the object of their affection being disparaged. But others (myself included, I believe) genuinely have a problem with your review. Mine flows from your total refusal to consider the possibility that alternative interpretations of standards can be "good" on their own merits. Here is an example of what I mean. Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" is a classic. But the re-interpretation made famous by American Idol contestant David Cook was just as outstanding musically, and perhaps even more faithful to the lyrics' meaning than the uptempo original. Food for thought, if you're open to reconsidering your position. FYI: love your writing and your vinyl advocacy.

Michael Fremer's picture
Of course songs can be interpreted and presented differently and whether or not they are successful is a matter of opinion. I didn't like Lyn's "Whole Lotta Love". Just an opinion. She maintained the song's intent but with a different emotional "spin." FINE! But "All or Nothing At All" has a particular meaning that's not subject to opinion. If it's done as a polka it simply cannot work. It is not a happy song. Same with "Saint James Infirmary". Doing "All or Nothing At All" as a "luxurious mambo" was simply wrong. It cannot be made to work if you want the music and lyrics to fit together. The bridge is critical. The arranger made it a perky bounce and that forces Lyn to sing it as if she's skipping along when it's the song's most poignant moment. That "interpretation" is a disaster. There's no way around it. And "Willow Weep For me" has her seducing the tree... it's a metaphor for shelter after a break up. It's not a love song to a tree, which is how she sings it.
teenage diplomat's picture

Michael, you're making my point for me. You're saying that an interpretation "simply cannot be made to work" is the kind of critical absolutism that rejected out of hand plenty of music that has stood the test of time. Classical music is full of examples. More recently, Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner comes to mind. I get that you don't like the arrangements and performances of several songs on this LP. I respect your opinion. But I don't accept your taking on the role of ultimate arbiter of the musical correctness of an artist's creation. Music, in the end, is in the ear of the beholder. Your ear tells you its wrong. Someone else's ear may say it's good. Your review makes believe that there is an absolute in this equation. There isn't.

Michael Fremer's picture
She sings "Willow Weep For Me" as if she's seducing the tree. That's the only way to hear it. That is wrong. She sings the most critical part of "All or Nothing At All" as a "perky" number. That's just wrong. I can't be any clearer and her take can't be any clearer. When you hear "Willow Weep For Me" what does it seem to be about to you?
teenage diplomat's picture

Michael, I have several vocal versions of "willow" and "all or nothing" in my collection. I'll listen to as many of them as I can over the next couple of days, keeping as open a mind as I can, compare them to Lyn's, and post my opinion here. Fair enough?

teenage diplomat's picture

OK, I've done some comparative listening and here is what I think. Lyn's "willow" is within the canon, so to speak. Her vocal is in the tradition of other female jazz artists, but isn't as sophisticated - or as emotionally realized - as my favorite Billie Holiday rendition. No surprise there, IMHO, as Lady Day has few if any equals in that department. I prefer Lyn's vocal to Diana Krall's (which I find languid to the point of dullness) but not to Ella Fitzgerald's. On par with Julie London's, more of less. I'm not a fan of the horn arrangement in Lyn's version - too intrusive for my taste; the horns on Diana Krall's version are more effective mood setters, I believe. "All or Nothing" on the other hand, isn't in the canon but I think that was the whole idea behind this reintrepretation. Having said that, the horns jump out at me in a dissonant way, and I have no idea why the opening and closing Gershwin quotes are there. Lyn's vocal fits her intended reinterpretation but does lack the emotional content of the best of the traditional versions. In that regard, the alternative that sounds most similar is Diana Krall's! Both are comparatively uptempo, and use untraditional phrasing. My two favorite versions are Billie Holiday's and Patricia Barber's. Now I'm not a musicologist, just a jazz fan. I've tried to describe what I've heard. And I didn't hear the "just plain wrong" elements that you described in great detail. What I did hear was a vocalist still growing into her instrument willing to challenge convention to give expression to her inner voice. Did some of her choices fail? I would have to agree with you that some did, particularly in the arrangement of "all or nothing." But I still disagree with the harshness of your review.

Bill Reeve's picture

If you like Lyn's previous albums Michael, especially her last album where you said she showed real growth, then why such a negative review for this album? In this album I think she is perfecting her niche and still getting better.

Michael Fremer's picture
I think it's a big step backwards that accentuates the deficiencies and indulges them. Daring reinterpretations can be adventurous but when they bludgeon the meaning and intent as on "All or Nothing At All" and "Willow Weep For Me", it' needs calling out. Lyn coos to a willow tree like a lover...weird creep and inappropriate! Sorry but I could not get onboard with this one nor could I encourage more in this direction. I really tried hard to be constructive and specific in my criticism. If you find these interpretations compelling then enjoy because the sound is amazing but I find almost everything on this record misguided and self-indulgent.
AZ's picture

That's one thing I didn't expect. Probably my fave off the album.

cvcgolf's picture

You sound like you're still upset over the Hillary Wikileaks Clinton loss..

