Picks and Pans Review: Mandy Patinkin
Patinkin, the actor (Ragtime, Yentl) and singer (Evita, Sunday in the Park with George), claims to have been unsure about recording his first solo album. That's like Michelangelo wondering if he wants to get into painting ceilings. With bold flourish, the Juilliard-trained artist lends his honey-rich tenor to 24 songs. The selections span more than 100 years of popular music history. Side 1 begins with a pull-out-the-stops "Over the Rainbow," setting a high level of showmanship that carries through to the final track, a poignant "Pennies from Heaven." This ambitious project mixes show tunes (the obscure "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" from 70, Girls, 70), Al Jolson showstoppers ("Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody") and American pop standards ("I'll Be Seeing You"). The album is resplendent with emotional colors ranging from a seething "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" to a flamboyant "Happy Medley" featuring "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Patinkin is even fearless enough to toss in such novelties as "Love, Unrequited Love, Robs Me of My Rest" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, "Soliloquy" from Carousel, and an a cappella rendition of "Sonny Boy." By interweaving the 1895 chestnut "And the Band Played On" (about Casey and that strawberry blond), in "Valse Triste" time, with Randy Newman's "Marie" and the Broadway ballad "Once Upon a Time," Patinkin creates a haunting portrait of a remorseful alcoholic. The brilliant arrangements are by Paul Gemignani (musical director on Broadway's Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George), who conducts a 52-piece orchestra of New York studio musicians. Patinkin reportedly spent a year putting this album together, hoping to get it just right. It's more than that, Mandy. It's over the rainbow. (CBS)
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