January 25, 1988 12:00 PM

Susannah McCorkle

Don’t question how McCorkle makes each song she sings seem freshly minted and meant just for her. Just enjoy. Take Bewitched for instance. Written nearly 50 years ago by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart for Pal Joey, this standard tells of a worldly-wise woman transformed into a lovesick child over a young stud’s attentions. Such simpering is not for Susannah. She makes the song a straight-on anthem of seduction; forget the mush. Her smoky voice boldly brings out the sexual flavor in the often-censored Hart lyrics (“horizontally speaking/ he’s at his very best”). For decades Broadway ingenues have skimmed the surface of Cole Porter’s swinging classics At Long Last Love and I Get a Kick out of You. McCorkle serves up the real turtle soup where there is too often merely the mock. Her approach also works on more contemporary numbers, especially Triste, co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Paul Simon’s Train in the Distance. Here romantic longings go past easy tears to the kind of blues that ache. On Johnny Mercer’s Dream, with Frank Wess’s tenor sax in mournful backup, McCorkle’s haunting voice belies the comforting words (“things never are as bad as they seem”). This isn’t singing; it’s vocal artistry. (Pausa)

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