Picks and Pans Review: Pure Imagination

UPDATED 07/06/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/06/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Feinstein

Feinstein always sounds as if he's singing with lips surgically upturned in a smile. In this case the grin is justifiable because the material, if not always the singing, is enchanting.

Feinstein, who generally concentrates on pop standards for grownups, focuses here on music for future grown-ups. Even the most discriminating and sophisticated children (to say nothing of their parents) will find plenty to enjoy. How could it be otherwise when the collection carefully avoids the treacly while covering all the important topics: animals ("The Ugly Bug Ball," "The Jitterbug," which was regrettably cut from The Wizard of Oz); fantasy ("Swinging on a Star," "When You Wish upon a Star"); identity crises ("Aren't You Glad You're You"); the difficulty of being a kid ("Because We're Kids"); and the incomprehensibility of adults ("Be Kind to Your Parents").

Backed by a children's chorus, pianist Feinstein rollicks through "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady" ("She has eyes that people adore so/ And her torso/ Even more so"). He's delightful as well on the tongue-twisting "The Dressing Song" and "Ferdinand the Bull" ("Who lived in a pasture near Barcelona and smelled like eau de cologna"). The arrangements are adroit, and if Feinstein's thin voice isn't quite up to "When You wish upon a Star, he more than compensates with his direct and droll presentation of "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" and the "Alice in Wonderland Medley" from the Disney movie. He seems to be having a very good time. It's contagious. (Elektra)

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