Cyndi Lauper Live... At Last to release Live... At Last
"I just wanted to do some music from my childhood," says Cyndi Lauper, discussing her latest album, At Last.
Artist: Cyndi Lauper
Title: Live... At Last
Release date: 05/25/04
Buy at: Amazon
"When I hear those songs, I remember how I grew up, and the neighborhood, and how the music affected the people around me, and what those times were like."
The music from "those times" ran the gamut; it was Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett and The Animals. It wasn't the genre that was important; it was the soul in the music. And soul is something that Cyndi's got in abundance; you can hear it all over At Last, on which Cyndi sings songs that she's loved for her entire life. But they aren't simply cover versions: "I didn't go into it to just sing above a track, I went into it to rip apart the song and find a new soul and tell a real story."
While the pop charts have always welcomed, and still do, the same old songs with the same arrangements sung by new voices, Cyndi wasn't looking for the easy hit with At Last. In her hands, the art of interpretation is more than just having a great voice; it's also about having a new vision for a familiar song.
"When you reinterpret a song, you have to find how that song speaks to you, and what it is you're trying to say in that song. Who's singing, who is the songwriter, what are they trying to say, what just happened to them? And go from there. And for me, the whole magic of the music, whether you write it or not, is always in that little space, that becomes so real, or surreal, it's otherworldly. And when that space becomes so otherworldly, that there is no break between the outside and the inside, that's the place you want to be and that's the place that's magical and mystical."
Part of At Last's magic came in the form of a few collaborators. One big one was Tony Bennett, who duets with Cyndi on "Makin' Whoopee." "I wanted to sing with Tony, because we played him in my house growing up, all the time. We're Italian-American, and in an Italian-American family, you always heard Tony's voice." Bennett chose "Makin' Whoopee," but as Cyndi points out, "In the end, it doesn't matter what you sing, it could be the alphabet, it's Tony Bennett for cryin' out loud."
Percussionist Sheila E. brought her friends and instruments to the sessions for "Stay." While listening to a compilation of Latin lounge tunes, Cyndi "found some songs and started singing 'Stay' over them," and decided to record a Latin-tinged version of the song. When Sheila E. dropped by the studio, Cyndi asked for some help in bringing her vision "Stay" to reality. "I wanted to be authentic; I didn't want to do a 'gringo' version!'" After a few phone calls to E.'s friends, they had a crowded studio with lots of people and instruments, and a version of "Stay" that The Four Seasons probably never dreamed of.
Stevie Wonder dropped by to lend his harmonica skills to one of his own compositions, "Until You Come Back To Me," a song popularized by Aretha Franklin. It gave Wonder a chance to come at the song from a different angle, since, as Lauper points out, "He didn't play harmonica on the original one."
Finally, there's producer Russ Titelman. The seeds of Cyndi and Russ' friendship were sown about a decade ago ("at some studio in New York," according to Cyndi). She was working on her fourth album, A Hat Full Of Stars, when she bumped into the man who would produce At Last, Russ Titelman. (If his name sounds familiar to you, it should: he's produced albums for Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Rickie Lee Jones, Steve Winwood and Randy Newman, among many others.)
"He started sending me music," Lauper begins. "He sent me stuff by Nina Simone, 'Little Girl Blue.' Have you heard that? It'll really change your life. Started sending me Ravel. I remember how inspiring it was to just know a guy who loved music. And the stuff he was sending me was really musical and fantastic." Years later, when she began to think about this record or interpretations - not standards, thank you - she thought of Titelman.
Many of these songs have been recorded in the past by, among others, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. When suggested that the material might be intimidating to some, Cyndi shrugs. "A song is like a dress, you fit it to your body, or to your voice." Well, as someone with several dresses in her wardrobe, and lots of great songs to her name; she should know.
Live... At Last Tracklisting
I Drove All Night
If You Go Away
All Through The Night
Walk On By
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Sisters Of Avalon
Change Of Heart
It's Hard To Be Me
Money Changes Everything
Time After Time
Girls Just Want To Have Fun
"Live... At Last" by Cyndi Lauper - release date: 05/25/04..