Mandy Patinkin, who can wring the greatest drama or the most manic comedy out of a theater song, used only his most tender interpretive talents for his third album, Experiment. As usual, the selections came almost exclusively from Broadway shows (the exception, Harry Chapin's "Taxi," was a classic story-song), and one-third of them were by Stephen Sondheim. They dated back to the 1920s (Irving Berlin's "Always") and up to the '80s (Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer's "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables), but Patinkin brought a consistency to them by singing gently in his trembling, innocent tenor, starting with "As Time Goes By" (complete with its rarely sung introductory verse) and ending with Cole Porter's "Experiment." The album was in a sense one long suite or, given the brevity of many of the selections, one long medley, the songs often segueing seamlessly into each other. The album seemed designed to answer Patinkin's critics, who had found his previous recordings melodramatic and hysterical. He was reined in on the ironically titled "Experiment," but even if this was Mandy Patinkin Lite, it was appealing.
by William Ruhlmann