Glad I purchased this after reading all the positive reviews of her album.. Actually, this might be the only bad review of her album I've read..

Anyway, I'll enjoy the record and you can enjoy the Hillary, "What the Hell Happened to Me?" Wikileaks Clinton book..

Michael Fremer's picture
What the f...k does this review have to do with the election or your inability to maintain an erection?
AK Mark's picture

I don't agree with Michael's politics but this has nothing to do with it! Your comment is what makes people think we are crazy! I don't like Hillary, I don't like Lyn Stanley's album either... it is totally unrelated! If Michael does a political post I'll have no problem politely debating him, but probably won't because you can't change people's core beliefs. But this comment doesn't make sense or help anyone.

Bob D.'s picture

If these records where not given the "audiophile" production, no one that can discern a good vocalist would give them a second listen.
Mr. Fremers' is an honest review. That is all.

Elubow's picture

Though I'm not a particular fan of Ms. Stanley, I do think the criticism expressed in this review to be somewhat harsh. Though Mr.Fremer feels he was being constructive in pointing out how grossly Ms. Stanley, in his opinion, misconstrued the lyrical intent of the songs, I can't help feeling the he could have voiced these criticisms more tactfully without being so hurtful. No matter what you may think of her vocal prowess or her interpretive abilities, she purportedly has worked very hard to improve her skills and financed her own projects. If I were the artist in question, I think I would be very hurt by this review even if Mr. Fremer thinks he was doing her a big favor with his rather brutal critique.

I could easily have envisioned a review in which he said this album was not quite up the standards of the previous ones, that he was disappointed in some of the interpretations and leave it at that. Instead he chose to eviscerate her interpretive skills here leaving little room for the posItive. I assume he believes he was being kind here but I have trouble believing many reading this review would agree. If he really wanted to be kind, if he truly felt she went off track here, he could just as readily told her personally what he thought instead of this rather brutal public assessment.


Michael Fremer's picture
Brutally honest. She needs a producer. She should not self-produce. This was a misguided effort with too many cooks with their hands in the swill.
AZ's picture

I tend to agree with you, but at the same time 7 out of 10 is not that brutal IMO.

isaacrivera's picture

It's an 11 point scale. That is a 7 out of 11.

Elubow's picture

Michael: maybe this one will put you in a better mood. As non-audiophile as they come with sparse accompaniment but better than Sinatra, IMO.

Michael Fremer's picture
Interesting. A very spare accompaniment and actually not far from what Lyn's arranger may have had in mind, but he ended up making it too "luxurious" and seductive whereas this one just had a bit of intrigue... and the bridge was a vamp not far from Lyn's but Sarah didn't make it "cute" because it called for the opposite. Sarah didn't let the tempo change shift her delivery. She didn't react to it. ....that one produced "chills".....but therein lies the difference between mediocrity and artistry.
Richard Riley's picture

Hey, we woke everyone up. This is exciting.

anomaly7's picture

Lynn Stanley has a great voice, and she has always been recorded well. The problem for me is that she sinks into a style that is devoid of emotion. I want to hear her emote. She needs someone to kick her in the arse when she sings. She needs a producer.
For anyone who is upset about a negative review, or an opinion that doesn't match their own, get over it. If Lynn Stanley's new album is as great as you think, she'll sell millions of copies and disappear from the audio show circuit and enjoy bookings at Carnegie Hall.
At the last audio show I saw her at, she mentioned her next LP (not the Moonlight Sessions Volume ll, which has already been recorded) would be Rock & Roll. I can only hope that this will be true, and that she'll have a good producer who unleashes her talent.

Michael Fremer's picture
She'll listen only to her sycophants because they tell her what she wants to hear. Yes, her actual voice is pleasant if not distinctive but she's not got an emotional core on display here and your observation about bookings and popularity are 100% true. She's stuck in the audiophile ghetto and if she thinks this record's getting a Grammy nomination she's kooky! Someone needs to wake and shake her up.
elmitz's picture

That perfectly described my reaction to this album as well. But I am in general creeped out by her, not quite so much by Diana Krall for some reason...

I'll never cease to be amazed at the utter crap audiophiles will gladly pay top dollar to listen to simply because it was well recorded. Blech.

I saw you in the studio photo (I think) of Chasing The Dragon's wonderful España DTD LP. Now that is some great sound and good music!

Great review Mikey, my faith in your reviews continues to be renewed.

Michael Fremer's picture
I tried explaining that in the "fourth wall" comment. Lyn's singing breaks the "fourth wall", which puts her too much "in your face".
AnalogJ's picture

I coach singers to make a personal connection to the lyrics. If they don't, they're just placing empty style onto the music. It's one thing if you're an Ella Fitgerald, who was really a jazz singer using her voice as another instrument. But if you are one who is tackling a song from the point of view of communicating the lyrics, you have to make communicating the lyrics as an extension of you. If you don't find the inspiration, word by word, to give reason for singing those lyrics from within, the performance will just seem empty.

