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BWW CD Review: Vivian Reed STANDARDS AND MORE Is More Than Standard

A recording of select numbers from her club act will make you wish you had seen Vivian Reed in action.

BWW CD Review: Vivian Reed STANDARDS AND MORE Is More Than Standard

It would be nice to do a story on the Vivian Reed CD collection because it is a set of albums worth talking about and definitely worth recommending but it's just too much for one article. Heck you could spend just one column writing about her 1976 album BROWN SUGAR, and at some point I'm sure that I will but it seems more prudent to show a little love to the iconic artist's latest album, a 2017 release titled STANDARDS AND MORE... but I'm listening to Brown Sugar just as soon as I finish writing this story, count on it.

Standards and More is an album with a subtitle - Selected Songs from the Standards and More Show. Dang. What I would have given to see that show: Vivian Reed is one of the most dynamic performers ever to step onto a club stage, so those who have the chance to see her live should seize the day. In the meantime, we've got this album that clocks in at a scant thirty-eight minutes - nothing to cry about: these are thirty-eight of the best minutes ever dedicated to music, with stupendous, roof-raising duets, tender, peaceful ballads, sweaty, swingy blues, and a boatload of emotion, all dressed up in that inimitable Vivian Reed voice... and that Vivian Reed magic.

The reason for buying a recording of standards is to hear them performed uniquely and that is exactly Vivian Reed's specialty. Whether making medleys (there are four, comprised of nine compositions), creating new arrangements, or performing the songs as musical monologues heading in emotional directions the actress controls, completely, each of the ten tracks stands out as an individual achievement. The medleys are creative enough to raise an eyebrow - note the tour-de-force performance of "Just One of Those Things/Almost Like Being in Love/I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" - and clever enough to draw a smile - combining Peggy Lee's personal story with her own on "I Love Being Here With You" and "I Been There" is brilliant. The two mash-ups that resonate the most for this writer, though, are an eerie pairing of "My Funny Valentine" and "In a Sentimental Mood" and a late-in-the-act medley that harkens back to the Tony Award nominee's history in the business while showing that, with the passage of time, her gifts and skills are stronger, fiercer, and more resplendent than ever.

Ms. Reed and co. have created a record here that is entertainment par excellence, from opening notes to final echo (oh! that last number!). There are two tracks, though, that are particularly rewarding - breathtaking in fact, at least for this writer, and they happen back to back, like a one-two punch of performance power.

Stephen Sondheim wrote a song for the musical Follies that became an instant classic and everyone in the world has either sung it, longs to sing it, or wants to judge those who do. That poor song has had so much pressure put on it that when people do perform the number, they go out of their way to make it the biggest thing they've ever done. Not this lady, not Vivian Reed. You can almost hear her holding her breath, even while singing "The sun comes up, I think about you..." and though there are words coming out of her mouth, you really do believe she is at a standstill, unsure of whether to go left or right. With very personal touches and expressions of emotional intimacy, Vivian Reed sets "Losing My Mind" free from the chains of strain placed on it by years of being overperformed. Audible sigh.

Then, just when you've wiped the tears away and caught your breath, out come the two words "Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, mon Dieu..." Well, you may as well lie down until it's over. In impeccable French, Reed joins hands with Piaf and steps inside of the song. Not one word, phrase, or note is out of place as Ms. Reed conquers one of the most famous compositions of all time, and delivers what may be the best track on a sublime, unquestionably authentic, impressively theatrical musical offering from one of the coolest divas ever to step up to a mic.

Vivian Reed Standards and More is a 2017 release on the Vivian Reed label and is available on amazon, apple music, streaming platforms, and at the Vivian Reed WEBSITE


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