This one’s a personal favorite that I occasionally move up to the top, just because it’s obscure enough that people rarely seek it out. Recorded live with a full orchestra at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, Stormy Weather features some of the top female performers of the 90s singing lavishly arranged torch songs. Sure, the idea of Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow and Bjork taking a live stab at the works of Gershwin, Van Heusen and… Costello? could be a recipe for disaster. And, the fact that this concert 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 laid back, late night 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 atmospherics and a respectful dignity no one had any right to expect from this bunch, Stormy Weather is that rare idea that looks dumb on paper, but ends up smelling like a rose. A barely known rarity, and used ones are cheap @ Amazon, HERE, because most don’t know just how good it is.
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 – They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Stevie Nicks – At Last
Bjork – Gloomy Sunday
Joni Mitchell – Stormy Weather