Imagine an opera/Broadway singer with a huge heart who dug the mellifluous side of rock and roll and knew where the intersection of his art and others' crossed, standing at the crossroads so everyone could know that someone really got it…determined that the rest of us should as well. Imagine that and you have singer Tim Benton in this highly impressive set of duos with pianist Simon Wallace. Scenes from a Well-Spent Youth is not your everyday homage to post-40s and 50s excellences but instead a highly disciplined exercise in setting formality to an oeuvre so that its hidden side emerges. I love this kind of work and in fact have cited what Benton and others are doing as the emerging second wave of Tin Pan Alley, though I have to say I never expected such a mannerist evocation to emerge, shocked and delighted when it did.
It is in fact difficult to establish one's time references when laying an ear to this generous set of 17 songs, so well blended are the many overlaps in exposition. I got chills when Tim's version of the Aquarius / San Francisco medley opened, basking in its striking Broadway / madrigal / intermezzo qualities. I mean, geez, my mom woulda dug the hell out of it at the same time as me, and she was a Mario Lanza devotee! Further on, his take on The Hollies Bus Stop stopped me in mid-stride. Just as strangely, I couldn't avoid the restrained Judy Garland imagery that arose time and again throughout the CD, that vision of a single singer on a darkened stage, spotlight illuminating and restricting the audience to the center of attention. Of course, I wouldn't expect Garland to cover The Last Train to Clarkesville, but, man, when Benton hits on it, you almost hear her cooing from the grave.
Remember when Pat Boone did his exceedingly cool take on heavy metal songs? When Sinatra dueted with various popsters? Well, this is in that vein yet miles away from it, a completely unique issuance. If Rod McKuen and Barry Manilow could ever have done half so well, I'd own every disc they ever issued … but they couldn't and I don't (Manilow's jazzy show tunes ain't half bad, though). They never understood their métier properly, it being so damnably difficult to invest its strengths, half way between piano bar, Carnegie Hall, Broadway, and moonlight reminiscence. Benton nailed it. I'll warn, though, that Scenes is not for everyone, but for the target audience? There's not another disc like it. Not anywhere.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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