Liza Minnelli’s first all-new studio album in 14 years is a laid-back informal affair that sidesteps obvious chestnuts in favor of discreet picks like Peggy Lee’s “He’s A Tramp,” Ray Noble’s “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You” and a dozen others. Many of these tracks work well as late night last call saloon drips of irony, featuring the kind of lackadaisical insouciance that Sinatra epitomized. Liza’s voice is husky, well-worn and deep as the ocean. The lack of theatricality inherent here makes this a jazz album, not the ballsy kind of showstopper that we’re used to with the divine Ms. M.
Confessions, though, eerily reminds me of Billie Holiday’s Lady In Satin, and that’s not a compliment. Billie’s last studio album was rendered almost unlistenable as it was recorded only months before her death, and her voice was a ravaged and scorched instrument, so studio heads smothered it in symphonics. Confessions is too smart for that, using only Billy Stritch’s piano and barely perceptible strings (euphemistically called “sweetening” in the credits). Still, Liza’s occasional out-of-control vibrato threatens to overtake the good will.
Oh, but there are some moments to cherish here: Liza, almost unadorned, intimately breathing life into “If I Had You,” “At Last” and “All The Way” transcends generational dictates. In fact, this is the absolute closest thing to her cultural icon mom she’s ever attempted. Close your eyes, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was Judy Garland.
In A (Hyphenated) Word: Straight-Up