Will we still need her to sing the melodies we love? Will she still feed us with her sweet voice? At 64, the ever-young songstress elicits the resounding affirmative.
Other people’s music has been peppering up Mary Fahl’s oeuvre ever since she left the chamber pop of OCTOBER PROJECT behind, the covers running the gamut from folk perennials to operatic arias and including a collection of carols and a reimagining of the most famous PINK FLOYD’s platter in its entirety, yet for all the variety of the American artiste’s output a whole album of rock gems wasn’t on her agenda until after the pandemic. So while one’s reliance on outside material may seem tricky, if not perilous, this chanteuse is well-qualified to take familiar tunes for a spin and appropriate favorites for good. That’s why Mary doesn’t go for a deep-cut discovery in order to dazzle the listener with her erudite grasp of the best, albeit less obvious, classic numbers, but dismisses obscure choices in favor of the songs she has a personal connection with, as detailed in Fahl’s liner notes – the songs she considers essential to her creative growth.
Of course, it’s not too difficult to find a flawed logic in her handling of “Comfortably Numb” which is warm and welcoming rather than alienating, the veteran’s husky half-whisper opening the floodgates for the uplift of lava-hot feelings, but she’s turning the track’s original anguish into a honeyed hurt, the vibrant velvet gloom that Mary’s readings of “River Man” and “Beware Of Darkness” – both elevated by the vocalist’s haunted tone and producer Mark Doyle’s respective piano ripples and guitar strum – only hint at. There are also strings to drench the latter piece, drill Renaissance grandeur into the otherwise faithful-to-template, yet spiritually solemn, “Ruby Tuesday” and “Tuesday Afternoon” – a marvelous pairing! – and draw a relatively rare “Got A Feelin'” from THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS’ repertoire in towards doomsday, aiding and abetting Fahl’s trumpet of a voice.
This natural instrument and talent for inhabiting a song help her make the album’s finale, “The Great Valerio” from Richard and Linda Thompson’s cache, immensely special, allowing an aficionado to imagine the ballad in Sandy Denny’s rendering, whereas delving into Judy Collins’ “Since You’ve Asked” and Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” prove to be not as rewarding for Mary’s import-laden delivery. Still, Fahl doesn’t try to transmogrify it all – her more subtle approach results in owning covers, first and foremost British selections, in a different way, although she’s opted for alchemy on the acoustically driven titular opener, the early ELO hit, that the American performer infuses with magnificent ethereality, thus casting her impressive shadow over the whole record. An expectedly mature and, at the same time, shining milestone of the outstanding career.