Is "Interludes" Lyn Stanley's Breakthrough Album?

Lyn Stanley’s third effort had better not be more of the same I told her, but only because she asked. Otherwise, it’s really none of my business, especially since I would be reviewing it.

A third album is where you either show startling growth or you repeat yourself and even fans start looking elsewhere—at least that’s my take, and since Lyn was asking I told her.

For this album Lyn brought aboard two groups of musicians recording at two venues, though most was done at United Recording Studio A with a core quartet of Bill Cunliffe on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ray Brinker on drums and John Chiodini on guitar augmented on some tracks by Bob McChesney on trombone, Henrick Meurkens on harmonica, Brad Dutz on percussion and Cecilia Tsan on cello.

Four tracks were recorded at Capitol Studio A with Mike Garson on piano, Berghofer again on bass and Chiodini on guitar, plus Paul Kreibich on drums.

These are all top studio musicians many of whom regularly gig live around the L.A. area—and of course Garson is familiar as well to David Bowie fans. The arrangements by Tamir Hendleman, Bill Cunliffe, Steve Rawlins and Lyn are by far the most sophisticated, swinging and musically interesting to be found on a Lyn Stanley album.

Combine the slinky arrangements and the first class playing and its clear Ms. Stanley was looking to take things up more than a few notches and putting enormous pressure on herself to not be left in the musical dust—which could have happened.

These veterans have been at it for decades and it shows, or should I write it “hears”. Lyn Stanley is a relative newcomer and while in places that was clear on her first two albums, which had their “uh-oh” moments ( which you hear more if you’re paying critical attention than just casually enjoying the pleasant ride), on this one Ms. Stanley freely expresses herself with a well-disciplined looseness and playfulness (where appropriate) that allows the listener to relax into it and enjoy, rather than wait with apprehension for the next not quite convincing phrase or pitch mis-connection ("Vocal Production" credit goes to Windy Wagner and if she was the album's vocal coach, she did a splendid job!)

In other words, Lyn Stanley fits right in with this crowd, rather than standing somewhat apart as it felt like in places on the previous two albums, where it was more obvious that she was self-consciously calling attention to herself instead of just singing—like the difference between an accomplished actress who just “is” and one who advertises “hey, I’m acting!” That is a seemingly subtle distinction, but one that’s at the same time a major accomplishment that clears a high hurdle.

The album opens with the Gershwin chestnut “How Long Has This Been Going On?” (the title of which was appropriated in the mid 1970s by the group Ace for a totally unrelated tune) introduced acapella and then smoothly segueing into the musical backdrop. Stanley’s artistic growth is immediately obvious and by the end of the track you’re thinking more artistry and less artifice.

I don’t think Ms. Stanley could have successfully negotiated on her first two albums the simmering Gato Barbieri/Dory Previn song “Last Tango In Paris” but here she does with an ease that surely comes from both study and live performance experience.

For the most part the songs have been conservatively selected from the so-called “Great American Songbook”, including the second tune “Just One of Those Things” (not quite as well-inhabited as “How Long…”), “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Nice ‘n’ Easy”, “In a Sentimental Mood”, “More Than You Know” and “I’m a Fool To Want You” (good, but believe me, Billie Holiday isn’t breaking a sweat), but there’s chance taking too with the aforementioned “Last Tango In Paris” and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s steamy “The Island”, which is among the album’s stand-out performances.

Ms. Stanley also covers “Black Velvet” originally popularized by Alannah Myles and “Whole Lotta Love”—yes, that “Whole Lotta Love”, which is saved by an extraordinary arrangement that does for the song what the arrangements for Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love To You” and George Harrison’s “Something” on her debut album did not do. Still, while it gets an “A” for an audacious choice and performance and an “A” for the arrangement, it’s not my favorite.

No matter, on Interludes Lyn Stanley digs far more deeply and successfully into the emotional fabric of the songs she’s chosen to interpret than on her previous two records, where she often skimmed the surface with place-saving filler. That is not to criticize the earlier efforts as much as it’s meant to alert you to the finely woven textures and overall vocal finesse found here. There are surprises along the way within most of the songs here. It’s obvious that everyone involved was well-onboard and not just collecting a paycheck.

The one area where Ms. Stanley has chosen to stand pat is the image she's projecting in the cover art: high gloss luxury, heavy on the make up. That works so why change it? When I saw that the third album cover maintained the status quo I thought about what happened to Marti Jones when she left A&M and went to RCA. At A&M she projected a wholesome "girl next door" Image her fans were comfortable with. RCA or perhaps the artist herself went in Lyn Stanley's heavily made up Diva direction for the cover of Any Kind of Lie and that was it for Marti who became a painter. So Lyn, don't can the pancake!

Even the sound, as absolutely stunning as it was on the first two albums, is up by a considerable margin—something I didn’t think was possible. The stage is wide and deep; the instruments remarkably transparent and three-dimensionally solid. The great Al Schmitt engineered to tape at United and Steve Genewick did likewise at Capitol. Neumann U-47s—including Frank Sinatra’s courtesy Capitol—captured Ms. Stanley’s vocals. If ever you needed a reason why we must insure that great recording studios survive, with sessions helmed by the engineering greats, this album provides it.

