Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook Sings Mostly Sondheim: Live at Carnegie Hall

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For a tribute concert commemorating his 70th birthday in 2000, Stephen Sondheim compiled a list of his favorite songs that he didn't write rather than those he did. Barbara Cook used that list in putting together her own concert program in 2001, though, as its title suggests, the song list remained "mostly Sondheim." Cook, who has become increasingly prolific on records since hooking up with DRG in 1993, has previously devoted titles to lyricists Dorothy Fields (Close as Pages in a Book) and Oscar Hammerstein II (Oscar Winners). But as annotator Frank Rich points out, though she and Sondheim scored their first Broadway successes within months of each other in 1957, she in The Music Man, he with the lyrics to West Side Story, she has never seemed a likely Sondheim interpreter. Her sweet, sincere style contrasts with his biting wit and introspection, and she never appeared in one of his shows. But in 1985, she essayed "Losing My Mind" in the concert version of Follies and made the song her own, and here she chooses carefully from the songwriter's repertoire and from his favorites. Songs like "Send in the Clowns" and "Anyone Can Whistle" well suit her approach, and she makes a point of singing the happy-love lyrics only from "Not a Day Goes By." The real finds on the album are her two selections from Passion, "Happiness" and "Loving You," which have not been much heard since the show closed. Among the non-Sondheim material, her Harold Arlen interpretations are stellar. She gives up the stage once in each act to Malcolm Gets, an agreeable singer who also performs duets with her several times, most impressively on "Not While I'm Around." That's the only suggestion that this septuagenarian is getting a little old; you never hear it in her sparkling voice.

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