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Diana Krall - Love Scenes Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 December 1998

Diana Krall
Love Scenes
format: 5.1 CD
label: DTS Entertainment
release year: 1997
performance: 9
sound 9
reviewed by: Richard Elen

ImageWow. One of the kind things that has done to enhance my reviewing pleasure is to give me a modern (or relatively so) album to listen to among the quad reissues each month. Last month, it was the ‘Titanic’ soundtrack. This month, it’s a remarkable collection of love songs – or rather, songs about love of different kinds and from different angles, chosen and sung by Diana Krall. It’s a fascinating and involving collection.

The album was originally recorded and mixed by Al Schmitt, who performed the 5.1 mix himself (at Capitol – no date is given on the album). He was working with a trio – Krall herself on piano and vocals, Russell Malone on guitar and Christian McBride on upright bass – so you would think there was little that could be done in surround… but you’d be wrong. Schmitt has chosen to gently position the musicians in front of the listener and not mess with them. He does place them in a fairly reverberant environment, but although I found the reverb a little artificial and sometimes a little intrusive, the overall sound is excellent, enabling us to find (among other things) some of the dynamic range and subtlety that the digital medium is supposed to deliver.

But it’s the songs and the performance that make this album. The superb recording simply serves to bring a consummate performance before our ears.

All of the songs on this album have been with us for a while, some for a long while: the oldest tune here, Carroll Gibbons & James Dyrenforth’s "Garden in the Rain," hails from 1928, while "Gentle Rain" by Luis Bonfa & Matt Dubey is the most recent (1965). I had not heard of several of the numbers here, but others were familiar, such as Irving Berlin’s "How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky and Ira & George Gershwin’s "They Can’t Take That Away from Me." In every case, these exquisite songs are given a gentle, languid treatment, with clear, sensitive instrumental introductions (the start of "I Miss You So" made my hair stand on end) that set the tone of the song. From the first notes on the album, with a unique bass and vocal start to "All or Nothing at All," this disc is outstanding.

By and large, these songs are not time-honored classics - they were chosen for their meaning to the artist, not their familiarity, after all - but they have a lot to teach us about how we’ve forgotten how to write songs.

I used to think something to the effect that, "I’m not getting old or anything, but they don’t write songs like they used to". Well, there is one place where modern songwriting still requires the same skills as these songs uniformly exhibit, and that (you may hate me for saying it) is Nashville. Even in the country music capitol, there is sometimes a touch of manipulation in the way a song’s lyrics turn, truly professional writing designed almost unashamedly to tweak your emotions for commercial purposes. No doubt there was commercial intent behind these songs too, but it’s difficult to hear.

What you will hear, however, is a beautiful late-night album in which wonderful writing is realized by exquisite musicianship, all brought to you in subtle but effective surround. Wow.

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