If you've ever wondered what happened to the easy listening music of the 1960s, it lives on, pushed somewhat in the direction of the classical repertoire, in the music of Dutch orchestra leader and arranger André Rieu. As with the easy listening bandleaders, particularly Percy Faith, Rieu has imagination and talent; his durable success is no accident. The listener who has encountered Rieu's music during Public Broadcasting System fundraisers and the like will encounter a bewildering variety of produce when first searching for something to buy; Rieu, like Luciano Pavarotti, has been the victim of reissuers and recyclers who have dug up music he recorded years ago and slapped new covers on it. The buyer can rest assured that this recording of New York Memories is a good pick. Despite the pictures of the Big Apple spread across the poster-like liner material, the album was recorded in a studio in Maastricht (the credits make no exception for two seemingly live bonus tracks featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir). The American content is reflected in the program's orientation toward American music (and rock and pop in general), and this allows Rieu to show how skillful he is at incorporating a variety of material into his sound. Listen to "Seventy-Six Trombones" (track 9) or Sousa's Washington Post March (track 11), where Rieu performs the subtle trick of incorporating his wordless background vocals into the refrains and thus taking the edge off the bumptious march rhythms. Check out his unique version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale," which just hints at the organ part in the original song while turning it into a Rieu string spectacular. Hear the over-the-top version of "America the Beautiful," or even the two gospel bonus tracks -- Rieu is emotionally open enough that he actually captures the feel of these and matches the choir better than many European performers do when confronted with this music. Other standouts here are "I Will Follow Him," which many U.S. listeners may not realize was originally composed by Paul Mauriat of "Love Is Blue" fame. This is a well-recorded Rieu album, not exactly a typical production (his usual fare tends more toward light classical music), but one that puts the talents of this modern-day waltz king on full display.
New York Memories Review
by James Manheim
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