A personal favorite. Recorded live with a full orchestra at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A., Stormy Weather features contemporary music’s top female performers singing lavishly arranged torch songs. Sure, Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow and Bjork (see back cover) taking a live stab at the works of Gershwin, Van Heusen and… Costello? could be a recipe for disaster. And, the fact that it was never commercially released might suggest exactly that. (It was mailed out free to potential AT&T customers.) But, somehow… against all the odds, this one hits all its marks. Eagle Don Henley’s pin-drop perfect production, a program of cliche-free material, Mark Isham’s fine trumpet work and some stunning vocal performances combine to make Stormy Weather a late night, laid back groove. Highlights include Stefani’s confident reading of Elvis Costello’s Wee Small Hours homage, “Almost Blue,” Paula Cole’s gorgeous “You’ve Changed” (putting even Natalie Cole, the program’s standard torch-bearer, on notice) and Sandra Bernhard’s show-stealing cover of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” Full of lush atmosphere and a respectful dignity no listener has any right to expect, Stormy Weather is that rare idea that looks bad on paper, but somehow ends up smelling like a rose. A barely known rarity, and used ones go for a penny @ Amazon.
Gwen Stefani – Almost Blue
Paula Cole – You’ve Changed
Shawn Colvin – But Beautiful
Trisha Yearwood – Good Guy
Sandra Bernhard – Is That All There Is?
Sheryl Crow – Good Morning Heartache
Natalie Cole – You Can’t Take That Away From Me
Stevie Nicks – At Last
Bjork – Gloomy Sunday
Joni Mitchell – Stormy Weather