Review: Herb Alpert/Lani Hall “I Feel You”
–by Bill Bernardi (TijuanaBrass.com/A&M Corner)
In the foodie world there is a term called “deconstruction”, which basically is taking the ingredients of a classic dish and reinventing that same dish. That’s how I view I Feel You, a collection on mainly classic songs that go through this decontruction method. For the most part, it turns out to be a tasty treat!
Moondance – I’m so used to Van Morrison’s original version, so this was quite a surprise. Gotta love Hussain Jiffry’s bass groove to start things off, with Herb’s muted trumpet stating the melody. Herb and Lani sing a couple of verses of the tune, then Herb and Bill Cantos do a little cat and mouse exchange, while Hussain’s bass keeps things in check. Nice tune.
Cast Your Fate To The Wind – I was never a huge fan of this song, but I absolutely love this version. Lani sings the melody over Michael Shapiro’s drum, then Herb provides some beautiful horn work, which starts a bit subtle then explodes throughout the rest of the song. This is a true highlight for me.
There Will Never Be Another You – This starts out with a nice groove and Herb’s playful horn. Herb then sings, and it’s really kind of weak. It’s more of a rasp and I keep thinking he needs to cough up something. Maybe it wasn’t in the right key for singing. Fortunately, his muted trumpet solo saves the day. Really nice playing.
Fever – Lani gives this a bit of a sultry reading over an exotic drum beat. Herb provides a trumpet solo that sounds similar to what he did on the Re-Whipped album.
Viola (Viola Fora De Moda) – This has become one of my favorite Brazilian tunes over the past few years. Lani starts things off with Bill’s piano, then Herb pops in with the entire rhythm section providing a nice groove. I’m guessing that’s Bill singing along with Lani on the chorus. Herb just seems comfortable playing on this tune, going muted and open. A very strong track and a clear favorite of mine.
Something Cool – Herb starts singing and I’m getting nervous. But this song seems to suit him just fine. It’s one of those songs where he sounds believable as a singer. In the liner notes Lani mentions that June Christy made this song popular in the 50’s and that no male has ever sung this before. This is a nice ballad, and sounds as if it could’ve been from Midnight Sun. I like it.
What Now My Love – A bit of an African rhythm starts things off with Herb playing the melody. Can’t say this did much for me at all. My least favorite track of the album.
Here Comes The Sun – When I mentioned deconstruction earlier, this is a prime example. When doing a Beatles tune you’d better be sure you’re not just copying what’s been done before, and brother they really get out there on this version. Love Shapiro’s drumming on this track while Lani seems to stay the course with the melody. Another Re-Whipped feeling on Herb’s solo. Very unique interpretation. I like this a lot.
Blackbird – This reminds me of something that Cassandra Wilson did several years ago. It starts off with a bit of a rubato feel before the rhythm section kicks in with Herb’s impressive solo. Love Shapiro’s drumming on this track. I can listen to this over and over. My favorite track of the album. This is just incredible!
Club Esquina (Clube Da Esquina) – This sounds almost exactly like the version Manolo Badrena did on his album that Herb produced in ’79. It’s a very simple and somewhat plain arrangement, yet it just draws me into a trance while listening to it. Lani again provides a sultry vocal, then Herb adds a harmony trumpet that has a mournful quality to it. This is just gorgeous.
Berimbau – Another Brazilian favorite of mine, with Herb providing a mysterious quality to his solo, no doubt helped by the reverb. This definitely is not the Brasil ’66 version. Very nice.
I Feel You – A Bill Cantos original, with Lani’s beautiful voice totally exposed for our listening pleasure. This sounds like it could fit on Lani’s Hello It’s Me album. Herb provides a brief, poignant trumpet solo. Beautiful.
Call Me – A dark approach to this song. Lani’s vocals really stand out on this song, with Herb doing another mournful solo. Love Bill’s strings and “vibes” work on this.
‘Til There Was You – Hussain’s playful bass starts things off, with some finger snaps providing the rhythm and Herb’s muted trumpet playing the melody. It’s a brief, quirky song, although Herb really doesn’t do much on the horn on this track.
A Taste Of Honey (Bonus Track) – This is pretty much the version Herb did on the Jools Holland show, with a bit of a different ending. It’s okay, but it doesn’t compare to either the TJB version or the Midnight Sun version. I can take this or leave it.
Overall, this is a very solid album – I would give this 4 stars out of 5. If you’re expecting a perky, happy album you may be disappointed. I think it’s a pretty ballsy album by Herb and Lani. It’s very different from the “norm” and may require some repeat listening. But that’s okay in my book. They take some chances here, and for the most part it works quite well. Herb’s trumpet playing is solid throughout and Lani’s vocals are impeccable as usual. The arrangements are unique, to say the least, and I think that’s what makes this a solid album. I hope I get a chance to see them perform in concert this year!