Thursday, 5 July 2012

ONE OF THE SMART ONES LIZA MINNELLI – LIVE AT THE WINTER GARDEN CD Back in the late eighties I would often head into “Cheapo Records” on Rupert Street and rummage through the racks to see what could tempt me. On some occasions I would come across something that I didn’t even know existed, such as when I found Liza Minnelli’s “Live At The Winter Garden” album. Recorded in 1974 well before “Cats” was installed in the theatre “Now And Forever” – or not actually, as Mamma Mia has been there for a good decade, the album is one that seemed fated never to get a CD release. Finally that has been rectified, and it’s only reading the liner notes that I discover the album itself was also a rare gem having been withdrawn from release very quickly due to issues with the rights of her performances from “Cabaret” So almost forty years on a performance from a young Liza at the height of her powers and fame has at been embraced by the digital age. Hot on the heels of both “Cabaret” and “Liza With A Z” it must have been a very hot ticket when Liza set foot on the stage of the Winter Garden and hearing this album now it’s easy to understand why. Firstly what strikes me is the boundless energy that the recording captures, whether it’s on “A Natural Man”, “If You Could Read My Mind” or possibly the best of her several recordings of “I Can See Clearly Now” you just know that she was dancing up a storm and holding the audience in the palm of her hands. The only disappointing original track is over very early in proceedings when she sings “Shine On Harvest Moon” a song that I have never been particularly fond of. However, this is followed by the first of several pieces of special material, a companion piece to “Liza With A Z”, where Liza sings of people who she has met claiming to know someone “Exactly Like You”. It’s the sort of song that Liza excels at and other performers can rarely carry off. She follows this with the rousing “The Circle” a lesser known Piaf tune, followed by the standard “More Than You Know”. Next up is another absolute highlight from the pens of Kander & Ebb, the little known “I’m One Of The Smart Ones.” A change of pace with a couple of Charles Aznavour songs, the introspective “And I In My Chair” which defines the thinking that a song is a three act play in four minutes. As Liza sings of observing people at a party as her relationship breaks down you believe every word. Thankfully after the heartbreak of this number she lets rip with the better known “There Is A Time”, before once again getting introspective with a definitive version of “A Quiet Thing” from her first Broadway show “Flora, The Red menace”. The original ends with the track that lead to the many years of limbo that the album suffered – a medley from “Cabaret”. No surprises in this selection, but many of the preceding make this album an absolutely essential purchase for any fan of Liza. My only real negative criticism is that the album doesn't use the original cover art on the front, relegating it to an inside picture. However I have used that original design for this review.
As an added bonus for this release come three additional tracks from the archives that never made the original cut of the album. It’s fair to say that it’s always nice to have a little extra Liza, but none of these three tracks sparkle in the way that the highlights of the original album do. For another taste of Liza from this period seek out “Liza With A Z” on either CD or even better DVD.