David Vernon...By Myself
David Vernon's style and song choices make him come across as fragile but ardent and determined ... and oh-so-serious. Some will find him self-indulgent and overwrought, but I'm willing to bet money that he really is that fragile soul who wears his heart on his sleeve because that's just who he is. His own liner notes, talking about how he relates to each song, support that theory. He's undeniably intense, with a quivering and throaty style in the Edith Piaf tradition - he revels in her trademark "La Vie en Rose," sounding more at home than most do. Delicate David shows a vulnerability not many male (or female) singers dare reveal. I admire that and it seems to suit him, and it pretty much works for me.
In his Broadway song selections, there's the lost soul's anthem, "Corner Of The Sky" from Pippin. David says he especially relates to the lyric "I don't fit in anywhere I go" and that sense permeates the album. The title song, by Schwartz and Dietz, began onstage in a 1937 show called Between The Devil before being put in the film The Band Wagon. Other songs that found their way to Broadway are present as well. The arrangement of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," heard in the very old Broadway shows Oh, Look and the 1973 revival of Irene, nicely shows its classical music roots (its melody is lifted from Chopin). "I Don't Care Much," a song intended for Cabaret long ago which belatedly found its way into the score in revivals, is here, too. "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings, one of two full scores Richard Rodgers wrote alone, ends the album on a more hopeful note. These last three are among the eight included numbers Barbra Streisand has recorded over the years, and it's quite clear David has listened to those recordings. His memory for her phrasing and shaping of some notes shows that. If such things could be copyrighted, he'd be arrested for thievery. But I'd rather use the word "arresting" to describe the unusual sound and timbre of his voice, because it is unusual and attention-grabbing.
Three more of the Barbra borrowings are songs written for her, with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, that you haven't heard many others do. From the movie musical Yentl there is the inquiring (no, make that demanding) "Where Is It Written?" and an unusual choice, "Between Yesterday And Tomorrow." It's a pleasure to hear those spiraling Michel Legrand melodies in another singer's voice. The third Bergman lyric is "Ordinary Miracles" with Marvin Hamlisch's music; its optimism is a bright, refreshing moment.
There are some interesting song choices like Randy Newman's sad portrait "In Germany Before The War," a tune from Cirque du Soleil and the classical "Après un Rêvé" by Faure. Brave choices all, and they come off quite well.
If a healthy dose and a half of dramatic emotion doesn't put you off, I recommend taking a holiday from cynicism, irony and fluff with David Vernon. There are sound samples, some from recordings with lighter fare on his website, www.davidvernonnyc.com, and you can hear songs from By Myself on www.CDBaby.com. He sings for all the lost souls who don't have an easy time "fitting in" and could well be their president. And maybe even their hero.