by David Bruce
I never would have thought back in 1977 when I heard Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” that she would end up releasing an artistic achievement like her latest release, REFLECTIONS OF ROSEMARY. Oh, I knew Debby could sing, and could (when allowed) actually put something in to a song (most notably “The Promise” on her early-80s self titled album), but was I in for a very pleasant surprise upon hearing this new album. I bought it based on a friend’s recommendation, and what a great treat it was, indeed!
Debby’s voice has grown and has obtained colors not hinted at when she burst on the scene 28 years ago. And, she uses it to great affect now – most notably when she goes into her lower register, which is full and warm. Part of the success of this album also lies in the marvelous material, excellent arrangements and playing, as well as Debby’s loving attention to the songs. It is audible that she has an emotional connection with the material, which I’m sure helped that these songs were in tribute to her late mother-in-law, Rosemary Clooney.
Tribute albums abound, and many are exceedingly good (notably, Bette Midler’s Rosemary Clooney tribute from 2003). And like Bette, Debby does not try to replicate Rosemary’s deliveries, but makes each song her own, while delving into vocal territory previously unheard (by me, anyway) from her. Her connections with the lyrics of each song are astounding – a lot of these songs I’ve known for years, but this was the first time that I `got’ songs such as “I’ll Be Home” (brilliantly delivered) and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” (which is intelligently coupled with “It Never Entered My Mind”).
The only track that didn’t quite seem up to the par of the rest of the album was “It Might As Well Be Spring” – though Debby sings is lovingly, I didn’t get a connection with the lyric from her, which comes through on every other track (note: there is a great alto flute solo on this track by Dan Higgins – in a Herbie Mann mode).
The true capper for this brilliant achievement, for me, is “You Are There,” which Debby infuses with emotion and reality (without being maudlin) – all this done with simple piano accompaniment.
The hidden track of Rosemary Clooney’s homemade a capella version of “Blue Skies” is cute, and fits with Debby’s explanation that Rosemary had recorded this for Debby’s son, Jordan (Rosemary’s grandson), but could easily get tiresome on repeated listenings.