Gretchen Reinhagen: Take It with Me

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Gretchen Reinhagen

Take It with Me

(Raw Diamond Records)

July 11, 2019

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Gretchen Reinhagen sets the bar high with her new CD, Take It with Me. In doing so, she proves what everybody already knows—what a powerhouse she can be.

Since her wildly successful, multi-award-winning show Special Kaye: A Tribute to the Incomparable Kaye Ballard a few years ago, where she paid tribute to her muse Kaye Ballard, she has achieved cabaret success to great acclaim. The lady is uniquely talented, and with this banner album she unfurls a plethora of remarkable gifts. Executive producer Raymond Renault leads her impressive creative team. The album unfolds many parts of her personal story that is open and refreshing in its honesty. At times, it’s like peeking into her diary.

Opening with “Listen to the Music” (Johnston), she reveals a natural exuberance for life that is contagious. On Karen Mack’s terrific “Different for Girls,” with profound non sequiturs like “the perception of panic, waiting for time to unfurl, the taste for destruction, mama says it’s different for girls,” you know she’s lived through some challenges. Like other selections on this album, this is a fierce song that has conviction and meaning. She pulls it off with ease without being self-indulgent or pandering. With a cleverly arranged “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” she is casual and jazzy with a youthful silliness that reinvents this show-stopper into a fun ditty with panache. She also displays a sense of humor in her delivery. Then, changing moods, she offers a blues suite of songs that includes a smoky “Lazy Afternoon” (Jerome Moross/John Latouche), followed by a heavy bass line leading into a poignant reading of “Little Girl Blue” (Rodgers & Hart) that becomes a country-blues song worthy of the best of them from another era, all sung with dreamy baritone nuances that are mellow-toned gems. On “Good Thing Blues” (written with Tracy Stark), she is witty and sardonic and has more fun with some sassy lyrics: “I just can’t enough of a good thing/I always seem to lose it somehow.

” These songs (not sung in medley) show exceptional diversity of styles for this intelligent lady with a lot to offer. Such diversity peaks with Bob Dylan’s trenchant “I Shall Be Released.” Sung with the full band and a small choir, it crescendos to a revival-like fervor, making this one of the most meaningful numbers on the disk. Tracy Stark has outdone herself on this gospel/jazz style arrangement, and Reinhagen’s voice sails on the ending like the best belter from the gospel circuit. It’s all a fitting tribute to her talent that this cabaret singer has such a wide range of musical emotions to be reckoned with. It all wraps up neatly with the Tom Waits beauty “Take It with Me,” sung with a memorably simple accompaniment. With this CD, Gretchen Reinhagen moves to another level and takes her listeners along for the tender ride.

On this well-produced album, by Paul Rolnick, the following exceptional musicians are heard: Tom Hubbard (bass), Don Kelly and Rex Benincasa (drums/percussion), Kevin Kuhn (guitars), Andrew David Sotomayor (piano), and Tracy Stark (piano/arrangements).

Backup vocalists are Andrew David Sotomayor, Karen Mack, Paul Rolnick, Karen Mason. 

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.