Simon made an album of pop standards—Torch—back in 1981, when Linda Ronstadt was still rocking and rolling, Toni Tennille was singing about muskrats and even Willie Nelson had only recently seen the light. Torch was a fizzle though. Maybe the time wasn’t right; maybe Simon wasn’t ready.
In any case, she sounds ready now. There’s one original tune—”What Has She Got” by Simon, Michael Kosarin and Jacob Brackman—but the others on the album are classic, if ever there was such a thing.
Simon shows an understandable fondness for Rodgers and Hart, singing five songs by that team, including a memorable “Bewitched,” which is accented nicely by Michael Brecker’s saxophone solo.
There’s also an affectingly introspective rendition of the Bob Hilliard-David Mann song “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” complemented by Marvin Stamm’s trumpet. Frank Sinatra has always owned that tune. (Simon indeed dedicates the album to Sinatra: “Who might as well have been singing directly to me, I felt it so strongly.”) But Simon’s take on it suggests a kind of musical time-share might be in order.
Veteran conductor Marty Paich did the arrangements with Kosarin, who also plays piano. While Simon sounds best when her voice is backed only by Kosarin, the big string section is relatively unobtrusive, and nothing hampers the connection between the singer and the songs, which is direct, personal and as intimate as a soft voice in the dark. (Arista)