Speaking of Love

Bobby Short

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Speaking of Love Review

by William Ruhlmann

Bobby Short's third Atlantic Records album, Speaking of Love, is a concept collection in which romance is treated in an upbeat manner, in both the senses of mood and tempo. Backed by bass and drums, the pianist-singer addresses a series of show and Tin Pan Alley tunes, dating as far back as the early '30s, in which love is celebrated. Not surprisingly, that means love in its earliest stage -- songs like George & Ira Gershwins' "I've Got Beginner's Luck" and Cole Porter's "Let's Fall in Love" are about the first flush of falling in love, while "I Fall in Love With You Every Day" attempts to preserve that feeling over the course of a relationship. The tone of the songs allows Short to be his bravura self, throwing himself enthusiastically into his singing and projecting his voice as if singing triumphantly over the clinking glasses and conversation of a nightclub. On record, such a presentation can seem a bit overdone, so it helps that the lyrics back up his presentation. Still, there is a sameness to much of the album, so that it's a relief when the style begins to be varied on side two. Leiber & Stoller's "Down in Mexico," a hit for labelmates the Coasters, doesn't seem like typical Short fare, but that's why it works so well, as he again finds a good vehicle for his showy approach. "Easy Come, Easy Go" is about breaking up, not falling in love, but Short still keeps it smooth and jaunty. And the bongo drums on "At Long Last Love" and "So Near and Yet So Far" give the tracks a spare, hip sound that effectively updates these chestnuts. Speaking of Love is an album for fans of sophisticated songwriting ready to hear the classics presented with affection and brio.

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