Patti LuPone has been sparing in her solo recordings, and in a sense this can actually be considered her studio debut, since her first album was a live collection that consisted largely of songs with which she was associated from her stage appearances, and her second was an Irving Berlin tribute by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra on which she was virtually a guest artist. Matters of the Heart, it's clear, is intended to serve as the basis for a new nightclub and concert act for LuPone, but it works equally well as a recording. Working with producer Scott Wittman and arranger/musical director Dick Gallagher, she has put together a well-chosen and carefully sequenced set of 20 songs following a life and its emotional experiences from youth to maturity. She began the process of picking material with the intention of avoiding show music and looking for new songs and pop tunes; she ended up with a mixture of the three. Theater composers such as Frank Wildhorn, Bob Merrill, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, Stephen Sondheim, Rupert Holmes, and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are represented, but so are pop songwriters such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Webb, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Randy Newman, and Judy Collins. Standards such as "The Boy Next Door," "A Wonderful Guy," and "Hello, Young Lovers" share space with songs well known to theater fans, such as Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" and "I Never Do Anything Twice," and songs familiar to singer-songwriter fans, such as Newman's "Real Emotional Girl" and Collins' "My Father." Using chamber music arrangements for piano and string quartet and placing the songs in the context of the album's story, LuPone reimagines them in a way that makes them new. But the real delights among the song selections come with the obscure titles, not all of which are by obscure songwriters. For example, the Lennon and McCartney composition "It's for You," written for Cilla Black, who took it into the U.K. Top Ten in 1964, but only a negligible chart entry in the U.S., will be new to most listeners. The truly new material, including three excellent songs by John Bucchino and two by Dillie Keane, hold their own, and "I Regret Everything," a reversal of Edith Piaf's anthem "Je Ne Regrette Rien," which LuPone sings in an exaggerated French accent, is a comic tour de force. All of the material is enhanced by the sequencing, which builds a life story from young, exuberant love to philosophical reflections and complications, sophistication and jadedness, and finally mature thoughts about children and the passage of time. The only thing better than listening to the album itself would be hearing LuPone perform it live, which is probably the idea.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann