Dennis McNeil

About Time

DMI Productions
Dennis McNeil is a listener’s dream. He sings standards the way they were meant to be sung, utilizing his sweet, powerful tenor voice that defines “easy listening” to perform melodies pretty close to the way they were written. Like John Gary before him, McNeil sets the bar very high on these standards, with perfect delivery, definitive and authoritative phrasing and articulate diction.

The 12-cut CD opens with a soft, propulsive bossa-influenced “99 Miles from L.A.” (Hal David/Albert Hammond) that projects the desperate longing of someone anxious to get home from a long trip, followed by the always welcome “Smile” (Charlie Chaplin/John Turner/Geoffrey Parsons), which McNeil sings with a slight tear in his voice. He also offers very solid versions of two John Bucchino classics: the dynamic, pulsating “Taking the Wheel” and the beguiling “Grateful,” both of which listeners will be “truly blessed and duly grateful” to hear. He’s also at the top of his game on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” sung like a sweet prayer, albeit with a softer edge than some versions. The CD also features a soulful “Besame Mucho” (Consuelo Velasquez) that modulates to stunning effect, reflecting McNeil’s days as an opera singer.

There are also a couple of medleys—a Latin rhythm on an imperceptible blending of the Mercer/Mancini “Charade” with Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade”—and a soaring combination of “Come Fly with Me” (Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen) and a charming, swinging take on Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” (“In Other Words”).

In McNeil’s sure vocals, Van Morrison’s “Moondance” is a soft, mystical exploration of love and fascination while “A House Is Not a Home” (Bacharach/David) is delivered in a subtle, perfect rendition, followed by a thoughtful, reflective “Time After Time” (Cahn/Jule Styne). The album closes with “A Wink and a Smile” (Marc Shaiman/Ramsey MacLean, from Sleepless in Seattle), a delightful, soft-shoe-like, bluesy confection.

About Time features excellent musical support throughout, with pianist Ed Martel, who arranged all the songs, particularly strong on “A House Is Not a Home.” Tom Scott on woodwinds is particularly effective on ”Fly Me to the Moon” and “Moondance.” Craig Stull shows off his guitar virtuosity on ”99 Miles from L.A.” and “Besame Mucho,” and there is consistently fine work from Gorden Peeke on percussion and Dave Stone on bass.

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
March 1, 2014