Possessed of one of the strongest and clearest voices in contemporary popular music, Claudia Schmidt is at her best on this interesting album. Out of the Dark covers a lot of ground, from Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, and Duke Ellington standards to a slightly psychedelic poem-set-to-music cello-based piece called "Birdwings I and II." Schmidt more than does justice to the former, performing the classics with a technical mastery and emotional richness that most "contemporary folk" singers couldn't even think about attempting. Unsurprisingly, though, Schmidt seems most at home on her original pop and folk songs. Although she makes a few slight missteps, material-wise (some songs, like "Hip to Be Homeless" are better suited to a college coffeehouse gig than an album), Schmidt generally comes off like a vibrant combination of Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Joan Armatrading. That said, one of the record's highlights is Schmidt's absolutely gorgeous cover of Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade," which features a lovely dulcimer/piano arrangement. The album's real centerpiece, however, is Schmidt's own "Gather You In," an exquisitely melancholy composition that, framed as it is with achingly beautiful cello, wouldn't be out of place on a Nick Drake album. Although perhaps not her most consistent record, Out of the Dark does reveal the depth and breadth of Claudia Schmidt's talent and therefore is a good introduction to this enigmatic and underrated artist. In 1992, Flying Fish re-released Out of the Dark and Schmidt's 1983 album, New Goodbyes, Old Hellos, on a single CD.
AllMusic Review by Pemberton Roach