In '92, the Verve label finally collected its three Cole Porter Songbooks into a 3-CD box set, a knock-out of an anthology featuring a Who's Who of jazz (Torme, Blossom Dearie, Louis Armstrong, Ella, Evans, Farlow, etc.) and that gatherum remains one of the best expositions of the inimitable Porter's catalogue. The immortal Cole is a ceaseless mainstay as The Great Amrican Songbook enjoys its eternal youth, but that particular set is tough to beat as a milestone tribute. Then, of course, came the Red, Hot, & Blue trib, featuring a killer collection of modern paeans to the late master, all trotted out by rockers andothers: Iggy Pop/Stooge, Annie Lennox, the Pogues, the Neville Bros., Fine Young Cannibals, etc. The competition, y'see, stiffened appreciably. Not everyone has since been able to bear up under the pressure…and you may already be intuiting where this review is going.
Perry Beekman plays guitar and sings, the former in the old Green / Ellis / Kessel vein, the latter as a combo of Barry Manilow, Peter Allen, and what it would sound like if Kyle McLauchlan were a vocalist. In So in Love, he formulated a trio format to keep things simple but swingin' and, in the instrumental aspects, succeeded very nicely, but, hoo boy!, when it comes to talents as a vocalist, the disc drives itself as a community college recitation presented in the secondary theater, not the main stage. Beekman plays a very clean axe bridging France's hot jazz inclinations with the American bop stringbenders just cited, and had this CD been purely instrumental, this would be a completely different review, but his voice is sufficiently unpolished, much too straight, uninflected, and more than a little Boy Scouty.
Miss Otis Regrets, one of the truly classic American tragedian compositions (a whole film could be made from the track), is perhaps the most vivid illustration of Beekman's defects as a singer: too Manilowesque (which, to some, will be a virtue, I guess). He starts an intro with promise but, as the band kicks in, the atmosphere becomes mellifluously carnivalesque, way too uptone, and diametrically opposed to everything the song is about. On the other hand, check out the instrumentals—My Heart Belongs to Daddy and Always True to You in my Fashion—as well as the half-instrumental In the Still of the Night and it's readily seen where his true virtues lie. And, on that last song, the same complaints arise again…and again…and again as the disc proceeds. Perry Beekman needs to keep that finessey-fingers part of himself employed and fire the vocalist. THAT would be a CD I'd be VERY interested in.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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