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Tom Wopat sings ballads with a coolness of spirit that matches his conservative stage presence. Best known for his television and Broadway acting roles, Wopat has recorded before; this is his fifth album. Show tunes, standards and country ballads represent a fine cross-section of American popular music. Wopat presents them well. As a classically trained singer, he possesses all the necessary skills. However, the actor's cool approach gets in the way when it comes to romance. Rather than convince a lover that he wants to capture her heart, Wopat seems to be saying that he only has a few hours to spare. It may take quite a while to get to know each other that way. Should romance wait until each lover has had a chance to look over the other's résumé?
The format for Wopat's ballad album allows for several big band arrangements, some with strings, a few with small ensembles, and several with piano accompaniment. Larry Goldings and Rob Mounsey each back the singer with stellar performances. Wopat's at his best singing two of Jimmy Webb's country ballads, "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress" and "If These Walls Could Speak." The songwriter appears on the latter song, singing harmony to Wopat's lead. Webb's 1996 Guardian album Ten Easy Pieces included both songs, sung by the composer. While "In the Still of the Night" includes a brief tenor sax interlude and several tracks contain solo piano interludes, there are few other instrumental features. John Pizzarelli steps forward on "Ruby" to offer a brief solo spot that merges his wordless vocals with crisp guitar melody. Antonia Bennett, resembling a coy Blossom Dearie, works "Baby, It's Cold Outside" as a duet with Tom Wopat. Unlike Ray Charles and Betty Carter on Spirit Of Christmas (Columbia, 1985), they manage to convince the listener that it's cold inside as well. "Makin' Whoopee!" offers yet another opportunity for the singer to deliver his lines with conviction, but he prefers that this scene remain cool and nonchalant. Overt expression would only get in the way. While Tom Wopat's a fine singer with natural talent, his latest project offers little in the way of soul-searching emotion.
Track Listing: Let's Fall in Love; Where Is Love?; Baby, It's Cold Outside*; Anyone Can Whistle; Where or When; In the Still of the Night; The Moon's a Harsh Mistress; Makin' Whoopee!; Ruby; I
Personnel: Tom Wopat- vocal; Rob Mounsey, Larry Goldings- piano; Marc Johnson- bass; Bucky Pizzarelli- guitar; John Pizzarelli- guitar, vocal; Steve Jordan- drums; Lawrence Feldman- alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Dave Tofani, Charlie Pillow- tenor saxophone; Roger Rosenberg- baritone saxophone; Dave Bargeron- trombone; Jeff Kievit, Jim Hynes- trumpet; Antonia Bennett, Jimmy Webb- vocals; Barry Finclair, Elena Barere, Abe Appleman, Jonathan Dinklage, Joyce Hammann, Regis Iandiorio, Ann Leathers, Nancy McAlhaney, Jan Mullen, Ricky Sortomme, Donna Tecco- violin; Ron Carbone, Sue Pray, Karen Dreyfus, Crystal Garner, Judy Witmer- viola; Richard Locker, Diane Barere, Jeanne LeBlanc- cello; John Beal, Tim Cobb- bass.