Diana Krall Wallflower
For her new album “Wallflower”, Diana Krall mostly recorded songs from the 70s with the help of producer David Foster who also did the plush orchestral arrangements, Joachim van der Saag who programmed the disc and was responsible for the so-called sound design, and lots of first-rate musicians.
But those musicians are kept in the background and don’t get a lot of solo space, but it can’t be bad to have Christian McBride and Karriem Riggins as the rhythm section together with producer Foster who plays piano on most tracks and leaves the leader to stick to the vocals. The album opens with a lush interpretation of The Mamas and the Papas Number 4 hit from 1966, “California Dreamin'” and sets the tone for this adult project which at the end makes me want to hear Diana doing some Soul, Rock, or Blues songs next because this is all so unbelievably relaxed and sophisticated and perfect. And the overall theme of loneliness only adds to this view.
Of the two songs by the Eagles, “I Can’t Tell You Why” (a number 8 hit in 1980) fares better because it features a more vital approach and a little help from original songwriter and Eagle Timothy B. Schmit. “Desperado”, originally recorded in 1973, comes across as a bit of a lackluster cover version. The good thing about this album is that all involved don’t totally disconnect with the original lyrics and so the songs here are the star. The vocalist subordinates and lets the stories unfold. Best examples: Elton John‘s Number 6 hit from 1976, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” and the Number 2 charting “I’m Not In Love” by the English art-rock band 10cc where the whole bombastic arrangement of the original is stripped to the essence.
Other songs come alive because they get some icing on the cake, like guitarist Blake Mills on the Bob Dylan tune and title track for the album (“Wallflower” was originally released on a three-disc record by Dylan called “The Bootleg Series”, but written by Brett James and Steve Bogard), or the fine orchestra arrangement by Vince Mendoza on the final song on the album, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, a Number 2 hit for the New Zealand/Australian trio Crowded House and written by member Neil Finn.
And then there are the songs which are on the cusp of falling off the hill: some because the original can’t be topped (“Superstar”, written by Leon Russell and recorded by The Carpenters who took the record to Number 2 in 1971), others because of a miscast (Bryan Adams of all people as duet partner on the Randy Newman song “Feels Like Home”), and still others because of totally missing the point (Gilbert O’Sullivan‘s Number 1 Hit from 1972, “Alone Again (Naturally)” which sounds like a joke and features Michael Bublé in an uninspired duet.
Oh and for the sake of completeness, there’s a Paul McCartney song here (“If I Take You Home Tonight”) and a fair enough version of Jim Croce‘s 1972 hit single “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels”). I wonder how she will communicate those songs in her live shows. Maybe a line from the title track helps as an opener: “Just like you I’m wonderin’ what I’m doin’ here. Just like you I’m wonderin’ what’s goin’ on”.
She starts her mega US and Canada tour at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on February 25th and travels the whole continent until late August before she comes over to Europe for a month-long tour starting in Birmingham in late September.