Sandy Bainum


As you listen to Sandy Bainum sock out pop and show tunes in perfect pitch with a crystalline soprano that only gains in substance the harder she emotes over the large orchestra, she seems the personification of a leading lady at her zenith. She’s that good. At times, her skilled soprano and seamless phrasing recalls Barbara Cook or Judy Collins in their primes. She sings with unerring smoothness, harmonizing precisely with a flute’s fluidity, making musical magic. This well-produced album (by Bruce Kimmel) covers popular showstoppers, like the lively “A Cock-eyed Optimist” (South Pacific) and “The Other Side of the Tracks” (Little Me), an insightful “Make the Man Love Me” (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), and a thrilling “Goodnight My Someone” (The Music Man)—the album’s best cut. Also on tap are pop offerings, like “You and Me Against the World,” “On My Way to You,” a trenchant “Why Can’t I Forget?” and the title cut, a ballad by Kimmel, that could make serious waves.

Powerful pop-soprano vocals this good, of course, involve more than the physical inventiveness Bainum possesses in abundance. And here the scores are occasionally uneven. This is the result of such a lush, albeit formidable, orchestra led by the brilliant Lanny Meyers. As sweepingly impressive as these accompaniments are, at times, some are a trite more than needed. Consequently, simple ballads, like a rhythmic “Where or When,” are bigger than necessary. To her credit, Bainum handles complex arrangements well and is not overshadowed by such musical girth. It all speaks to her exceptional talents that she shines this well in the face of rather voluminous backups. In lesser hands, this could have been too risky. That matters because, while the sumptuous orchestrations are perfectly suited for a symphony hall, they are weighted in spots on a recording. Linda Eder has had similar issues on discs. Minor quibbles aside, this album overflows with delightful songs sung by an accomplished lady who is thrilling to listen to—in every way.

John Hoglund
Cabaret Scenes
January 1, 2014