This review was originally written for The Public Reviews
In an inspired decision by Broadway Records, Patti LuPone’s superb 1999 solo album Matters of the Heart has been reissued in CD format and as a digital download.
Best known for her Broadway performances in Sweeney Todd, Anything Goes, Evita and Gypsy, LuPone is an American actress and singer, well-known in the world of musical theatre. The two-time Grammy Award winner and two-time Tony Award winner was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2006 and is currently performing in Show For Days at the Lincoln Centre Theatre.
Matters of the Heart is LuPone’s second solo album following Patti LuPone Live in 1995. The studio recording of her 1999 cabaret show is surprisingly intimate and explores the complicated yet beautiful themes of love and relationships, from the young, pure and idealistic to the scheming and obsessive.
The 20 track album sees LuPone sing a collection of songs from love ballads to upbeat theatrical showtunes by a wide range of composers including Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Frank Wildhorn, Randy Newman and Stephen Flaherty.
From the opening track Storybook/Love Makes The World Go ‘Round (Theme From ‘Carnival’), to showtunes Not a Day Goes By, The Boy Next Door and Hello, Young Lovers, you’ll be hard pressed to find a singer like LuPone that can so easily tackle the larger-than-life theatrical tunes, as well as the softer ballads with such heart and humour and style.
LuPone’s raucous performance of When The World Was Young/I Never Do Anything Twice is simply superb, with its sudden stops and trill-like explorations exploiting her comedic skills, as is her full-lunged rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s A Cock-Eyed Optimist.
Alongside the showtunes are covers from contemporary songwriters such as Randy Newman, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Lennon and McCartney. It’s For You/A Wonderful Guy and the cover of The Hollies’ Air That I Breathe are certainly worth a listen with a simple yet tasteful arrangement by pianist Dick Gallagher. The touching rendition of the sweet and gentle Sand and Water also stands out and is arguably the best cut track on the CD.
The true gems however are the John Bucchino’s numbers which is sure to have you reaching for the repeat button. LuPone’s performance of the beautiful ballad Unexpressed and This Moment, as well as the extremely moving Playbill, demonstrate both her versatility as a singer but also the genius of the brilliant composer/lyricist Bucchino.
The only number which is likely to disappoint is Shattered Illusions. While the track is hysterically funny and superbly performed, it is a little overwrought at times and is likely to get tiresome after a few listens.
All in all, Matters of the Heart is a superb solo album full of contemporary tracks and classic showtunes, performed by a first-class singer with a ‘one-of-a-kind’ voice. A worthy reissue of a classic.
Patti LuPone: Matters of the Heart is released on 18 September through Broadway Records
Reviewer: Donna Kelly