The title How's Your Romance? and the release date, 19 days before Valentine's Day, 1999, provide hints why Telarc bothered to assemble a compilation drawn from its four Bobby Short albums, with five tracks drawn from Late Night at the Cafe Carlyle, three from Swing That Music, two from Songs of New York, and six from Celebrating 30 Years at the Cafe Carlyle. Dominated by ballad standards like "Night and Day" and "At Long Last Love," the disc seems intended to be used as a gift from one romantic partner to another, along with a dozen roses, perhaps, and an invitation to dine at the Cafe Carlyle and see Short in person. After more than three decades of recording off and on for Atlantic Records, Short switched to Telarc in the early '90s, and the selections here serve as a good representation of the results. Two of the discs, Late Night and Songs of New York, were recorded live, and the other two find the singer backed by much augmented arrangements, in the case of Swing That Music by the Alden Barrett Quintet, with ten musicians joining him on 30 Years. The added instruments give the performances more of a jazz orientation, even if Short himself remains primarily a cabaret singer devoted to breathily crooning cleverly rhymed romantic sentiments. In his sixties and early seventies when these recordings were made, Short is not the clear, powerful singer he once was, but the focus on ballads hides the deterioration in his voice for the most part, and he makes the occasional gruffness in his tone work for him on such bravura performances as "Hooray for Love." Still, the Telarc recordings, featuring many songs previously recorded for Atlantic, constitute something of a victory lap for a veteran entertainer rather than really adding to his accomplishments, even if they give a good indication of what one is likely to hear at that Valentine's Day dinner at the Carlyle.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Warren Vaché