Cabaret performer Charles Cermele got high marks with this his debut album as it won the 1996 Bistro Award for Outstanding Record of the Year. A selection of standards, near standards, and tunes from the Broadway musical stage, Cermele is accompanied by Christopher Marlowe, who served as musical director for the late Nancy LaMott. Like all good cabaret singers, Cermele is first and foremost a storyteller. This means that he has to put his unique stamp on the lyrics, applying the appropriate emotional touch to each word for each tune. He/she also must be able to take average material and raise it a notch or two. This earns his/her spurts in the cabaret game. For Cermele, it's the rendition of "A Ship Without a Sail," a Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart melody from one of their earliest collaborations, Heads Up, a 1929 musical. He makes the song sound better than it has any right to. The piano is set aside for Ken Sebesky's acoustic guitar on "The Nearness of You" for a heartfelt interpretation oozing with anticipation. "All the Things You Are" is enhanced by a mellifluous Glenn Drewes trumpet. Not that everything is on the deep emotional side. Bruce Samuels' bass is the foundation for a medium up-tempo, happy "Riding High." Even John Redsecker's generally restrained drums are let loose on this track. There's a lot of fun on an electronically assembled duet with himself on "Happy as the Day Is Long." But it's the romantic ballads that are the singer's stock in trade. Cermele hits the mark with each one with his strong, expressive set of baritone pipes with an ability to move up to the tenor range when the occasion calls for it. This CD is a must for lovers of the cabaret.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan