Splendor in the Grass (Dig) Import
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"[A] wondrously eclectic tapestry of foreign textures, sounds, and cultures." -- Boston Globe
"This is rich, hugely approachable music, utterly cosmopolitan yet utterly unpretentious. And it seems to speak to just about everybody." -- Washington Post
"Ms. Forbes is an unpretentious, pitch-perfect chanteuse who can be breathy and girlish or sultry. She's ideal for songs that usually revolve around old-fashioned romance; she tempers heartbreak with savoir-faire." -- New York Times
* Pink Martini's three previous albums have sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
* Long-awaited fourth album features several songs in a classic Pink Martini style alongside excursions into 1970s, modernist minimalism, classic ranchera, and swing.
* Partnering with high-powered NYC publicity firm Sacks & Co. (Björk, David Byrne, Buena Vista Social Club) to publicize Splendor in the Grass.
* Famed Dandy Warhols guitarist and leader Courtney Taylor-Taylor appears on the title track.
* Velvet-voiced Emilio Delgado, famous as Luis on Sesame Street, duets with China Forbes on "Sing."
* Legendary 90-year-old ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, formerly the lover of painter Frida Kahlo, guests on Agustin Lara classic "Piensa en mi."
* Popular NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro makes his professional recording debut on the Pink Martini original "But Now I'm Back."
China Forbes: vocals/Timothy Nishimoto: vocals, percussion/ Gavin Bondy: trumpet/Robert Taylor: trombone/Nicholas Crosa: violin/Pansy Chang: cello/Dan Faehnle: guitar/Phil Baker: upright bass/Maureen Love: harp/Brian Davis: congas, percussion/ Derek Rieth: congas, percussion/Martin Zarzar: drums, percussion/ Thomas M. Lauderdale: piano Chavela Vargas: guest vocals/Emilio Delgado: guest vocals/ Ari Shapiro: guest vocals/Courtney Taylor-Taylor: guest guitar
* Ninna nanna
* Ohayoo Ohio
* Splendor in the Grass
* Ou est ma tete?
* And Then You're Gone
* But Now I'm Back
* Sunday Table
* Over the Valley
* Tuca tuca
* Bitty Boppy Betty
* Piensa en mi
* New Amsterdam
* Ninna nanna (reprise)
Pink Martini has always been a group perhaps best describe as eclectic, and they have usually done a good job of blending both original material and tongue in cheek cover songs from the bye-gone bigband era. Unfortunately here it seems like Lauderdale has lost his creative muse, China Forbes sounds like she is performing songs she is not enthused about, and clever-kitschiness has given way to borderline cheesy. No disrespect, I have loved seeing Pink Martini in concert. But did we really need a cover of "Sing" (Joe Raposo), as in "Sing - sing a song"?
While much of Splendor does come across as a compilation of songs that didn't make the cut from their previous albums, I did enjoy track 12, "Piensa en mi", sung by aging Costa Rican legend Chavela Vargas. If you like Vargas I would recommend checking her out on the excellent Frida [Music from the Motion Picture]. If you are a Pink Martini fan I think this is one you can safely skip (or buy used very cheaply), and if you are new to them I would recommend one of the above albums by them instead, especially "Hang on Little Tomato".
Upon reflection I like Pink Martini enough I can't give them one star, but reluctantly the highest this album deserves is a very generous two.
- Ninna Nanna (poetic rhythm)
- And Then You're Gone (creative writing)
- But Now I'm Back (creative writing)
- Bitty Boppy Betty (creative writing)
"Gone", "Back", and "Betty" are such lighthearted and humorous story-telling songs that you can literally see the story/characters popping in front of your eyes while listening to them. I first played the CD in my car and they cracked me up in the middle of driving.
- Piensa en mi(Beautiful music, but not a song I'd like to listen to over and over again given the vocal)
- New Amsterdam (non-fluent, dull lyrics)
- I'm a little disappointed by Splendor in the Grass itself because usually the song that made it onto the album title really stands out (e.g. Hey! Eugene, Hang on little tomato, Sympathique). "Splendor" has relatively weaker or flatter lyrics and rhythm compared to its predecessors. However, the use of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 is quite interesting. When I first listened to the song and main theme of Piano Concerto #1 came out, it sounded so "pre-destined" as if I knew it was going to be there.
- I have mixed feelings about Carpenter's Sing. Honestly I do not like China Forbes's voice in this song at all. Don't take me wrong - I love her voice in general - it's sweet, clear, and charming. However, in this song she simply cannot fill the volume and energy defined by Karen Carpenter's deep magnetic voice. That being said, the Spanish version following it eased my disappointment. It offers a completely different interpretation of the music and I really like it.
The rest of the songs are all high quality Pink Martini works that are simply enjoyable even though I didn't write about them specifically. I gave the album a 4-star only because this was the first PM album that had a couple songs I didn't like.