The Blue Room
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Dim the lights, open that bottle of wine you saved for a special evening and when the moment is ripe, push play on The Blue Room to ramp up the romantic flames. Velvet voiced jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux and producer Larry Klein started a reimagining of Ray Charles’ 1962 classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, then added some slightly newer material from Randy Newman, Warren Zevon and John Hartford to refine the concept with a more personal twist. But where Charles threw back whisky shots of C&W with his uniquely soul/gospel phrasing, Peyroux’s more refined and sedate jazz/blues interpretations politely sips aged brandy. Vince Mendoza (Joni Mitchell, Bjork) brings subtle, occasionally edgy string arrangements while Klein keeps the instrumental backing sparse and pure. It’s all lush and lovely, if perhaps a bit too restrained and safe. When Peyroux experiments by removing most traces of the original melody from John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind,” the result wanders off course during what seems like an endless, dreamy six minute version. Much better is her friskier take on “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and an innovative, romanticized approach to Zevon’s wryly cynical “Desperados Under the Eves,” an inspired if unlikely choice that pays off. Every note is in place, Peyroux’s Billie Holiday-styled phrasing drips out of the speakers as if she is whispering into your ear and it’s doubtful there will be a better make-out album released this year. But the effect shifts from sophisticated to just short of snooze inducing as the disc wears on and what starts out as tasty ends up as more of the same when the vibe stays locked in its classy, stylish, chill out groove.