Friday, June 4, 2010


Daryl Glenn from the Cabaret Exchange wrote a lovely review of OLD FRIENDS...

"Kentucky (!) native Stephen Foster Collins wrote “Hard Times Come Again No More” (the opening track here) but I say, if it’s Donna Lynne Champlin bringing (or rather singing) the hard times, bring it on! This gal has an absolutely exquisite voice. I realize this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her musical theatre work, particuarly in Sweeney Todd, By Jeeves , James Joyceʼs ʻThe Deadʼ (all on Broadway) or Bloomer Girl (City Centerʼs Encoreʼ series), but this album is truly a revelation. Ms. Champlin can howl the blues, or at least songs of a blue heart with the very best of ʻem!

"Perhaps most impressive of all, is the fact that she recorded this entire album on an extremely modest budget in the privacy of her own home. Sometimes, in privacy of her own home. Sometimes, in the privacy of her own bathroom! Take that you big media conglomerates! It was a risk recording an album of practically all ballads, and I wouldnʼt recommend it to everyone. But Ms. Champlin carries it off with feathers flying high! What makes the difference, besides that goose-pimple inducing sound of hers, is the fact she has very serious acting chops as well. And she acts the stuffing out of each and every selection here, so we get just as involved in the story as she does.

The stories here are by a wide variety of songwriters in a wide variety of styles, and all are outstanding, even the contemporary theatre songs! My readers will, no doubt, recall that I take issue with many of the songs from the current musical theatre scene, however, Ms. Champlinʼs choices here (“Eiffel Tower” by Jim Bauer, “Still Hurting” by Jason Robert Browne from The Last Five Years, “County Fair” by Scott Warrender and Jim Luigs from Das Barbecu and “When Eleanor Smiles” by Michael John LaChiusa fromFirst Lady Suite, are all impeccable. A couple songs from recent animated films (“Once Upon A December” from Anastasia by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story II by Randy Newman) shine as well with tender treatments.

Demonstrating a vast grasp of innumerable styles, Ms. Champlin also treats us to a pair of folk/country compositions (“Whereʼve You Been” bycompositions (“Whereʼve You Been” by Don Henry and Jonathan Verner and the Kate McGarrigle classic, “I Cried For Us”). As an adopted child myself, the heartbreaking “From Godʼs Arms to My Arms to Yours” (Michael McLean), is particuarly touching with a mother explaining her choice to have and yet give her son to another. My only tiny criticism would be that I think itʼs time we call a temporary moratoriumon Charlie Chaplinʼs “Smile.” Pretty as it may be, all things suffer from overexposure! Perhaps most impressive of all, besides recording the whole thing herself, is the fact that Ms. Champlin also arranged, sings all vocals and plays piano, accordian, flute, tin whistle, synthed guitar, bass, strings, chimes and percussion! Sheesh! What do you even call such a person? A musical genius seems fitting. "

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