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April 09, 1984 12:00 PM

Karen Akers

Akers, 38, is a Tony Award nominee (for Nine) and has been singing professionally on and off for more than 20 years, mostly in New York. But it was a TV special, filmed in West Germany in 1981 and later shown in the U.S. on public channels, that first brought her the wider recognition she deserves. This album, which is, astonishingly, her first, is from the sound track of that program. She is a trifle too self-consciously chanteusey; this set includes Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, the Edith Piaf classic, and Akers at times seems to be unnecessarily striving to emulate the dark, heavy Piaf mood. There has been no real parallel to Piaf in American music, but Judy Garland, Lena Home and Peggy Lee in varying ways created a similar genre that mixes some brightness with the histrionics. Akers is like them in her ability to search out interesting new songs as well as reshape standards. This set includes Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns and Trouble Man by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, as well as the Fred Ebb-John Kander song Life Is, Billy Joel’s She’s Always a Woman, and Peter Allen’s and Hal Hackaday’s (I’ve Been) Taught by Experts. Akers never throws away a line that doesn’t deserve it, and she can add multiple shades of meaning to such lyrics as Joel’s “She’ll take what you give her as long as it’s free.” She is a fascinating, dramatically engaging singer. (Rizzoli)

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