Review: Dwight Townsend, Encores Redux

Dwight Townsend, Encores Redux

24 Jun, 2013 Kelly O'Neil

Spending his golden years recording originals and favorites of the golden era has been baritone Dwight Townsend’s passion resulting in the second of his double disc Best Of collections Encores Redux.  With over two hours of heartfelt ballads and toe-tapping jazzy numbers Townsend once again delivers an influx of happy music.

With the gracious assistance from the talented members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Townsend’s songs possess signature high quality arrangements and musicianship.  This is most evident in his abundant use of lush strings, especially in his numerous amorous ballads.  “If You Ever Leave Me” features the strings joined by quiet drums and piano with the trombone playing a countermelody adding texture while “Didn’t We Girl” instead utilizes the saxophone.  The sparse instrumentation of “Anyone Would Love You” makes the song more powerful with the simple trio of voice, cello and piano.

Townsend masterfully is able to switch gears from singing a soulful personal piece to a big Broadway style number with the fanatical orchestration to match.  “A Man and a Woman” is reminiscent of Richard Harris from the late 1960s with the rolling and dipping melody ornamented with woodwind interludes between verses.  The ending has a dramatic flair, perfect for the stage.  A more song and dance number is the perky march “On a Wonderful Day Like Today” with the ascending strings and jovial demeanor.  “If I Didn’t Have You” is another upbeat tune with a swinging clarinet solo and humorous extended coda.  The French horn is the featured solo instrument in “Night” with piano, clarinet and strings adding to the serenity.

Mixing it up a bit is the bossa nova “Stranger in Paradise” with the flute lead and trombone bridge solo and the samba “She’s Just Another Girl” with a huge Tom Jones stylistic belted ending.  In fact, many legendary performers are channeled on Encores Redux.  The signature jazz ensemble accompaniment used by the Rat Pack and other lounge act giants is found in abundance in Townsend’s repertoire including Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” with an added namedrop honoring the Chairman of the Board.  Speaking of which other tunes made famous by Frank Sinatra are also included on this collection with the straightforward “Call Me Irresponsible”  that is aptly suited to Townsend’s vocals assisted by the noodling muted trumpet.  The instrument is heard again in the haunting rendition of “In the Wee Small Hours.”  A mediocre jazz flute is the central figure in the minimalist accompaniments for “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Pick Yourself Up” and “Fly Me to the Moon” which are well executed but lack panache.

The flute makes another prominent appearance on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and the countermelody the instrument provides in “Put On a Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie is fitting.  Another cheery tune is Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” complete with whistling.

There are a few cloudy moments though on this overall sunny collection.  “What Now My Love” was originally translated from the 1961 French piece “Et Maitenant” and Townsend’s foreign language enunciation is mushy.  Ironically his vocals are wavering and unsteady in the love declarations “Johanna” and “I Love You Samantha.”  Both “Cara Mia” and “Too Late Now” suffers from some vocal inconsistencies and muddled sounds.

On the whole, Townsend’s delight and enthusiasm for presenting these songs is evident in his performance.  Many fan favorites of yore are included on Encores Redux with applaudable arrangements and excellent musicianship.

Reviewers Name:        Kelly O’Neil
Rating:    4 stars (out of 5)