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Lena Horne: Seasons of a Life (2005)

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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The recording studio is not always the best place for an artist to showcase their skills. Performers who have achieved their greatest success playing in front of an audience may in fact be unable to duplicate in the sterile confines of the studio that elusive talent that makes them so compelling on stage. Just as the craft of acting for the camera demands a different approach than acting in a theater, so too must a singer adjust when captured on tape rather than seen in the flesh.

Thus we find Lena Horne captured on Seasons of a Life, a grab-bag collection of live and studio recordings. While Horne is an entrancing performer in the nightclub setting, where she projects class and warmth, her performances on disc can seem a bit much. Her frequent technique of talk-singing is a fine tool for communicating through vocals and body language, but here, suspended from the context of a flesh and blood performance, it seems kind of odd.

The take on "Chelsea Bridge succeeds because it is relatively subdued; Horne's sophistication and style come through loud and clear when she isn't projecting to the back of the club. Elsewhere, "I've Got To Have You, penned by Kris Kristofferson, is a total misfire. In order to sing a Kristofferson song successfully, one must either be Kristofferson himself, or else tuned into his own unique frequency. It is fair to say that Horne fits neither prerequisite.

The fact that Seasons of a Life fails as an album is not a condemnation of Horne's talent, but rather a confirmation that her unique gifts are best suited to other mediums.

Track Listing: Black Is; Maybe; I've Got to Have You; I'll Always Leave the Door a Little Open; You're the One; Something to Live For; Chelsea Bridge; Singin' in the Rain; Willow Weep for Me; Stormy Weather

Personnel: Lena Horne- vocals; Rodney Jones- guitars; Mike Renzi- piano, keyboards; Oliver Von Essen- organ; Benjamin Brown- bass; Akira Tana- drums; Donald Harrison- alto saxophone; Herbie Hancock- piano on "Chelsea Bridge" and "Willow Weep for Me;" Bobby Forrester- organ on "Singin' in the Rain;" Mark Sherman- vibraphone on "Singin' in the Rain;" Lewis Nash- drums on "Singin' in the Rain;" Frank Owens- piano on "Stormy Weather."

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Vocal


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