Tom Andersen: Now and Then

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Tom Andersen

Now and Then

(Other Music, Inc.)

July 11, 2019

Reiewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

Sometimes an artist just has to do their own thing. Missing from the cabaret scene for awhile, Tom Andersen is making waves again with his new, homemade CD, Now and Then, released on social media. It is a well-conceived, personalized album of carefully chosen songs that hit all the right chords when it comes to interpretation, reinvention, and good taste. Too, there’s a variety of styles here not always associated with his past work, such as jazz and torch songs. His pristine vocals can set any song on fire and give it a new life because of his unique voice. He’s always been a singer who can invite the listener into the heart of the songwriter’s intent. Such a gift is what makes him the compelling singer he still is.

More mature now while remaining as expressive as before, Andersen’s voice is decidedly more dulcet, and his fluid vocals are as lilting and moving as always. Peppered with some very well-crafted standards, such as “Always,” “Blue Skies,” and “Witchcraft,” as well as  an ambitious drum-driven “Dites Moi” fused with “Bali Hai” from South Pacific, this eclectic album also contains some sweet surprises, like “The Journey Home” from Broadway’s Bombay Dreams. This lesser-known gem is an exceptional cut. Andersen might be the only vocalist who would include this forgotten song on a solo album, and the results are outstanding.
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An interesting choice comes with a somber, almost unrecognizable “I Won’t  Send Roses” from Mack and Mabel. This is given an introspective, poetic reading. He reinvents the song with tempo changes, making it a somewhat dirge-like ballad with resonant tones creating an unexpected urgency. Sung in a soft baritone enhanced by some talk-singing only adds to the darkness. Such a shadowy interpretation (à la “Mack the Knife”) shows Andersen at a much more mature stage as he weaves an insular phrasing that personalizes the lyric and eschews excessive drama and never loses the carping intent of this beauty. He took a chance, and it paid off. Such a re-imagining of a well-known song could have been a misfire in lesser hands.
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“My Prayer,” a pop hit from The Platters in the 1950s, is one of the album’s standouts. Sung against a soft piano, guitar, and background tracks, Andersen captures every not-so-subtle nuance in this yearning lover’s song through his signature use of impeccable phrasing and expressive vocals. A surprise is his re-reading of “Storybook” from The Scarlet Pimpernel, a signature song for him throughout the ’90s with an ending that soared. Then, sung with an unrivaled crescendo and sustained notes that went on forever, this waltz was unmatched and left its mark. In this updated incarnation, Andersen takes a less kinetic pace and calls on warmer phrasing without losing the impact of this gem that is a welcome revisit by this master storyteller.

There are other noteworthy surprises from this fascinating singer on this CD. It is well worth the download and sure to become a listening mainstay among purveyors of good taste. With luck, this CD might signal a reentry to the clubs by one of the finest male singers of the last few decades who still has so much to offer.

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.