In the eight years since her first solo album, a tribute to Cole Porter, Broadway star Rebecca Luker has become the go-to soprano for revivals of 1950s musicals, starring as Maria in a 1998 production of The Sound of Music and as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man in 2000. Here, she looks back at another era, as well as forward. It seems that this actress/singer, growing up in Birmingham, AL in the '60s and ‘70s, wasn't so much dreaming of becoming Judy Garland as much as Joni Mitchell. She begins Leaving Home with Mitchell's melancholy "River" from Blue and also includes a version of "Chelsea Morning" that emphasizes her vocal similarity to Judy Collins. Janis Ian ("Getting Over You"), Carly Simon ("Boys in the Trees"), and Billy Joel in his early sensitive-singer/songwriter phase ("You're My Home") are all addressed, too. But then Luker turns to what she may consider the modern equivalent of such artists, a younger generation of aspiring writers for the musical theater, introducing Amanda McBroom's "Ophelia" "from the new musical Will's Women" and Bill Whitefield and Bill Castellino's "Fine" "from the new musical Crash Club. In these cases, "new" seems to mean "unproduced," and it also gets applied to Christopher McGovern (the album's producer) and Amy Powers' "Cherish the Child" ("cut from the new musical Lizzie Borden"). Especially in McGovern's small-group folk/pop orchestrations, these character and story songs work well with what has gone before, as does McGovern's "Morningtimes," which also has a story to tell, even if that story is only "I want you back." Later on in the disc, Luker seems to be picking songs she likes, among them Tommy Makem's folkish "Four Green Fields" and "Wick," a song that she and her duet partner, Alison Fraser, didn't get to sing when they appeared together in The Secret Garden. Most of the songs, however, reflect on the experiences of women of various ages, often going through life's travails, and that is certainly true of the closing song, the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home," which, of course, tells a story with a definite dramatic arc and could be adapted into a short play or film. Thus, Luker steps away from what has seemed to be her typecasting as Broadway's revivalist of sweet sopranos, asserting an individual pop taste and promoting possible roles in shows of the future.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Alison Fraser