Singer-songwriter Amanda Brecker’s Blossom, a celebration of the songs of Carole King and James Taylor originally released in Japan in 2011 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of King’s Tapestry, is scheduled for North American release from Decca at the end of February. The singer, daughter of jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker and Brazilian pianist/singer Elaine Elias, had been winning awards and making a name for herself in Japan since 2008 when she signed her first record contract with Birds Records and released her first album Here I Am. Blossom marked her debut recording for Universal Music Japan.
The album covers 11 beloved songs from the many in the King and Taylor canons, performed with an understated delicacy that honors truly honors the originals. Produced by Grammy winner Jesse Harris, who obviously has the good sense not to mess with a good thing, the music is front and center. He keeps things simple and allows Brecker to carry the weight of the album with the elegant clarity of her vocals. Brecker has the kind of crystalline voice that mines the gold in these songs. That they are working along with a couple of musicians who played on the original Tapestry recording—bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel—as well as Larry Goldings, a jazz pianist who has played with Taylor (which doesn’t hurt either). Harris plays acoustic guitar and Anthony Wilson plays electric guitar.
There’s not much new to add about the songs they have chosen. For many of us they are the songs of our life. For those who don’t know them, you have to wonder what rock they’ve been hiding under. “So Far Away,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?,” “Sweet Baby James,” we wore out those 33 RPM LPs playing them. “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” these are songs that in many ways defined a generation. It is to Brecker’s credit that she doesn’t cheapen them with glitz. She has a beautiful voice, and she does them full justice. It’s hard to ask for anything more.
She does include one of her own compositions, “You Were Mine,” as a bonus 12th track. And though it does capture the spirit of the rest of the album, it loses something for us old timers after all the nostalgic pleasure of what came before. It would more than likely shine more brightly on an album of other originals. If Blossom is a sample of Amanda Brecker’s taste and talent, an album of originals is something to look forward to.