March 03, 1986 12:00 PM

Margaret Whiting

Like her old friend Rosemary Clooney (they toured together with Helen O’Connell and Rose Marie in 4 Girls 4), Whiting, 61, seems to sound better all the time. There are certainly few singers around who truly interpret popular songs as well, searching out the turns of musical and verbal phrase that highlight an emotion here, an impression there. She and her producer-pianist Hubert “Tex” Arnold also come up with adventuresome combinations of material. Sometimes there’s a new approach to an old tune, sometimes an old approach to a new song. This album includes I’ve Heard That Song Before, the Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne number best known as a Harry James big band hit with Helen Forrest’s swinging vocal; Whiting slows down the pace and almost turns the song into something totally different that’s affecting. She makes Hoagy Carmichael’s I Get Along Without You Very Well sound like a painful-to-write letter. Contemporary composers are represented too: Stephen Sondheim’s Being Alive, from Company, and two songs by Karen Gottlieb and Michele Brourman, including the lively My Favorite Year (no relation to the movie). The backup band, with Arnold on piano and the delicate-fingered Gene Bertoncini on guitar, matches Whiting in taste and, it would seem, affectionate respect for the music. (Audiophile)

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