Saturday, July 7, 2018

Wayne Powers: “If Love Were All” (2018) CD Review

Feeling romantic? If you are, or if you want to be, put on the new album from Wayne Powers, If Love Were All. This album contains familiar and beloved songs on the subject of love and romance. The things that really matter, you know? The things that are keeping me going in these dark and frightening days are music and my girlfriend. And if I can squeeze both of them into a night, well, that’s a perfect night. Pour some wine, turn the lights low, and put on music that is timeless. On this release, Wayne Powers’ first in a very long time, the vocalist is backed by Ziad Rabie on tenor saxophone, Keith Davis on piano, Ron Brendle on upright bass, and Al Sergel on drums.

The album opens with “Never Let Me Go,” which has a sweet, relaxed but cheerful groove. “What would I be without you/There’s no place for me without you/Never let me go/I’d be so lost if you went away.” That’s how I feel. And I hope everyone can feel that kind of love. “Because of one caress, my world was overturned.” Ah yes, I remember that caress clearly. This is a timeless love song. Love is always in style, and these days it feels particularly important, when there is so much anger and hatred out there. But then he follows that with “You’ve Changed,” in which he sings of a love that is no longer what it once was. “That sparkle in your eye is gone/Your smile is just a careless yawn/I can’t understand, you’ve changed.” This is a really good rendition. I love the vocal approach. There is a perfect rough and weary quality at times, like he’s tried to make things work, and is now exhausted, is now giving up. And that’s when the horn takes over, rising up with a new power, almost as if to lift his spirits, to get him back to himself. And it works. For then we get an interesting, unusual rendition of “All Of Me.” This is a song I’ve loved since I was a kid. I think it was the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin film All Of Me (“Put Edwina back in bowl”) that introduced me to this song. This rendition begins slowly, with a sweet and honest romantic bent, then suddenly kicks in to swing a bit. And there is some playful vocal delivery on lines like “I’d go insane/You don’t want to have no crazy person on your conscience” and “Drove me nearly crazy/Got me crying like a baby,” lines I don’t recall from other versions. This is an energetic rendition, with a nice bass line and a sudden ending.

“Lush Life,” written by Billy Strayhorn, has a nostalgic sound. There are lines to this song that I just love, such as “Then you came along/With your siren song/To tempt me to madness/I thought for a while/That your poignant smile/Was tinged with the sadness/Of a great love for me.” Yes, sometimes we can be wrong. But this is not really a song of heartache, partly because there is something humorous when Wayne Powers delivers lines like “Now life is awful again” and “Romance is mush.” The bass takes on a kind of happy rhythm, and the piano and horn lightly play over it toward the end. Wayne Powers gives us a really nice rendition of “Willow Weep For Me,” with one of the album’s best vocal performances. I also love the little jam, particularly the work on sax, helping make this one of my favorite tracks.

“If Love Were All,” the album’s the title track, is a wonderfully depressing song. “The more you love someone, the more you put your trust/The more you're bound to lose.” There is still something hopeful about the song, though you get the sense the person will remain truly alone. But then Wayne Powers follows that with “Just In Time,” in which he sings “For love came just in time/You found me just in time/And changed my lonely life that lovely day.” So there you have it. The song then kicks in, gets groovy, and it lifts my spirits with its cheerful sound. And then later he refers to it as “that lucky day.” That’s exactly how I feel about the day that my girlfriend came into my life. No matter how bad things get out there (and things are truly terrible), I can never allow myself to get too down because of that lucky day. This song features a cool bass lead. The bass starts “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and for a little while the bass is the only instrument backing Wayne Powers’ vocals. It’s an interesting approach, and I dig it. The drums lead the others into the mix. By the way, he begins the song with the line “Are the stars out tonight,” skipping the “My love must be a kind of blind love” part. This rendition has more pep than a lot of versions I’ve heard, and there are good leads on both saxophone and piano. The album concludes with an optimistic and comforting number, “Smile.” “When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by/If you smile through your fear and sorrow/Smile and maybe tomorrow/You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.” Wayne Powers delivers an intimate and friendly rendition. “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile/If you just smile.” Worth a try, right?

CD Track List
  1. Never Let Me Go
  2. You’ve Changed
  3. All Of Me
  4. Body And Soul
  5. Lush Life
  6. When Your Lover Has Gone
  7. Willow Weep For Me
  8. You Don’t Know What Love Is
  9. If Love Were All
  10. Just In Time
  11. East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon)
  12. I Only Have Eyes For You
  13. Time After Time
  14. Smile
If Love Were All is scheduled to be released on August 3, 2018 on Kabockie Records.

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