Monday, July 27, 2015

Joana Zimmer-Showtime (2008)


It's not Cinemax, it's not HBO and it's definitely not CNN; this is "Showtime", the third studio album by my new-found German pop princess Joana Zimmer, and if you've logged on to "The Music Spectrum" so you can tune in to it today, then you've turned to the right channel! I get all sorts of excited when I get a chance to listen to these covers albums, especially when the album contains a bunch of memorable golden oldies from my childhood; I get doubly excited when I know that there's an amazing voice that's going to be performing each one. So after the curtains of this 'Joana Zimmer Show' open with the dreamy orchestral overture that slides into "Everytime I think About You" (one that's unfamiliar to me, but lovely nonetheless), I got my first of many magical moments with her rendition of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", which begins with an alluring orchestra overture itself. Bittersweet for me, as every time I hear a Michael Jackson song from the 80's, it only makes me miss that great King Of Pop legend even more. The 80's is the name of the game again when she follows that one up with "Sign Your Name"—a milestone moment of sorts, as it marks the very first time I'd ever heard this one being performed by a woman. A few changes in the production from the Terence Trent S'Arby original that I know and love so much: a funky jazz rhythm that makes me think about somebody dancing the tango, the omission of that familiar 'shoo-doo-wap-wap' in the background after the second verse, and the piano/orchestral break leading in to the final verse. It's different, but I like it! Motown covers always make for a wonderful listen, and my latest one to impress me is Joana's take on "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing", which she sings with the r&b supergroup BOYZ II MEN. When I'd scanned the track-listing and noted that BOYZ II MEN would be featured on that one, it had made me stop and think, 'Wow, this lady has performed with a lot of big-time stars!'. And a diverse number of them at that, as I recall in my recent read-ups into her musical background. So what other big-ticket celebs make guest appearances here? There's fellow German singer Xavier Naidoo, whom I had the pleasure of hearing on his debut English album, "Seeing Is Believing" and performs alongside Joana on "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" (had never heard this one either, but I sure love the jazzy funk swing!). Then there's another fellow German singer Stefan Gwildis on the rendering of the Bill Withers classic, "Just The Two Of Us". Have always thought this one should've been performed as a duet.....and now I get what I've wished for! And just like the original, I got to hear that familiar old-school soul-perfect groove and those same lyrics ('castles in the sky') that takes me back to yesterday every time. Speaking of songs taking me back: how about "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?", which is like one of the greatest soft rock contemporary ballads of all time? Will never—and can't ever—let go of my two favorite versions by the late Laura Branigan and ballad phenom Michael Bolton, and now I've got a third one that's grabbed hold of me just the same. A two-for-one deal here on the 'Joana Zimmer Show' with two different recordings, the latter being a beautiful piano rendering that accents her strong vocals and ignites the gripping lyrics with burning passion. "Dance With My Father": ANY and ALL of those priceless gems prized by the late Luther Vandross take me back, even if it was just in 2003, which really wasn't that long ago. It's here where I drew that Céline Dion similarity again, and it's a coincidence that I mention that, recalling that the Canadian pop queen had covered it herself on that "So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute To Luther Vandross" album. Joana and her tender voice serve it up nicely against the light piano. And taking me back to those days when I listened to the radio in the car all the time is her remake of "The Logical Song". The only hit by SUPERTRAMP that I can sing from memory gets a festive modern makeover that's quite different from the familiar chords and arrangement from the 1979 original—a dancey funk/jazz swing about it that includes a cool and totally epic orchestral movement, plus some terrific backup vocals. The word 'jazz' has been mentioned by me several times in this review, yet I haven't even said one bit about "Kissing A Fool", which is the most purely jazz of them all. Had me thinking that Joana would KILL all of the jazz standards! A dazzling show this German pop princess puts on for your ears, and I have to give her a round of applause before I change the channel, close the curtains and proceed to my next review:

1. Orchestral Intro & Everytime I Think Of You
2. I Just Can't Stop Loving You
3. Sign Your Name
4. Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime
5. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (feat. Xavier Naidoo)
6. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing (feat. Boyz II Men)
7. Just The Two Of Us (feat. Stefan Gwildis)
8. Kissing A Fool
9. Dance With My Father
10. How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?
11. This Girl's In Love With You
12. The Logical Song
13. Home
14. Orchestral Outro
15. He's Got A Way (Bonus Track)

*****BONUS TRACK*****

16. How Am I Supposed to Live Without You? (Piano Demo)

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