Picks and Pans Review: How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

updated 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Susannah McCorkle

This is after-hours music, the kind of potent, jazz-based pop seldom found in mint condition in these rock concert times unless you're lucky enough to wander into a club and catch the bewitching McCorkle showing how the new generation does it. For those who don't get around much anymore, the good news is that this smashing studio album produces the same hushed intimacy. From the burnished bleat of Al Cohn's tenor sax on the first cut, While the City Sleeps, the stage is set. McCorkle's sensual voice makes the song an invitation to discover the "secret thrill" of the wee small hours. This show tune, from Sammy Davis' 1964 musical Golden Boy, speaks eloquently of McCorkle's adventurous approach, unearthing a gem that otherwise might have languished. And when she does tackle the classic There's No Business Like Show Business, her worldly wise fatalism turns the Ethel Merman anthem on its ear, finding more agony than assurance in such Irving Berlin bromides as "you're brokenhearted but you go on." Even contemporary up-tempo tunes like Franklin Roosevelt Underwood's Ain't Safe To Go Nowhere and Dave Frishberg's Blizzard of Lies are tinged with the pain of a lover's betrayal. But McCorkle's affinity for bruised romantics rarely turns mawkish. Even after her acclaimed tribute albums to the songs of Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg and Leo Robin, McCorkle continues to astonish. The cool precision and quiet yearning in her voice not only command attention but consistently reward it. (Pausa)

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