Mary Ann Redmond is a singer whom cats like Nils Lofgren and Craig Nuttycombe have taken to in a big way. On Compared to What, she shows us why that is. The first tip-off is a great choice of repertoire (wander down to the song menu below and see what I mean), and the second indicator is the opening of the first cut, Arlen & Mercer's Come Rain or Come Shine, which sits halfway between torrid and contemplative. I mean, what we hear is neither a Roberta Flack nor a Maynard Ferguson atmosphere but a well controlled display of passion and art…taken a step further in her take on Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love, rendered in leashed Spanish inflection.
Compared to What is one of jazz's all-time best cool-ass songs, and this version is highly Ramsey Lewis-ish with West Coast Cool emphasis and just a touch of Brian Auger, not to mention Dan Hovey's gentle chord choices superb against the swinging foreground. Redmond covers Joni Mitchell's Coyote and herself writes a highly Mitchell-ine Storm is Coming…Joni, that is, by way of Janis Ian, a ballad filled with angst of oncoming Fall best contained in the opening verse: "She stirs the air, then dreads the change". A sense of foreboding floats into the darkening sky by her own angelic chorus, and the contrast is deliciously unnerving.
Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention mans the drums, demonstrating his usual subtle taste and chops, and comparisons of Redmond are made to Aretha and Tina. I have to disagree with that, as the mighty pair is known for over-the-top lung power where Mary Ann cultivates all their colorations and emotionality just short of Franklin and Turner's trademark blow-outs (especially Tina, who's a force of nature). Thus, I hasten to put the stamp of approval on the reference to Gladys Knight and its inference of a higher musicality, as Redmond treads between the three, Coyoyte perhaps the best illustration of that.
Fool on the Hill is probably the cut I take to most ('sides, that's one of my favorite Beatles tunes), shot through with energy, but the finalizing Redmond co-penned Love Me Away once again demonstrates that this singer really knows her way around a wistful ballad. Despite all the great work throughout this CD, that cut's the one I'd choose for chart play. Between the measured solemnity, subdued intensity, and killer lyrics, this is what would catch ears and hearts best.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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