Some 40 years ago, John Simon, largely on the strength of his successful work as a producer, was signed to Warner Bros. records and made two albums for them. The beautifully written songs were coupled with perfectly sympathetic arrangements and orchestrations. There was, however, one major flaw: Simon’s singing voice. Unable to even muster the idiosyncratically confident bearing of a Randy Newman or a Biff Rose, the recordings sounded like gorgeously finished tracks with demo guide vocals for someone else to sing.
Enter Lee Feldman. Whether or not anyone else makes this connection with John Simon, it is a potent one for me. It is as if Feldman has filled that place, not nostalgically, just covering similar bases and points of reference, but with vocal confidence.
As with his previous three albums, Feldman is first and foremost a songwriter, with the friendly results drawing from Tin Pan Alley (“Baby”), Broadway (“That’s the Way the World Used to Work,” “That Party’s Over”), and ’60s radio pop (“River”). The piano-based songs are thoughtfully embellished with occasional strings, horns and even a Frippertronic-like guitar. Always in service to the songs, the instrumental flourishes are sparingly utilized; Feldman uses the right tool for the job.
Joining Brian Wilson with a song written in the first-person voice of a tree, “Trees Are People Too” is given a celebratory ballroom band horn section, tying that fanciful conceit to a traditional template. “I Remember the Night,” the set’s most nakedly emotional song, finds Feldman aptly alone at the piano.