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Music Review: Liza Minnelli – Liza Minnelli: The Complete A&M Recordings

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Once upon a time Liza Minnelli truly mattered. She is an Oscar winning actress, a Broadway star, and a recording artist who has sold millions of albums. In fact, she is one of few artists to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and an Academy Award. While the last two decades have been up and down for her career and reputation, she has left a lasting legacy upon the entertainment industry.

Liza Minnelli: The Complete A&M Recordings gathers her four albums released by the label, 1968-1972, into a two disc set. There are also a number of bonus tracks as well an an informative booklet with notes about each release.

Minnelli was well known in 1968 but was still several years away from her Oscar winning performance in the film Cabaret. Her mother, Judy Garland, had been signed to the Capital label and Liza had followed her. When her contact expired she moved to A&M. When she reached her early twenties her material would become more mature as Herb Alpert and company would treat her as an adult. While the results would be uneven at times; as a whole her time with A&M would produce the best body of recorded work of her career.

Her first release for the label was the self titled Liza Minnelli issued in February of 1968. It would find her experimenting with the songs by modern pop composers such as Randy Newman, Lennon and McCartney, and Sonny Bono. The four Randy Newman tracks, of which one is a bonus, fit her style particularly well. “The Debutante’s Ball,” “Happyland,” “So Long Dad,” and “Snow” are all good examples of her emotional and interpretive style. Her rendition of the lesser known Lennon and McCartney tune, “For No One,” is worth seeking out. While the album’s sales were average at best, it served the purpose of expanding her fan base in an adult direction.

Come Saturday Morning, released February 1, 1969, may be her best studio album. She received a best actress Oscar nomination for the movie The Sterile Cuckoo and her performance of the films signature song, “Come Saturday Morning,” is among her best. This song would also be nominated for an Oscar. Such songs as “Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy,” “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane,” and Randy Newman’s “Love Story” are all sensitive presentations. Her smoky rendition of Jim Webb’s, “MacArthur Park/Didn’t We,” was a highlight of a very good album.

New Feelin’ was her third release and one of the weakest of her career. She abandoned the successful modern song formula of her first two A&M releases and recorded tracks by such writers as Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein, and the Gershwin’s. While there was nothing terrible about “Stormy Weather,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” and “The Man I Love;” they returned her to an era and style she had been trying to escape. The only exception was her interpretation of “God Bless The Child” which was given almost a gospel type performance.

Her final release for the label was Live At The Olympia In Paris which was recorded December 11, 1969 but not released until April of 1972. She has always been considered to have been at her best live, as her energy and charisma are much more apparent. Except for a couple of dance numbers, her entire show is presented. These tracks find a far different artist than in the studio and combined with the aforementioned Come Saturday Morning highlight two different aspects of her career very well.

Liza Minnelli is an entertainer and pop performer who borders on easy listening. The Complete A&M Recordings give a good glimpse of an artist approaching the nadir of her career. If you are an aficionado of Liza or this type of musical style, this is an album worth exploring.

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