It’s easy to think of cabaret’s Shelly Markham as just a great arranger/musical director collaborating with some of the most lauded artists over the years, including Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason and Julie Wilson. But, after a musical career that has taken him all over the globe to hallowed halls working with others, he decided to do a personal album. “I decided to do a CD with a theme that made sense to me. It would be all about getting to a certain age and not apologizing for it,” he reflects in his liner notes. That succinctly sums up the material and taste on this exceptional (and overdue) album, overflowing with brilliant gems from his portfolio. There are collaborations with Paul Rolnick, Tom Toce and Judith Viorst, as well as others. This serves to shine a bright light on Markham’s versatility. It also reflects pieces of dreams plucked from one man’s life. Each cut is compelling, well-paced and his warm baritone makes it engaging to the listener. He sings with passion and is no stranger to the subtexts of these songs. Opening with his collaboration with Viorst, “The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days” (orchestrated by Lanny Meyers) Markham is immediately offering an insightful peek into a kinder, gentler and saner time. It’s the album’s most durable cut. He turns “Late in Life” (written with Adryan Russ), a reflective ballad with a beat, about skipping through life solo, into a familiar twist, “… I knew what I had to do when late in life, in walked you”—another highlight, which he makes sound like a vintage standard. “You Make Me Laugh,” written with Toce, is a clever, catchy ditty sung with all the right inflections. Two collaborations with Paul Rolnick stand out as well: “Where Would I Be,” a sweet romp about lovers, and the more poetic “It’s About Time,” which is worthy of finding a life outside cabaret. Markham takes one of today’s contemporary standards, by his friends the Bergmans, turning the familiar “The Way We Were” (music: Marvin Hamlisch) into something languid, pitiable and also reflective, fusing the messages in many of these intelligently presented lyrical messages throughout the disc. He accomplished what he wanted; the way we were in looking back, is the way he still is. And, the results are a golden disc for any collector of good songs.
Andrea Marcovicci and Karen Mason join Markham (separately) on two cuts that tie the CD together like a ribbon. The album, which is all a cabaret CD should be, achieves several sweet feats. Mostly, it’s Shelly Markham at a certain stage in life—and there are no apologies needed.
January 1, 2014