You can't impose a feeling on a set of lyrics ("I'm going to sing this sadly or happily or angrily"). You have to personally find reason to be those things, connecting the lyrics to your own personal experience. Otherwise it's just posturing.

I have listened to couple of cuts from Lyn Stanley (not from this album) and I don't get that she has done the emotional work which would really personalize the songs. I find this to be often true of Diana Krall, by the way. She puts that sexy ooze on songs, but I don't think she really digs down to find that personal connection with the lyrics.

A question as a listener to ask yourself is this - Do you believe the singer has lived what he or she is singing?

OldschoolE's picture

I used to be in the music industry locally and one of my roles was AR scout among many other duties. Also as a musician (or former musician who used to do vocals and percussion - never at the same time), I could not agree more!
Music touches me deeply anyway, but I found that I could not carry a tune in a bucket if I did not connect with what I was singing. I was told I did well when I sang with genuine feeling and can tell you that it feels far better doing that.

I have also heard a few various songs Ms. Stanley has done and to be blunt, but not mean, I don't understand what is so outstanding about her. To me she sounds like a robot. I feel similar about Diana Krall, while she has the chops, she doesn't approach the songs with emotion in mind.

Michael Fremer's picture
Spot on and insightful...
Christian Goergen's picture

fart, than audiophile singers (male/female) sing. Thanks to our host, being incredibly polite after his cumbersome execution of this piece of a record. 32 bit/s would have been appropriate.

AK Mark's picture

I don't usually agree with you, especially your politics but here you are 100% correct. I have never understood why "audiophiles" like her music so much. It makes me question the definition of an "audiophile". I heard her once at one of the shows. Ms. Stanley seemed more like a talented karaoke singer rather than an actual singer. To each their own.

Martin's picture

In the left corner, in the red shorts, weighing in at 182 pounds, undefeeeeted champeeenn of fifty-four fights, forty-eight by knockout, in the right corner, .....

I do like the review though.

I quite like the record, though so far I've only played the SACD.
It is a bit overdone with all the breathy singing, that I must say.
But, I guess it's about interpretation.
I actually played Sinatras 1939 Harry James recording of "All or Nothing at All" and Billie Holidays version from the early 50's over the weekend. Lyn Stanleys is another interpretation.
Yes, I would prefer something a bit more direct and true to the intent of the song. What the song is actually about.

I think too often we get tangled up in the "audiophile" stuff, how good it sounds, rather than what's actually on the disc.
So thanks Michael for writing what you actually think, rather than going, "Well, it sounds great, let's be thankful someone is taking so much care in the recording, so I'll give it a glowing review regardless of what I think and feel".
I think it's exactly that is why I keep coming back here. You - mostly - write what you think. Consistency questions aside..... A 10 for sound on Lyn Stanleys record here and a 10 for the 96/24 sourced Sgt. Peppers makes no sense whatsoever. But this is nitpicking.

Thanks for writing what you think. That is rare. And offering some helpful criticism, "get a tough, uncompromising producer who will tell you things you don't want to hear".

elliotdrum's picture

*You can't tell the wind which way to blow.*
*What goes up must come down.*
*Don't Change horses in the middle of the stream.*
*Different strokes for different folks*
One suggestion before the recording session would be to
smoke a joint-shot of tequila with a beer chaser then record!!!

eastwes's picture

I thought your review of “The Moonlight Sessions- Volume One” was very generous given the mediocrity of her singing "prowess". I also think your analysis of her "formulaic" process was spot on. Anyone with deep enough pockets can assemble a world class team of musicians, engineers and lay down some tracks and roll some tape in an iconic studio. But who the hell wants to hear Ms. Piggy on vocals? Well, actually, that said, I'd probably prefer Ms. Piggy... To each his own however, and Mr. Stanley definitely has a following here (hear?) among the audiophilian. A dear friend of mine after being gifted this LP by Ms. Stanley personally, immediately gave it away to the first taker in the room who raised their hand... Ah... Autumn in New York...

Lazer's picture

I ordered both sessions as soon as I got the emails. I received both 0129 albums. In other words, not only was I the 28th person to order this album, I also got a dirty stamper. The first time I visually inspected the albums, I saw smooth circles randomly placed where grooves should be. I thought, “that cant be good.” And it wasn’t. Michael gave this album a low score on music but a high score on sound....the sound I got from both sessions #0129 was terrible.

Karen's picture

I loved your direct, honest someone who is exploring jazz singing "later in life", I thought I'd share my very first recording with you...maybe you've got some pointers for me. ;) As my current budget for recording is slim, I decided to take advantage of something called an "open mic recording session", with a professional trio accompaniment...basically you get one take and no rehearsal, but with a nice discount. Here is the first one I did (Lush Life)...there are also a few more recordings on my little youtube channel...thanks for listening.