“Lady & Gentlemen”, LeAnn Rimes’ first recording effort after a four year absence from the stage is an attempt at crafting an album of known Country music songs originally sung by male singers, this time done by a female singer.
The idea itself is nothing groundbreaking considering it’s been done before, most notably on Tori Amos’ 2001 album “Strange Little Girls”. The concept behind crafting an album where the only thing tying together all songs is their original singers all being male is a pretty weak one, and it tends to show in this album nearly as much as it showed in Amos’.
Lady & Gentlemen isn’t a bad album at all, though. From the get go, Rimes sets a particular vibe for it, starting it out with “Swing”, an up-tempo country anthem originally sung by John Anderson. The problems with the record, however, start appearing nearly immediately after, since the following songs, although musically different from the previous ones, don’t sound all that different to the ear, making most of the album sound like a single overtly long country song that switches tempos and themes at will. Sure, there are a few musical highlights here and there, but the whole of the album is so set in its own tracks and apparently adamant to getting outside from it even a little bit that instead of making these songs shine, which they should do considering these are songs Rimes chose from a rather huge catalogue, it puts them all on what sounds like a same mood and vibe, thus making up-tempo happy songs sound nearly the same as slower, sadder songs.
In other words, it’s horribly hard to get any feeling from this album. Between Rimes’ at times soulless renditions of songs and a production team that apparently felt it would be good to make every single song in the album keep the very same sound, this album sadly drags around for most of its length, to the point where on my first listening of it I only once actually looked at the track list to check on the name of a song because I was liking it (The song was “Help Me Make It Through The Night”), whereas during the rest of the album I just felt I had some nice background music, and little more than that.
However, that’s not to say there isn’t anything good about this album. During its whole length, Rimes actually delivers very good vocal performances that, although spot on in their delivery, ultimately fail to make the listener feel anything from listening to the song, making this album a technically perfect yet horribly flawed album. I’m not sure if it’s the chosen repertoire, the delivery or the production these tracks went through, but here we have an album where the generally uninteresting songs hinder the vocal and musical talents of Rimes.
Among the relatively few songs that actually stand out I could name “16 Tons”, “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “Give”. And out of those three songs, one is actually meant to be a bonus track, and therefore possibly not available in all the localized releases of the album. Other than that, the songs just fail to stand out and, although not bad, and never bad at all, they don’t showcase anything in particular, and when you actually need to sit down and read the lyrics of a song to notice it is meant to be a sad song, as happens with “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, something is clearly wrong with the delivery of said song.
All in all, “Lady & Gentlemen” is a nice effort, badly done. What could’ve been an amazingly strong album falls down under production and performance flaws that turn the final product into an album that can’t be classified bad, yet doesn’t sound like something I’d play to get a friend into country music, instead taking a comfortable place among the albums I play when I just need some background, ambient music. This issue in particular is what makes this album a rather sad affair, since it is meant to showcase some of the songs that have touched the singer the most, yet Rimes fails to actually make the listener fall in love with them. Not only did this album miss the mark by quite a bit, but it actually managed to turn several otherwise amazing songs into generic, boring ones.
Mi final word: If you’re looking for a country music release, I’ve reviewed several other ones, and all of them actually manage to stand out more than this one by far. If you’re a fan of Rimes, you may find this release to your taste, but otherwise there’s just much better out there than this average at best release.
Final review rating: 3/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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