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If We Only Have Love

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Album Review

As the album's title, drawn from a song used in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, suggests, Broadway and nightclub singer Karen Akers explores the impact of love in her fifth album for DRG Records, which, as usual, consists of show tunes. "Patterns," written by David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr. for their musical Baby but not introduced until their anthology revue Closer Than Ever, serves as an introduction to the subject. "A Sleepin' Bee," Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's ballad from House of Flowers, discusses how to recognize love. "Try to Remember," Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' standard from The Fantasticks, takes a broad, philosophical view. But then Akers turns more specific in "My Childhood," a song heard in later productions of Jacques Brel..., and becomes ironic in Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. The heart of the album finds her reprising a trio of songs from Nine, a show in which she starred (made timely by a 2003 revival) as the wife of a straying film director. But the thematic core of the disc may be her medley of "I Know Him So Well" and "Anthem" from Chess. The first of these songs is usually presented as a duet between two women who love the same man and view him very differently; Akers subtracts some lyrics to focus on a single woman's feelings. Then she gives a personal interpretation of the usually more grandiose "Anthem." This sets up the album's finale, a combination of two songs from West Side Story and the title song, which proclaim the universal implications of love. Accompanied only by pianist Don Rebic, Akers tackles well-known songs as well as relative obscurities here, and she gives them all the same clear, straightforward readings, in some cases transforming meaning through context and juxtaposition, but always trusting to the songs to make her points for her.


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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If We Only Have Love, Karen Akers
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