She & Him CLASSICS
She & Him — the duo featuring “The New Girl” actress-singer Zooey Deschanel and folk-country-pop singer-guitarist M. Ward — released its fifth album this week.
Deschanel proved herself a fine songwriter by composing most of the material on the duo’s “Volume One,” “Volume Two” and “Volume 3” albums. And in 2011, the duo also released the standards-stuffed “A Very She & Him Christmas.” Ward and Deschanel walk a similar path with the just-released “Classics.” Selections on “Classics” were previously recorded by Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Dusty Springfield, Carole King, Herb Albert and other classic acts.
In line with the 13-song collection’s title and material, “Classics” is classy and elegant. Ward and Deschanel, accompanied by strings, brass, woodwinds and Ward’s reverb-sweetened guitar, breezily approximate the sound and atmosphere of recordings made long, long ago. Adhering to the mellow mood, the vocal performances are intimate the tempos are unhurried.
As gracefully rendered as the music is, some additional contrast, dynamism and swing would have made She & Him’s interpretations of music created decades before the duo was born more interesting. As it is, Deschanel sometimes suggests the rather bland Doris Day model for a girl singer. But when Deschanel turns up the heat in “I’ll Never Be Free” — a song published in 1950 and later recorded by Willie Nelson and Van Morrison — the better album that might have been, rather than the nice one that exists, is revealed.
David Bowie NOTHING HAS CHANGED
The three discs and 59 songs that comprise “Nothing Has Changed” form this epic David Bowie anthology. The recordings date from 1964’s “Liza Jane,” a garage-rock rave up credited to Davie Jones and the King Bees, to 2014’s musically ambitious and challenging to listeners “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” featuring the Maria Schneider Orchestra.
A complete listening to all of the songs between the first and last “Nothing Has Changed” tracks unveils a massive archive of stellar Bowie productions spanning 50 years.
Progressing backwards through the 21st century, 1990s, ’80s, ’70s and ’60s, “Nothing Has Changed” is a greatest hits collection in reverse. Its more recent recordings, including selections from Bowie’s deservedly acclaimed 2013 album, “The Next Day,” show a landmark artist who hasn’t lost his desire to create. The 2002 song “Slow Burn,” for instance, contains qualities heard in Bowie’s classics.
The collection also shows Bowie as a collaborator, paired with John Lennon (“Fame”), Mick Jagger (“Dancing in the Street”), Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan (“Let’s Dance”) and Queen (“Under Pressure”). His original vesions of songs made famous by Nirvana and Mott the Hoople (“The Man Who Sold the World,” “All the Young Dudes” respectively) are here, too. Hearing Bowie’s own, extensive run of classics, stacked on top of each as they are here, is astonishing.