A friend recently asked me to name my 10 favorite female vocal recordings, which was a fun but challenging task, as there are dozens and dozens I have enjoyed over the past few decades. I finally came up with the dozen recordings listed here. These are the discs that I have listened to most often, ones that have provided as much comfort and joy as they have vocal thrills. I'm not suggesting these are the best recordings ever made (although I think they are all pretty wonderful); they are merely my favorites. Email me and let me know which recordings make your list. (I'll explore my favorite cast recordings in a future column.)
(Numerous theatre and vocal recordings are available at PlaybillStore.com.)
"Presenting Karen Akers"
I've been an admirer of Karen Akers' singing for years. It was during junior high school when my mother called me into the TV room to watch a repeat broadcast of "Presenting Karen Akers," the first of two Akers concerts filmed for television. Her voice was unlike any other I had heard — a rich, dark, velvety, vibrato-filled tone that cried with emotion. Since that time, I've had the pleasure of seeing Akers in numerous concerts and cabaret engagements, yet her first solo recording, "Presenting Karen Akers," remains my favorite of her numerous discs. The CD (Rizzoli Records), which introduced me to the songs of Craig Carnelia ("I Met a Man Today") and Jacques Brel ("Song for Old Lovers"), boasts an eclectic array of material and finds the Tony-nominated actress singing in English, German and French ("Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien"). Akers also handles pop songs with equal ease ("Sometimes When We Touch" and "She's Always a Woman"), and other highlights include the little-heard "Cloud of Music" and "After the Show."
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