Mary Duff

When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New

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Mary Duff starts off this album with a lovely piano and vocal version of "As Time Goes By" (familiar to all as the key song from Casablanca) that suggests that the Irish singer would make a mint as a cabaret singer. About halfway through, however, a full orchestra strikes up behind her, and continues sawing and blowing away at full tilt for the remainder of this hourlong disc. The Mantovani-style arrangements blare nonstop throughout When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New, whether Duff is singing old Tin Pan Alley standards, classic country and early rock tunes (she's particularly fond of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, tackling a medley of the former's biggest hits and a really quite nice, understated take on the latter's "True Love Ways"), or Irish airs and novelties. The overblown arrangements are quite distracting, not the least because Duff has a lovely voice that she knows how to use, avoiding both the strident over-emoting and the tin-eared robotic phrasing that plague far too many singers working the book of standards. (Pre-rock songbirds like Teresa Brewer and Doris Day are the obvious point of comparison, though there's a hint of Patsy Cline as well.) A full album with Duff and a piano player, or better yet a small jazz combo, would be a much better setting for her attractive vocals.

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