November 2000

Maria Muldaur - Music for Lovers
Telarc CD 83512
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]It’s been a long week -- it’s Friday night, you’re dog tired and all you want to do is spend a little quality time alone with your significant other. Dinner’s over, the lights are low and the wine is chilled. Now the only problem is, what to put on the old music box to set the mood? Well, allow me to light the romantic fire in your heart: Slip Music For Lovers, Maria Muldaur’s latest disc from Telarc, into your player. Then sit back and listen as Muldaur fans the flame of love within you and your partner with her inimitable "bluesiana" stylings. And feel free to repeat when necessary -- I sincerely doubt that you’ll ever tire of listening to Maria caress this collection of tunes taken from her three previous Telarc albums.

I confess I’ve missed Maria Muldaur. I’ve always thought she possessed one of music’s most distinctive voices. Her way with a tune was, and still is, masterful. And her vocal abilities haven’t diminished at all over the years since her debut with Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band. Billie Holiday is the only other vocalist I can think of who had the same way with, and put as much feeling into, her tunes. To hear what I mean, listen to "Think About You," where Muldaur’s voice caresses each note, lingering over some longer than the others, so you can never tell just when she’s going to release them (making it darn difficult to sing along with, I might add).

Some of you might remember Muldaur’s hit song from the ‘70s, "Midnight At The Oasis." Well, to hear what she wants now that she’s gotten you to the oasis, listen to "I Want To Be Loved," which I consider its sequel. It will make you forget those lost years and take you on a musical journey deep into the desert night. And when she sings "Soothe Me," you’ll want to hop the first flight south to do just that -- but let’s hope you’ve got someone better close to hand. And wait until you hear her sing "Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You" as a duet with the great Charles Brown!

Music For Lovers closes with Muldaur doing her rendition of the Bruce Cockburn song "Southland Of The Heart" so soulfully I never wanted either the song or the disc to end. Having never heard Cockburn’s version, I can’t comment on whether or not Muldaur does it better -- but if she doesn’t, I’d be very surprised. This is a disc that my wife, who doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what I’m reviewing, found intoxicating.

The sound of Music For Lovers varies from cut to cut -- which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, since these eleven tracks were recorded over a 3 1/2 year period in different locations, with different engineers. Telarc’s already superb sound has been improving steadily over the last few years, and you can really hear those improvements here. Not that any of the cuts sound bad, mind you -- because they don’t -- it’s just that some of the songs sound better than others. (And if you guessed that the ones recorded last sound best, well, don’t wrench your arm out of its socket patting yourself on the back.) There is a nice sense of space around the musicians, the kind that I wish more mainstream labels would put into their recordings. Muldaur is front and center; a full, three-dimensional singer, not just some cardboard cutout with a voice. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with either the sound or, more importantly, the music here.

So, late at night, when you’re trying to understand what she-who-must-be-obeyed is thinking, don’t even bother. Put on Music For Lovers, grab the one you love for a spin on the dance floor, and let Maria Muldaur’s vocal talents reveal everything you’ll need to know. I’ll bet your loved one will be too "busy" to notice. Come to think of it, you just might be, too.