Neil Sedaka

Tales of Love

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In 1997, Event Records released the newly recorded Neil Sedaka album Tales of Love and Other Passions, which contained 13 tracks Sedaka had recorded with a piano/bass/drums trio, five of them traditional pop standards, the rest songs from his trunk or re-recordings of tunes previously heard on his older albums. In 1998, Artful Records released Tales of Love, which had fewer words in its title but more songs on its track list; it was the same material from a year earlier, but re-sequenced and with five more songs added. In either version, the collection was at least a couple of different Neil Sedaka albums in one. The instrumentation often made it sound more like a cocktail-jazz session than a standard Sedaka pop/rock outing. That sense was accentuated by the standards: "I'll Be Seeing You," "The Very Thought of You" (a duet with Sedaka's daughter, Dara Sedaka), "You Go to My Head," "My Funny Valentine," and "Moonlight in Vermont," songs Sedaka performed with reverence and sincerity. When pianist Andy LaVerne and bassist Will Lee were granted jazzy solos during the opening track, "I'll Be Seeing You," you might have thought you were in a late-night jazz club. The Sedaka originals included "Alone at Last," which had first appeared on A Song in 1977 and even reached number 17 in Billboard's easy listening chart as a single in that version, and "I Let You Walk Away," which had been on Steppin' Out in 1976. Among the songs added to the reissue were a Sedaka version of his and Howard Greenfield's composition "One More Ride on the Merry Go Round," first heard on Peggy Lee's Make It With You LP in 1970, a song with a European chanson feel not unlike Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days" that may have been intended as a follow-up to Lee's hit "Is That All There Is?" Sedaka also presented his rendition of "Time Marches On," a song he and Greenfield placed with Roy Hamilton in the late 1950s, but which he had never recorded himself. These and two of the three other added songs, "Good Time Man" and "I Found My World in You," featured only piano accompaniment. The Sedaka songs repeated from the album's first version were competent, if not top-drawer efforts, with "Inseparable" revealing a bit too obviously the influence of the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes"; "Swept Away" sounding like it might have been intended as a movie theme, and "When You're Gone" being the kind of soft rock song that could have appeared on any Sedaka album of the '70s or '80s. The overall theme, of course, was love ballads, and the album ended up being a pleasant rendering of romantic music in different styles. But it probably would have been a better idea to do an album entirely given over to standards, rather than contrasting a handful of them with minor Sedaka compositions in more of a '70s-'80s pop mood. And Sedaka went off in an entirely different direction by closing this version of the album with a track previously used on 1995's Classically Sedaka, "Turning Back the Hands of Time," on which he set his own lyrics to the aria Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turandot. Utterly unlike the rest of the disc, it added a final touch of confusion to a stylistically schizophrenic collection.

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