Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Madeleine Peyroux: “Keep Me In Your Heart For A While: The Best Of Madeleine Peyroux” (2014) CD Review

Madeleine Peyroux has such a distinct voice. Comparisons have been made to Billie Holiday, and those comparisons are apt, and are also interesting in relation to some of what is revealed in the liner notes to the new compilation of her work, Keep Me In Your Heart For A While: The Best Of Madeleine Peyroux. Yves Beauvais, who produced her first album, writes about how early on she was given a cassette of Billie Holiday material and asked to learn the songs. And learn them she did.

There is something relaxed and comfortable about her delivery, giving an intimate feel, like she doesn’t have to stretch to reach your ear, to reach you. Most of the tracks on Keep Me In Your Heart For A While are covers, including songs by Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan and Randy Newman. The disc features one previously unreleased song, which gives this collection its title.

The CD opens with one of her original songs, a happy-sounding jazzy tune title “Don’t Wait Too Long,” co-written with Jesse Harris and Larry Klein. This is from her 2004 release, Careless Love. It’s a song about seizing moments and taking chances. And there is something so bright, so pleasant in the sound of this song, that you get the feeling everything will work out well if you do seize whatever opportunities come your way. “When your morning turns to night/Who’ll be loving you by candlelight/If you think that time will change your ways/Don’t wait too long.”

Bob Dylan

Madeleine Peyroux covers “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs. There are two lines in this song that always make me smile: “I could stay with you forever and never realize the time” and “You’re going to make me give myself a good talking to.” There is something a little odd about a serious, jazz vocal delivery of those lines, and the song in general. It certainly gives the song a very different feel. I’m not sure if it quite works as well as the original, but I enjoy this rendition nonetheless.

She does an excellent rendition of Elliott Smith’s “Between The Bars,” sounding almost like a strange sort of adult lullaby. There is a delicious, late-night haunting quality to this track. It’s followed by “(Getting Some) Fun Out Of Life,” a playful, delightful track with an absolutely excellent lead spot by Cyrus Chestnut on piano. I also really like Steve Kirby’s work on bass. This is a song that was recorded by Billie Holiday, written by Joe Burke and Edgar Leslie. There is a joy in Madeleine’s vocals, and in the overall sound of this track.

Leonard Cohen

Madeleine Peyroux covers “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” the song that Leonard Cohen opens his concerts with, a fantastic song from Various Positions (one of my two favorite records). Madeleine gives it a cool, European vibe. And there is a brief instrumental section that conjures images of a gorgeous couple moving across a smoky dance floor, the rest of the world falling away.

She also covers “Half The Perfect World,” a song written by Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas. Her rendition features a really nice lead spot by Gary Foster on alto saxophone. She does change the perspective of the song, singing “Every night he’d come to me/I’d cook for him, I’d pour his tea/I was in my thirties then” instead of the original “Every night she’d come to me/I’d cook for her, I’d pour her tea/She was in her thirties then.” (The original version of this song is on Anjani’s Blue Alert.)

“Smile” is one of my favorite tracks. It has a relaxed groove, with ukulele and trumpet. And Madeleine’s delivery is comforting, like a sweet gift to the listener. “That’s the time you must keep on trying/Smile, what’s the use of crying/You’ll find that life is still worthwhile/If you’d just smile.” “Smile” was written by Charlie Chaplin and Geoff Parsons.

Warren Zevon

Madeleine does a couple of Warren Zevon tunes, including a gorgeous, slow rendition of “Desperadoes Under The Eaves,” complete with strings as in the original. This is the extended version, which was originally included on the deluxe edition of The Blue Room. The lines of this song that strike me every time I listen are “And if California slides into the ocean/Like the mystics and statistics say it will/I predict this motel will be standing ‘til I pay my bill.”

The second Warren Zevon song is “Keep Me In Your Heart,” which Zevon co-wrote with Jorge Calderon. This CD, which takes its title from this song, marks the first time this recording has been issued. It was used in the film Union Square. It’s a really sweet, pretty recording of one of Zevon's best and saddest songs.

“The Kind You Can’t Afford” is a song Madeleine Peyroux co-wrote with Bill Wyman. It has a kind of sly, bluesy edge right from the start, which comes as a surprise, and there are nice, kind of comical touches on electric guitar. Meshell Ndegeocello plays bass on this track. “You got art collections/I got comic books/You use plastic surgery/I stay the way I look.”

CD Track List

  1. Don’t Wait Too Long
  2. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
  3. Between The Bars
  4. (Getting Some) Fun Out Of Life
  5. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  6. Smile
  7. La Vie En Rose
  8. Half The Perfect World
  9. Guilty
  10. I’m All Right
  11. Desperadoes Under The Eaves (Extended Version)
  12. The Kind You Can’t Afford
  13. Instead
  14. Keep Me In Your Heart
  15. This Is Heaven To Me 

Keep Me In Your Heart For A While: The Best Of Madeleine Peyroux was released on October 14, 2014 through Rounder and Concord Music Group.

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