Lydia Gray / Betty Johnson

Soft Lights & Sweet Music

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Recorded live closing a five-week stint at New York's Café Pierre in 1995, this album captures the cabaret act of superlative vocalist Betty Johnson and her daughter Lydia Gray. This is the second album these two have recorded and the third by Johnson since her return from an extended absence from the singing stage. Forsaking a shining career to raise a family, she returned to the footlights in 1993, which was like coming home. Singing since she was a young girl as part of the religious music group the Johnson Family Singers, the versatile Johnson includes folk and country in her repertoire as well as classic and traditional pop standards. Given this impressive background, one might conclude that daughter Lydia Gray would benefit from the talent genes running in the family. Regrettably, not all of those genes made it to Gray. Sporting a rather weak and sometimes wavering voice, she does not compare well with her mother's strong and confident delivery. Gray gives it her all on such tunes as "Shall We Dance" and achieves a respectable level of poignancy on "You Are There." Duets with her mother (such as "Blue Skies" and John Denver's "Country Roads"), while not overwhelming, are pleasant. But one buys this album to hear the mom. An album highlight is her medley of "I Dreamed," "Little White Lies," and "Dream" (featuring some fancy 1950s comping by veteran New York pianist Tony Monte). Her "I'm Confessin'," a vocal loaded with lyrical sensitivity, is sparkling and charged with feeling. Very early in her career, Johnson became good friends with songwriter Bart Howard and remembers him with three of his tunes. The duo is provided sympathetic backing by Monte, who was Johnny Hartman's accompanist during the singer's later years, and New York bass player Bill Conway.

Much more generous than her previous album My Heart Sings (which was less than 40 minutes long), this CD offers over an hour's worth of entertainment by a singer who has been away far too long, accompanied by her daughter. Despite the lightness of Gray's voice, this album is recommended.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 1:56
2 2:09
3 1:46
4 1:25 Amazon
5 3:40 Amazon
6 3:15 Amazon
7 3:16 Amazon
8 0:51 Amazon
9 2:53 Amazon
10 4:50 Amazon
11 3:02 Amazon
12 2:54
13 3:07
14 3:57
15 3:32
16 2:28
17 2:32
18 3:25
19 2:18
20 1:48
21 1:33
22 0:51
23 1:44
24 1:26
25 1:47
blue highlight denotes track pick