The Manhattan Transfer first exposed me to the wonders of jazz, particularly their late 70s-mid 80s recordings. While the group's harmonies blend together perfectly, each member possesses accomplished solo chops. In the group, founding member Janis Siegel has proven to be the most versatile vocalist, being equally adept in pop, jazz, and blues. Nowhere was this diversity more present than on Siegel's second solo effort, 1987's At Home, an uneven but charming album that showcases her broad range.
Boasting guest artists like Will Lee, Branford Marsalis, and David Sanborn, At Home appeals to various musical tastes. Like R&B? Check out Siegel's cover of Marvin Gaye's “Trouble Man,” where she commands the song with her strong, bluesy vocals. Speaking of the blues, songs such as “Million Dollar Secret” and “Black Coffee” soar with her unique interpretations. Siegel channels her inner Mae West attitude (and sounds like she had a blast doing so) on the latter, while her voice effectively coveys longing and heartache on the former. Of course she doesn't disappoint her core audience, jazz fans, with songs such as “Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight)” and “Night Trane,” a tribute to John Coltrane. She clearly had fun recording the sprightly “(If I Had) Rhythm in My Nursery Rhymes,” a jazzy take on a lullaby.
The real treasure of At Home, however, remains “Small Day Tomorrow,” a simply gorgeous ballad. Composed by Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman, it is a torch song in the most classic sense. Siegel lends a world-weary quality to the song featuring lyrics such as the following: "Now all you big wheels / With all of your big deals / You are gonna need your sleep / But I'm a dropout / And I would rather cop out / Than run with all the sheep"