Rebecca Luker: I Got Love [PS Classics]
When last we spoke — in our last On the Record column, that is — I cited the 1959 Rodgers & Hart album "Barbara Cook Sings from the Heart" as one of those CDs you can listen to over and over again. And here, suddenly, comes another. "I Got Love," Rebecca Luker's new Jerome Kern album, demonstrates the perfect combination of composer and singer.
Take an early two-song track, combining the pre-Show Boat, pre-Hammerstein version of "Bill" with Show Boat's "Can't Help Lovin' That Man." How is it possible that someone in our modern-day midst can sing these early 20th-century songs so well? So clear, so true, so Kern? "I'm Old Fashioned," "Why Was I Born?": Luker sings these pure and pristine.
In the song rescue department comes "Not You," an altogether forgotten song from the altogether forgotten World War I musical Rock-A-Bye Baby. A stunning song of love unrequited; Ira and George, who in 1918 were Kern-struck youngsters, seem to have remembered this one and fashioned their own 1926 followup, "Someone to Watch Over Me." Luker does the same with another obscurity which was, at least, appreciated in its time: "And I Am All Alone" from the 1917 Have a Heart. Kern is long gone and — with the exception of Show Boat — mostly forgotten. But he has dozens of songs like this floating around on brittle old song sheets. All that's needed is for someone to find them, and someone to sing them.
The only less than enthusiastic thing we can say is that Ms. Luker — who sings like a dream — has seen fit to include a few comedy numbers (namely "Saturday Night," "My Husband's First Wife" and "I'll Be Hard to Handle"). She does these expertly, yes; but these are the functional Kern rather than the inspired Kern. After my first five hearings of the CD — yes, you'll want to listen to it repeatedly, immediately — I find myself skipping through these three. But the treasures — which is to say, just about all of the rest — are truly golden.
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