Picks and Pans Review: Such Sweet Sorrow

updated 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Feinstein

Feinstein's knowledge of the American popular song is encyclopedic. The cabaret singer turned concert performer's devotion to the music (from classics to the obscure) of the '30s and '40s is touching. His sincerity is genuine. His desire to acquaint younger audiences with the songs is admirable. This, however, does not mean that he should be the fellow making the introductions.

To put it as nicely as possible, Feinstein has a very small voice, one that often seems filtered through his nasal passages—think of Al Jolson with a cold—and is very limited in its shadings. As a performer he is most persuasive playing the piano and singing songs of un-challenging musical and emotional range.

The lugubrious Such Sweet Sorrow is not a particularly felicitous match of material and talent. Songs like "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Easy to Love" and "I See Your Face Before Me" have a pinched, forced quality. Feinstein is clearly straining to reach the high notes and to hold his own above the orchestra. And why such a sedate "Love Is Just Around the Corner" when Feinstein could do well with an up-tempo version and the album could do with a jolt of energy?

The oasis here is the plaintive little charmer "Wind in the Willow," which Feinstein sings and plays with effective simplicity. (Atlantic)

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