Bernie Grundman mastered and cut lacquers at 45rpm. Pressing was at QRP. The album is also dedicated to Bernie, who Lyn calls “the father of audiophiles.” I knew something was up there, because so many of us look just like Bernie! Now I know why.

It’s important to remember that these three costly Lyn Stanley projects, recorded and mixed to analog tape and featuring top musicians, arrangers and engineers and released in deluxe editions on vinyl, hybrid SACD and even one-to-one 15IPS tape copies were funded in full by Lyn Stanley, whose determination and perseverance should be an inspiration to all—regardless of what is your personal dream. Ms. Stanley is living hers and obviously enjoying it to the fullest. At least that’s what it sounds like on this breakthrough album that could find its way over the audiophile ghetto walls.

Music Direct Buy It Now

stretch35's picture

now looking forward to this one. Also picked up Marti Jones Used Guitars that I heard mentioned on a dvd....excellent.

Lyn Stanley's picture

My team for Interludes and I want to thank you appreciate this review and your comments are delightful to read as always. Thank you for this!

VirginVinyl's picture

I just purchased last month 2 of Lyn's autograph LPs from AcousticSounds. I enjoyed here music and found to be quite unique in style. Its great to see an artist put the effort to create these HD recordings.

Thank you

mraudioguru's picture

...all three of her Lps. Excellent production and sonics. Oh, and what a voice!

tames's picture

I picked up the third album as soon as I saw it was available. I have been enjoying it as much as the first two!

Steelhead's picture

She is a song bird and my vinyl of her first two albums are just killer. Quiet, flat, and excellent production.

One of the artists that make me put down the IPA and have a Martini or Manhattan to kick back and let her fill the room with music.

Another must buy.

Lyn Stanley's picture

Thank you dear friends for your comments. I am thrilled that you appreciate the thought and effort we are putting into my albums for your enjoyment. It means so much to read this positive feedback, and my sincere thanks!

Auric G's picture

makes it to reel 2 reel, it might just blow the knob right off Mikey's sound dial.

Lyn Stanley's picture

It is in reel to reel...and they are currently in Japan, Australia and UK with very happy owners! The flanges are engraved with Bernie's signature and certification of authenticity along with the album logo art.

Jazzfan62's picture

I saw Lyn at last years' RMAF. I recognized her and went up to her. I can't express in words what a sheer joy it is to talk to her and down to earth beauty she exudes. I'm from St. Louis. Erin Bode is a local artist that is just a sheer joy to talk to. You just really want to see wonderful people like these great ladies succeed.

They are the kind of artists that, once you meet them in person, you personally gain a greater appreciation of their performance. Can't wait to get this album.

elliotdrum's picture

I was born in 1945 and very connected to 40' and 50's Jazz.
My parents had the radio on all day dialed to a station that
played big bands and jazz vocalists. The thing I don't hear
in the jazz artists today is the swing has become unimportant.
Billie Holiday could sing anything a market shopping list and
it would swing. No disrespect to Miss Stanley she has a beautiful
voice but don't forget It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!!

TonyG's picture

Michael -

Just had to share that I had the exact same feelings when "Any Kind of Lie" came out. Huge Marti Jones fan and I thought 'What are you doing?!?!"

Lyn Stanley's picture

MUSIC MATTERSI’m searching for something really great to say about Lyn Stanley’s new “Interludes” super audio CD because she’s one of the nicest voices to come along in quite some time. Hell of an entertainer. No, not like Doris Day even though both have a magical quality in their voices. Not like a female Frank Sinatra either. Lyn Stanley stands out, though, and her “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” goes immediately to the top of my currently most-listened. I mean, this girl is good. I’m immensely impressed. Jazz, but with a pop approach. An honest to goodness nightclub chanteuse. One that can kill a personal conversation because you’ve got to stop and listen to her sing. I enjoyed “It’s Crazy,” the very esoteric “Last Tango in Paris,” and “I Was a Little Too Lonely.” She’s jazz and back by some great musicians and you’re going to love this CD. All of it. And Lyn Stanley, too!
Rollye: Great mood music. You can hear it for yourself at I've had it on while compiling this column and in a word, it was “soothing”. Lyn produced the album herself, and was daring enough to turn Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love into a standard. Pulled it off, too. I'd bet Willie Dixon would have liked her take. (As you might know, Dixon, one of the most prolific blues songwriters ever, successfully sued for a portion of the rights, as it was based in a part on one of his songs that Muddy Waters did earlier.)

Monkeyboy's picture

I just bought this a week ago and I must say it is clearly a reference recording for testing new equipment. Last year at the Capitol Audiofest I heard it for the first time and sat down in the VPI room to have a listen in the sweet spot. Occasionally the overdubs of her voice made it sound incredibly rich and vivid. After a few minutes I noticed Lyn was standing about ten feet away from me and she was singing along with the album from time to time. No over dubs, it was her the whole time. That showed me just how good the fidelity is on this album.

I'm not crazy about her rendition of Whole Lotta Love, but the album as a whole is great for an intimate evening and the sound is as good as I have on any album I own.