Liza Minnelli

The Singer

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By the end of 1972, Liza Minnelli was at a career high point. That year, she had starred in the movie version of Cabaret, for which she would win the Academy Award for best actress, and she had also performed her nightclub/concert act, Liza with a "Z" for a television special that would win an Emmy as Outstanding Variety/Music Program. Both the Cabaret and Liza with a "Z" soundtrack LPs became gold records. So, when Minnelli entered the recording studio to make her first studio album for Columbia Records (following stints at Capitol and A&M), she seemed to have the potential finally to break through as a recording star. That potential, however, was squandered on the resulting LP, The Singer. Unfortunately, while Cabaret and Liza with a "Z" had been ideal showcases for Minnelli's bravura singing, dancing, and acting abilities, no one, not the artist herself or anyone in her management or record company, could come up with a comparable concept for her as a recording artist. One selection on the album, the title song "The Singer," which sounded like an outtake from Cabaret even though it had not been written by the show's songwriters, John Kander and Fred Ebb, played to her strengths as a performer. The other ten tracks, however, simply had her offering her own versions of songs that were hits in the fall of 1972 and the winter of 1973, as recorded by the likes of Mac Davis, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Bill Withers, and others. (The only exception was Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," still just an LP track from Talking Book when Minnelli covered it, although it soon went on to top the singles charts in Wonder's original recording.) This was the same tack that Columbia was taking, for example, with Andy Williams in the same period; it seemed as though the singer picked the material by listening to the radio on the car ride to the studio. Minnelli did her best with the songs, appealingly reversing the sex of the narrators of Lobo's "I'd Love You to Want Me" and Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," and one could easily envision the production number that might accompany her rendition of "Dancing in the Moonlight." But the songs were almost invariably better performed by the songwriters themselves in the singer/songwriter environment of the early '70s. The Singer became the highest charting studio LP of Minnelli's career, reaching the Top 40. But it missed a chance to establish her recording career on the same firm ground as her acting and live performing.

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