When Rosemary Clooney recorded for Concord in the '80s and '90s, her voice was noticeably thinner than it had been in the '50s. This isn't to say that she sounded bad -- despite her limitations and the fact that she didn't have the range or chops of her youth, Clooney could still win you over with her sensitive interpretations of lyrics. And Concord deserves credit for generally providing her with talented arrangers and musicians, as well as tasteful material (as opposed to the type of novelty items she was often given at Columbia in the '50s). On At Long Last, the singer is united with the Count Basie ghost orchestra, which is directed by trombonist Grover Mitchell. Although Clooney was a jazzy pop singer rather than a true jazz singer, the Basie band is definitely a jazz band, and it definitely swings hard on familiar standards like "Old Devil Moon," "Willow Weep for Me" and "Just in Time." Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" is especially revealing -- a demo of a young Clooney singing that standard in 1946 serves as an introduction to Clooney's late-'90s version, and one hears the contrasts between how she sounded in the '40s and how she sounded 50 years later. While the young Clooney obviously had stronger chops, Clooney at 69 or 70 wasn't without her charms. At Long Last is a likable project that united Clooney with solid musicians -- even if she was past her prime.
At Long Last Review
by Alex Henderson