There are major songwriters whose names are as well known as those of the singers of their songs, and there are others who are largely unknown, requiring a list of their biggest hits to bring their accomplishments into focus. The team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans fits into the latter category, probably because they wrote primarily for the movies rather than the Broadway stage and because their heyday occurred from the late '40s to the late '50s, instead of during the perceived golden age of the 1930s. So, here's the list: "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)," "Mona Lisa," and "Buttons and Bows" were their Oscar-winners, and among their other hits were "Silver Bells," "Tammy," and "To Each His Own." All those songs are featured on Michael Feinstein's tribute album, the flagship release on his new Feinery imprint for Concord Records. The album was made very much with the support of Livingston and Evans. Livingston (who died of pneumonia on October 17, 2001, at age 86) sings along and plays piano on several songs, and he and Evans submitted to an extensive interview printed in the CD booklet. The songwriters have also provided a number of lost songs from aborted projects that add considerably to their catalog. Writing on assignment, Livingston and Evans were versatile to a fault, such that it's hard to find a consistent style to their work. Feinstein imposes his own style, however, singing the ballads with his exaggerated smoothness and the novelty songs with appropriate sprightliness. On occasion, one wishes for more instrumentation and fuller arrangements to do justice to songs written with Hollywood orchestras in mind, but the intimacy of the songbook approach brings out the songwriters' craftsmanship well. Melissa Manchester's torchy performance of "Never Let Me Go" is a particular standout.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Melissa Manchester