15 August, 2014

Petra Haden -- Petra Goes To the Movies

Petra Haden is a prodigious singer, violinist and collaborator with the likes of The Decembrists, Yuka Honda and Bill Frisell (amongst others).  In her solo career, she is a major proponent of a capella vocalese.  If you found the Swingle Singers doing Bach over precious, you can banish that feeling forever by dipping into her 2005 Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, a full multi-tracked voicing of one of The Who's best albums (complete with silly advert send ups).  Her 2007 recording of Journey's Don't Stop Believing was ripped off wholesale by the tone deaf stunted thirty year old autotune dependents of Glee.  Here she aptly tackles a wide range of movie themes from Rebel Without A Cause to The Social Network.

I say aptly because as track 5 played out, Ennio Morricone's A Fistful of Dollars, with a beautifully pure delivery which brought tears to my eyes, I realized that this is exactly what we all try to do this as we watch our favorites with their iconic scores.  Unfortunately I didn't inherit my grandfather's perfect pitch, and I can only carry a tune in the same manner and distance as a New Jersey wise-guy carries a stiff from the trunk of a stolen limo to a shallow grave in the pine barrens.  Her treatment of the Psycho main theme is just the gravy, and her Superman theme is absolutely singalong (despite aforementioned vocal challenges), and reminds us that the John Williams music is really the best thing in that film which rides a stupid script (a hissy fit reversing the spin of the Earth would not turn back time, but likely tear the planet apart) kept afloat by Christopher Reeve's canny boyish charm.

She's not shy about tackling another great Herrman, his Taxi Driver score, or Nino Rota, the gallop from 8 1/2.  She stoops to adding instrumentation for three of the four songs, absolutely elevating the Stephen Bishop hit penned by Dave Grusin and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Tootsie's It Might Be You (with the great Bill Frisell on guitar); also Calling You from Baghdad CafĂ©, and the Bowie / Metheny This Is Not America from The Falcon and the Snowman.  She strips back to vocal for Goldfinger, which needs a few listens to overcome the hold Shirley Bassey has on our ears.

Like a great marathon movie matinee, this album certainly sends you out into the daylight, blinking and humming the tunes.

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