Diana Krall is back with a new album, proving she’s no wallflower.
I’m what you’d call a casual fan of Diana Krall’s music. I discovered her about fourteen years ago when I was in a music store. It was 2001 and her album The Look of Love had just come out. Her cover of “S’Wonderful” was playing and I was hypnotized by her smooth, jazzy vocals and piano playing. I bought the album and liked it, though I didn’t become a hardcore fan. As the years passed, I’d buy her albums here and there, often when I simply wanted to learn one of her songs myself. When I saw the song list on her latest album, Wallflower, I decided to download it without having heard anything on it. I listened to Wallflower the other day and mostly liked what I heard. This album was released in early February 2015; there are twelve covers of well-known songs, most of which were popular in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Krall also sings duets with fellow Canadians, Bryan Adams ands Michael Bublé, and features American guitarist Blake Mills in the title track, “Wallflower”.
The album kicks off with Krall’s jazzy, moody interpretation of “California Dreamin'”, a song that was made famous by The Mamas and the Papas. While I’ve always liked the famous version, I like what Diana Krall has done with her updated version of this classic song. It’s given a sexy Latin rhythm with understated background vocals. Krall’s low voice is a little breathy, but it works with the arrangement of this song, which is kind of mysterious and sexy.
Next comes a remake of “Desperado”, a song that was made famous by The Eagles and covered by everyone from Karen Carpenter to Clint Black. I love the song and have sung it many times myself. I’m not sure the world needed yet another rendition of “Desperado”, but Diana does fine with her take on this classic hit. I still remain partial to Linda Ronstadt’s blistering version, while Diana Krall seems to be channeling Don Henley’s cautionary tone with hers. She even sings it in the same key he does.
Speaking of Karen Carpenter, Diana Krall also covers a song that she made famous, “Superstar”. “Superstar” was, of course, also sung by Bette Midler and Luther Vandross. And now, Diana Krall’s smokey, airy alto has tackled the suggestive lyrics about a seductive rock star. Krall’s version sounds a little like it was influenced by both Karen Carpenter’s vocals and Luther Vandross’s emotional reading. Krall’s arrangement includes lots of strings, giving the music a dramatic, almost theatrical style. I like it fine, though probably wouldn’t emulate it myself.
Michael Bublé sings “Alone Again (Naturally)” with Krall. I was never a big fan of the popular version of this song, originally made popular by Gilbert O’Sullivan. I do like this duet version, though. I haven’t listened to as much of Michael Bublé’s music as I should and he and Diana Krall have some chemistry. I think this is one of the better songs on Wallflower, although this rendition reminds me a little of Glee with its very perfect tuning.
The title track, “Wallflower”, features guitarist Blake Mills. This is kind of a waltzy folk song, pleasant to listen to, but not particularly notable to me.
“If I Take You Home Tonight” was an unfamiliar song to me until I listened to Wallflower. It fits well with the other songs so far, kind of dark and moody.
Diana Krall sings “If I Take You Home Tonight” live.
Krall’s version of “I Can’t Tell You Why”, another Eagles hit, is given an interesting makeover with jazzy percussion and gently strummed acoustic guitars. It’s pleasant and makes for nice fireside music. I can imagine listening to this by a fire while drinking wine. Again, lots of strings and understated background vocals, along with Krall’s expressive piano. I like it fine, though I’m still partial to the original.
Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” gets a remade introduction, then becomes immediately recognizable. Krall’s piano takes center stage with her husky voice, which sounds like it could use a little more emotion. She’s a little flat here– not in terms of pitch accuracy, but in terms of her affect. It’s a little like she was given a little Valium before she sang this. It’s not terrible, but I think it could have been better than it is.
I have to admit that Diana Krall’s version of Jim Croce’s “Operator” influenced me to download a Croce album. She does alright with her updated version, but I like Jim Croce’s original better. I should thank Diana Krall, because I never gave Jim Croce his due. He died way too young. As for this version of “Operator”, again the new version presented here is different, updated with strings, backup singers, and… I have to say I’m kind of missing Croce’s more acoustic and authentic version. Aside from that, who calls the operator on a pay phone to make a phone call anymore? Everybody has a cell phone.
Krall does a haunting version of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”. Listening to this made me realize that this song could be sung by a man or a woman. But once again, I wonder if she’s been taking tranquilizers because this rendition seems a bit sedate and lacking in emotion.
“Feels Like Home” is the one newer song on this collection. It was written by Randy Newman for the mid 90s era musical Faust. I happen to love the version originally done by Bonnie Raitt. It seems ironic that it’s become a big wedding hit now, since the character Margaret in Faust sings this and was not a nice person. Nevertheless, “Feels Like Home” has been sung by a bunch of folks. In fact, I even wrote about that phenomenon myself a couple of years ago, right here on Pop Rock Nation. Diana Krall does this with Bryan Adams and they sound fine. This is another decent cover.
Finally, there’s a rendition of “Don’t Dream Its Over”, a song that I remember from the 80s, when it was sung by Crowded House. It’s been done by others, of course. I got tired of the Crowded House version, so Diana Krall’s more majestic, ethereal, string heavy version is kind of refreshing. It’s a good song and ends Wallflower on a good note.
I bought my copy of Wallflower on iTunes. I want to note that an exclusive deluxe version is offered on Amazon.com. You get four more songs, including “In My Life” “Yeh Yeh” and live versions of “Wallflower” and “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”. I haven’t heard those versions yet, but may go ahead and download them. While many of these songs left me missing the originals, I didn’t hate any of Krall’s covers. I think this is a pleasant album, very comfortable and relaxed. She has done albums I’ve enjoyed more, notably the ones she does featuring standards and jazz. But I think I like Wallflower because I like most of these songs.