SOUNDS FAMILIAR By Baby A. Gil Updated June 10, 2009 12:00 AM
This is not about age. Michael Bublé is young but he has what it takes. Nor about race. Rod Stewart who does those songs well is British. Some Pinoys have it. I was fortunate to hear the late rapper FrancisM do some and he certainly had it. I still regret he was never able to record those songs. So it is either they have it or they don’t.
I am referring to singers who like to sing the standards, which is how we now refer to those songs from the pre-rock and roll era in the great American songbook. It takes a certain sensibility for a singer to be able to immerse himself inside those songs. Very few have what it takes and if the singers don’t, the results can be abominable.
Renee Olstead is one of those who has it. She was only 13 and an actress in the sitcom Still Standing when the famous David Foster heard her sing. You know Foster. He made hits for Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, mentored Bublé, Josh Groban and is now doing the same to our Charice. It was he who decided then that Renee was matured enough to record her own album of standards.
The result was titled Renee Olstead and was released in 2004. It was an ambitious effort. Imagine a teenager taking on Summertime and Taking A Chance on Love and Someone to Watch Over Me and On A Slow Boat to China and lots more of the same. I thought that she did quite well considering her age but could still gain from the ripening process that only age can bring. I am glad she now gets to show that off in her new CD Skylark.
Skylark is even more ambitious but Renee now has the necessary chops. Standards like Stars Fell on Alabama; My Baby Just Cares for Me; You’ve Changed; Ain’t We Got Fun; When I Fall in Love, a duet with the romantic wizard of the trumpet, Chris Botti are featured together with the unlikely. Think of the bouncy Hit the Road Jack, which I remember from Ray Charles in the ’60s and new originals which are beautiful, Midnight Man, but at times detract from the mood.
But this album is not about the songs. It is about Renee whose vocal range and depth of expression now ranks her alongside the great divas of these songs. Krall, Monheit, Peyroux, please welcome your little sister to the fold.