The Very Best of Diana Krall
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2007, Volume 14, #12
Written by John Metzger
Mon December 10, 2007, 07:35 AM CST
Despite her wide-sweeping commercial success, Diana Krall has a problem. Too often over the course of her career, she has suppressed her tendencies toward making more meaningful jazz by chasing the larger sales figures that have been dangled in front of her. Although she undeniably has reaped the financial benefits of her approach, there also is no doubt that she has gotten where she is simply by following the safest route to her destination, and this, of course, has undermined her credibility as an artist. Fans may have lapped them up, but the world hardly needed to receive new interpretations of George Gershwinís íS Wonderful, Cole Porterís Iíve Got You under My Skin, or Burt Bacharachís The Look of Love, especially those that inferiorly follow in the footsteps of the countless others that have come before them.
For better or for worse, The Very Best of Diana Krall provides an encapsulation of the past decade of Krallís output, and while the set will please her most ardent supporters, it also quite clearly makes the case that repeatedly has been posited by her detractors. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between these opposing viewpoints. On the downside, the orchestrations that envelop tunes like You Go to My Head ó a previously unreleased outtake from her 2001 endeavor The Look of Love ó and Letís Face the Music and Dance do little to help her cause. The elegance of the arrangements is too neatly preened, and in the case of the latter track, it pushes her dangerously close to the uninteresting fodder typically proffered by Barbra Streisand. Likewise, both here and elsewhere on the collection, Krallís vocals lack passion and conviction. To her credit, she refrains from letting loose in an embarrassing display of note-cramming giddiness. At the same time, however, instead of allowing herself to slip comfortably and completely into a song, she frequently sounds like sheís singing simply to meet expectations. Itís as if she is following a path that has been dictated to her rather than going wherever she may.
On the other hand, Krall is most at home when she is playing the piano. Although she never dazzles with her talent, she is more than able to establish a mood with her performances. Better still, she effectively strikes the playful poses that she isnít always able to convey with her voice. As she sends notes skipping across the surface of Letís Fall in Love, she taps into something that runs a little deeper, and one suspects that this is more aligned with where sheíd like her music to be. The live tracks ó East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) and, to a lesser extent, Fly Me to the Moon ó lend further credence to this theory, and they provide an escape from the claustrophobic stuffiness that clings to her studio pursuits.
The greatest hope for Krallís future, however, comes as The Very Best of Diana Krall nears its conclusion. Taken from the sessions for The Girl in the Other Room, her Joni Mitchell-esque interpretation of Tom Waitsí The Heart of Saturday Night is downright masterful. In terms of Krallís pop-oriented inclinations, this song is her biggest success, and the fact that it initially wound up on the cutting room floor speaks volumes about the all-too-careful approach she has taken to marketing her work.
In the end, The Very Best of Diana Krall makes it clear that she not only is more artistically inclined than she initially appears to be, but also that she has been holding something back. One gets the sense, though, that Krall increasingly is aware that her output barely scratches the surface of the enormous legacies that she is trying to supplant. Perhaps, this is an indication that her career is about to take a different tack, one that inevitably would at least give her an opportunity to rise above the pedantically pedestrian regurgitations of the past in which she has been mired.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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