It’s About Time
(Zevely Records, Inc.)
March 15, 2017
Reviewed by Michael Miyazaki for Cabaret Scenes
Karen Mason’s CD It’s About Time is everything one wants a cabaret CD to be: original, yet familiar; pensive and exciting; moving and thrilling.
Mason is probably the best brassy belter on the scene today. Moreover, her longtime support team—Musical Director/pianist/arranger Christopher Denny; director/arranger Barry Kleinbort; and engineer/songwriter (and husband) Paul Rolnick—all do terrific work on this CD.
The disc opens with the same-sex marriage anthem “It’s About Time” (Rolnick/Shelly Markham). Mason’s stirring performance makes one understand why it won the 2013 MAC Award for Song of the Year. Next up is a surprise: “Finding Wonderland” from the musical Wonderland [in which she appeared as the Queen of Hearts, with other numbers]. Mason imbues the song with a tenderness and authority lacking in the original cast recording, where it was sung by someone else in a performance that seemed to be mainly about belting. And this illustrates one of this vocalist’s best attributes: that, although she has an instrument of power and versatility, her main goal always is to communicate an idea or feeling, not just to demonstrate her vocal prowess. (And, if this song continues having a cabaret life, the songwriters Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy owe Mason a grateful thank-you note.)
Mason fronts a full, swinging band on “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Just in Time” (with its rarely heard introduction), and “The Man That Got Away.” Her tender mood comes through on “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” (with particularly sensitive piano work by Christopher Denny), and “Over the Rainbow.” We hear the anthemic Mason in a “Somewhere”/”The Impossible Dream” medley.
Highlights of recent Karen Mason recordings have been original songs by husband Paul Rolnick; here, his “Once Upon a Dream Come True” presents a joyous, country-tinged picture of satisfied love.
Two highlights of the CD feature surprise pianists. Billy Goldenberg accompanies Mason on his “Fifty Percent” (Lyrics: Alan & Marilyn Bergman). Their version is a master class of musical storytelling. In the last cut of the CD, Mason sings “Love Is Here to Stay” to a rediscovered accompaniment track by her early musical partner, Brian Lasser, who died in 1992. The song is a touching tribute across time—a stirring meditation on the indelible nature of certain connections.