Blood & Feathers - Live From Café Carlyle
Originally released in 2005 on DRG Records, Ute Lemper's Blood & Feathers - Live From Café Carlyle is a rare live cabaret recording by the diva of the genre, at New York's premier night spot.
While the recording quality is hard to fault, I must point out straight away that the gain on Ms. Lemper's patter and monologues could, for the most part, have benefited from some judicious boosting as it tends to be woefully low compared to the music.
The band is superb, but one would take that for granted.
The material on Blood & Feathers is something of an odd mix. Ms. Lemper's almost obligatory Weill is represented by only three songs, we are treated to one of Hollaender's finest (Muenchhausen), an excellent Lemper original, Elmer's unforgettable L'Accordeoniste, the Piaf classic Milord, the almost inevitable Lili Marlene, a standard from the Great American Songbook (It's Only A Paper Moon), plus a Sondheim for good measure, and for the rest of the album, a very eclectic mix of moon-themed songs by Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits - and this is where the mix gets particularly odd - and Van Morrison and Sting. The album closes - appropriately enough perhaps - with a medley from Cabaret.
But, get your head around this slightly odd mix, and Blood & Feathers is a superb live performance. Ms. Lemper is on top form throughout, including with her customary patter and monologues - mostly in English, partly in German and French. At times, her tendency to pronounce her 's's as 'sh's can grind a little, at others it becomes almost amusing ('...sitting alone in your room...'). Forget these little quirks though. Ute Lemper is still the Queen of cabaret - brash, a little raw, always bold, all out there. On Wait's Grapefruit Moon Lemper manages to sound like nothing so much as a wailing banshee on steroids - incomparable! This is cabaret in the raw, not your highly polished but bland, smooth and pale imitation. Lemper is cabaret!
Despite the seemingly slightly peculiar mix of material - a kind of (partial) career overview - Blood & Feathers is a thoroughly consistent album. Compelling? No. Absolutely bloody compulsive and addictive! Blood & Feathers is still probably the finest live recording of cabaret ever. Sumptuous and completely, utterly irresistible.
Ute Lemper's Blood & Feathers is an absolute must have. To say this album was way, way past essential for any true lover of the genre would be not only understatement but surely insult. If you don't have this album yet, what are you waiting for? (A DVD is also available, so get that as well!)
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