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Unchained Melodies

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Album Review

Karen Akers increased her profile by appearing in her second Broadway musical, Grand Hotel, in 1989, which may have helped her find a home at DRG Records after recording only two previous solo albums, Presenting Karen Akers on Sterling Records in 1981 and In a Very Unusual Way on Cabaret Records in 1987. Unchained Melodies, her DRG debut, typically found her taking on a well-chosen selection of show tunes from stage and film musicals. Among the contemporary material, she showed a particular affinity for Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire's 1989 off-Broadway revue Closer Than Ever, leading off the set with "If I Sing" from that show and later turning in a convincing rendition of "Life Story," the first-person narrative of a contemporary middle-aged woman relating her journey through marriage, liberation, divorce, career, and regrets (despite its repeated refrain, "I'm not complaining"). She sang a song from Grand Hotel, but it was "I Waltz Alone," not one of the ones she had sung on-stage. She turned smartly seductive in Stephen Sondheim's 1990 Academy Award winner "Sooner or Later," from the film Dick Tracy, far outdoing Madonna, who introduced it. She also resurrected songs from failed shows, such as "Blame It On the Summer Night" from 1986's Rags and "I Never Know When to Say When" from 1958's Goldilocks, and, always a Francophile, sang "Unchained Melody" partly in French as well as presenting the French song "L'Année Où Piccoli." The spare accompaniments, basically a piano and bass with a reed instrument played by Andy Drelles and a few added percussive effects here and there, served to support her usual direct, carefully enunciated, plain-sung interpretations, ideal for appreciation of the material. As she had throughout her cabaret career, Akers here proved a boon to both songwriters and their aficionados.


Born: New York, NY

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Cabaret singer and actress Karen Akers was born Karen Orth-Pallavicini in New York City on October 13, 1945. Her ancestry was a mixture of European stock: her immigrant father, a member of the European nobility who dropped his title when he came to America, was of Austrian and Swiss/Italian heritage; her American-born mother had Russian, Norwegian, and French forebears on one side of her family and Scots-Irish ones on the other. Akers initially aspired to be a folksinger in the 1960s, but she also...
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Unchained Melodies, Karen Akers
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