Cyndi Lauper – At Last
(Epic – 2004)
by Matthew Robinson
With this collection of classic and contemporary American standards, it would appear that the quirky broad from Queens has finally grown up. Eschewing Lou Albano for the company of Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder, Lauper indeed demonstrates a great deal of maturity through her selections and her treatments of them. With the opening wail of the title track, Lauper announces her arrival on the Adult Contemporary scene and looks back thoughtfully on a career that has not always been “like a song.” Her later take on “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” is similarly honest and affecting. The Bennett-blessed duet of “Makin’ Whoopie” is casual to the point of overly chatty, but fun nonetheless.
And though Bacharach’s “Walk on By” may not be as smooth as the original, the cracks in Lauper’s vocal sidewalk give emotional weight to the well-considered lyrics. Adding international flavor through a fun and funky Rhumba-fied take on “Stay and a haltingly grooved reading of Jacques Brel’s “If You Go Away,” Lauper also features such soulful domestic numbers as Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” and Stevie Wonder’s “Until You Come Back to Me” (featuring the maestro on his signature harp). And though Lauper’s spare take on “La Vie En Rose” may not give Ms. Piaf cause for concern, her light and lush “Unchained Melody” gently stirs the ghost of the late Bobby Hatfield. Overall, a diverse collection that demonstrates good intentions if not the best of renditions.
© 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR