"...one hell of a brilliant genius of a songwriter." Christine Lavin
NO HARM DONE, COQUETTE
The Songs of Babbie Green and Johnny Green
with Babbie Green & John Boswell
and Julie Esposito
"...a joy to listen to...it's wonderful work." Alan and Marilyn Bergman
...this new CD comes along at a time when great CDs are in short supply...It is really wonderful ...What a treasure trove...I just love it.
"Oh my God, this is a beautiful recording. And what a marvelous combination ... a blend of Babbie's songs with the classic songs of her father, Johnny Green. This is a brilliant idea. And it works! There's a delightful surprise right away with a lovely instrumental Overture, melding her song "No Harm Done" with her father's "Coquette." This musical treasure alternates with Babbie's and Johnny's songs both individually and together ... including a favorite of mine "Twixt Heaven and Hell"/"Hello, My Lover, Goodbye" ... a delicious delicacy only Babbie Green could create. Babbie obviously relishes performing these songs .... and with the wonderful talents of John Boswell and Julie Esposito, too, you've got a CD you'll enjoy hearing again and again. Another one of my favorites on the CD is Babbie's "Til the Next Good Thing." It makes me look forward to her next release ... and that will be a very good thing indeed."
Taking in the various colors of music available on CD, this week's column starts with the Green scene - no, not Shrek or even Elphaba, but Babbie Green's album, with a major salute to her father, Johnny Green. ...
WITH JOHN BOSWELL AND JULIE ESPOSITO
NO HARM DONE COQUETTE
Lion And Lark Songs
In its honoring and interpreting the work of her dad so very successfully, this album is both rewarding and warming, not to mention musically historic. For lovers of musicals, the name Johnny Green is iconic work as musical director for classic films such as An American in Paris to West Side Story. He also wrote some original scores like the Oscar-nominated Raintree County. Babbie Green is joined by singer Julie Esposito and singer-pianist and frequent collaborator John Boswell for a new CD. It makes strong cases for the prodigious songwriting talents of two Greens: both father and daughter. Babbie has a field day of a Father's Day revisiting 11 of his melodies (with various lyricists) sitting side by side with her own impressive lyrics and music - and singing - which all show vulnerability and versatility. The oldies hold up well, from the buried treasures to Mr. Green's most famous melody ("Body and Soul" first heard on Broadway in a 1930 revue Three's a Crowd and revived in two other shows in the 1980s, thus still being heard on Broadway when he passed away, twenty years ago next month.).
In her interesting liner notes, Babbie talks about being immersed in her father's music, from playing piano duets with him to her first memory of seeing him conduct: as a tot, she saw him lead the orchestra for Rodgers & Hart's By Jupiter, before he moved on to symphony work. It's his own songwriting that is on display here, and his proud daughter offers dignified and moving solo vocal versions of his standards "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Body and Soul". These two come with some tradition of gravitas and high drama, but Babbie manages to get right to the core of each, avoiding any melodramatics or burial in layers of self-pity. The rare spare approach on these is refreshing and makes them more immediate and real.
But there is plenty more to savor, including some sweetness and/or lighter fare plucked from Johnny Green's repertoire. All three singers are perky and peppy having a barrel and a half of fun with the oldies "Coquette" and "The Steam Is on the Beam", plus two songs from the 1944 Broadway show Beat the Band: "You Wanna Keep Your Baby Lookin' RIght", the hilarious character piece from an old movie with a Leo Robin lyric about a material girl of yore cooing and conniving for furs and such from her rich sweetheart, and "The Turntable Song" (also worth a spin on Julie Esposito's solo album of not-overdone movie songs Unsung Hollywood).
And sometimes it's time for the bittersweet: A musical production called Here Goes the Bride said hello and goodbye to Broadway audiences in the first week of November 1931 but from it survives a number called "Hello My Lover Goodbye". In one of the CD's most moving tracks, Babbie blends her father's work with one of her own ("Twixt Heaven and Hell") as the two pieces about regretful but resigned romantic parting dovetail and inform each other. John Boswell sings John Green's melody (with an Edward Hayman lyric) while Babbie sings her own, and they weave in and out of each other. The same game plan works well for a blend of another John Green standard, "Out of Nowhere", with Babbie's own excellent and tender "I Knew I'd Know".
Babbie's original songs here, as in previous CD outings, glow for their literate lyrics and ingratiating melodies, and are especially open-hearted and never hesitant to reveal a deeply felt experience or yearning, even if she get s bit flowery-poetic with the images ("My heart's a naked castle upon a haunted hill ... When my angels cry in a tear-stained sky"). Unlike the common love panic that makes some of us "so stunned by fear that we run from what might be most dear", her confessional catharses reveal a person who looks for "a spirit carrying the key to secrets locked inside my mind, bursting to be free" or "the rhythm of the other half of my heart".
Her honeyed and distinctive gauzy voice (seeming stronger on this CD) is a nice contrast to Julie's earthier and breezier sounds and John's breathy laidback persona as one of today's no-need-for-macho new-age sensitive guys guise. All's well as Boswell and Babbie share duties on keyboards and arragements, plus a songwriting collaboration for a change-of-pace number with some welcome humor, with cute lyrics (hers) and title, "Bossy Nova". The wistful "No Harm Done" is one of her best, one of those perfectly constructed songs, simpler and quite down-to-earth in its post-break-up "c'est la vie" reality check, with perspective silver lining very much intact, despite a well-used handkerchief to catch some tears.
..this terrific trio and....this album...a joy and a gem of memorable music. Like father, like daughter. And I like them both - very much.
TALKIN BROADWAY Rob Lester, 4/16/09
BABBIE GREEN & JOHN BOSWELL
'BYE NOW... Notes from Cabaret Country
(Lion and Lark Songs)
Anyone who can use the phrase "icky poo" in a lyric and make it work is someone to be not just admired but probably canonized. Ah, St. Babbie. Seems fitting.
Coming hot on the heels of their first collaboration, last year’s Two, Babbie Green and John Boswell are together again or perhaps they were never apart. Whatever the timeline, the magic that Green and Boswell began with Two continues full strength on ’Bye Now ... With a subtitle of Notes from Cabaret Country and a cover photo of the two in cowboy hats, one might expect a set more tinged with a country feel. And though there is a good dose of rural rhythm, Green and Boswell refuse to be pegged and freely mix styles on a group of all-new songs by Green (with one getting musical collaboration from Boswell). The result is another absolute winner and candidate for the year’s best.
With the pure honesty in Green’s vocals and Boswell’s great keyboard work and vocal backing, ’Bye Now ... flows from the gentle country rock of The Light of the Love and comic delight of Cowboy Hat to the achingly surprising It Don’t Take a Boy (friendship from a totally different perspective) and love loss of And It’s Okay. How love can haunt the soul is at the core of What’ll I Do About You? and how it goes on propels the hypnotic Wherever the Sparrow Goes. Oh, the "icky-poo?" It’s what Small People "leave all over the place." Small-minded people, that is.
’Bye Now ... ? Not for this listener, who’s said, "Hi again," to this treasure over a dozen times since it arrived. (****)
-- Jeff Rossen
Cabaret Scenes Magazine, May 2007
Gay Chicago Magazine, Vocals, Issue 16-07
Review, by Rob Lester - talkinbroadway.com -feb22.07
As represented here, Cabaret Country is governed by good taste and wit and populated with intriguing songs with its main export being love. The album title of Babbie Green and John Boswell's 'Bye Now ... Notes from Cabaret Country is also a play on words indicating that the genres of cabaret and country music are mixed ... sort of. Not to worry if either style's stereotype excesses aren't what you like to listen to. There is no hushed nightclubby feel or twangy steel guitars. This material and the performances emphasize the quality that both kinds of music often share: sincerity and directness.
Two was last year's delightful CD by Babbie and John, subtitled Duets ... Mostly. This second teaming finds their vocal harmonies sounding even more natural, lived-in - more "right." John is not as prominent vocally this time, but sounds smooth and sure. Most of his previous albums spotlight his work as an instrumentalist, and he's on piano and keyboards throughout, with Babbie also playing. They worked together on the arrangements. All of the songs were written by Babbie, with John collaborating on the melody for "It Don't Take a Boy," an easygoing track. The CD is bookended by a number called "And I Dance" about cutting loose, and they do just that.
Two standout tracks feature Babbie's ageless and extra-warm, very natural voice: "Plant Me a Star" and "And It's Okay." The poetic and plainly idealized view of life in "Plant Me a Star" could almost be a ballade from the Elizabethan period, it sounds so pure and classic. Much of the sensibility and sweeter romantic flavor in this collaboration seem like a world long before modern times.
"And if in winter, I cry for spring
Fill my arms with May
Pick me a kiss in the meadow
Catch me some love in the sky
And they'll live in my heart 'til the day I die."
Wherever Cabaret Country is, its residents wear their hearts on their sleeves and are shut out from sin and cynics. The more contemporary "And It's Okay," is an eyes-wide-open recollection of someone who's gone captures the true and the rue in the memory. It's the track I root for my player to land on in shuffle play mode and seek out when I go back to this CD. A sample:
"He was always a bit tossed like the sea
And I'm always a bit lost in missing him each day
It always gets a little bit in my way
And it's okay."
Miss Green and Mr. Boswell make sweet company for each other and listeners with a taste for the truly tender and tuneful.
BABBIE GREEN AND JOHN BOSWELL
TWO (Lion and Lark songs)
Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Babbie has done it once again.
It’s been six years since her last set of original tunes, 2000’s Soldiers of the Heart, but the long wait has certainly been rewarded with musical riches as Babbie Green teams with John Boswell for a musical tapestry that is an instant classic.
With a cover tagline that subtitles the album Duets ... mostly, Green and Boswell trade lead vocals and musical harmonizing on 15 songs that look at relationships from a variety of perspectives. But whether it’s from a playful vantage point -- the Randy Newman-ish title track (words and music by Green), the jaunty In the Land of Love (by Green), the pet-loving Kate (by Green) -- or with a romantic gleam in the eye -- the prayerful Stars Above Me (by Green), the lovely waltz of sharing in Here’s How It Goes (music by Boswell, words by Green), the moving simplicity of how one’s love can enrich you in When You Take My Hand (music by Boswell, words by Julie Last) -- or stirring passion, either uplifting or heartbreaking -- Green’s painful The Day After You, the power of love in Close My Eyes (music by Boswell, words by Green) -- this is the finest collection of new songs since Susan Werner’s I Can’t Be New, which was the best since Green’s Soldiers of the Heart.
And along with the exceptional tunes found on Two come remarkable vocals by Green and Boswell. Green’s voice is thin, but what she lacks in vocal prowess, she makes up for with the breadth of passion and honesty that she brings to her material. You believe every single word and phrase she sings. Boswell’s seductive baritone charms and engages the listener, and nowhere does he do so more effectively than on the languid and lush See Your Face Again (music by Boswell, words by Green).
With Boswell at the keyboard for most of the tracks and Green handling most of the arrangements, this meeting of musical marvels comes to an absolutely thrilling zenith with the pairing of Told You So (music by Boswell, words by Green) and Breathe (Keep on Breathing) (by Green). This blended story of a love lost but never forgotten and a love unexpectedly found is, quite simply, one of the finest and most moving musical creations I’ve ever experienced. The lovely final overlaid My Muse/Home At Night brings the set to a gentle and warm close before the duo reprises their title track tag.
One Green plus one Boswell equals two delights giving us one musical treasure. (****)
Cabaret Scenes Magazine - December, 2006
Gay Chicago Magazine - Issue 06-46
Green's Songs Capture Imagination, Emotions
Second- and third-generation show-business careers are not exactly front-page news in the glittering Southland entertainment world.
Even in the relatively rarefied arena of film composing and songwriting, there are such notable examples as the remarkable Newman family and, a coast away, the offspring of Richard Rodgers.
Add Babbie Green to the list. The gifted singer-songwriter, the daughter of composer Johnny Green ("BODY AND SOUL", "OUT OF NOWHERE", etc.), offered an engaging collection of her superb songs Sunday afternoon at the Jazz Bakery.
And, listening to the compelling array of characters, emotions and narratives flowing through her presentation, one could only wonder why a talent so filled with imaginative music and insightful words has such relatively low visibility.
Part of the problem may trace to the fact that Green works primarily in the world of cabaret and musical theatre - an arena that is no longer the fertile source of popular songs that it was in the '30s and '40s. Perhaps equally problematic, virtually all her songs are emotionally multi-layered and profuse with unexpected musical twists and turns. Like Stephen Sondheim, she tends to steer clear of standard pop song forms in favor or a more intimate companionship between the primal elements of melody and language.
That said, however, Green's songs offer extraordinary pleasures to the receptive listener. Her Bakery program, in which she was accompanied by pianist John Boswell (with the occasional companionship of singers Stan Chandler and longtime associates Laurie McIntosh and Kirsten Benton), ranged from atmospheric storytelling to whimsical good humor.
Songs such as "TWO HOMES" (the tale of a child of divorce, climaxed with the line, "Wherever I am, half of me isn't there") and "THE MAN ON THE STAGE" (darkly delineating the hazards of romance with a celebrity) were penetrating, unsentimental studies of real life. Other works - the conflicted adolescent emotions of "BOYWATCH", the sweet insights of "AT THE POUND" and the classic "LA RONDE" qualities of "THE CAROUSEL" - were the product of an imagination that moves seamlessly through the poignancy of humor and the perils of irony.
Although Green was making her first full concert appearance as a stand-up singer, rather than a singer-pianist, she offered her songs with winning effectiveness.
Using body language, gesture and dramatic vocal characterizations, she added a powerful element of accessibility to a program of music that deserves a far wider hearing.
by Don Heckman - Special to the Times
LA TIMES Tuesday, November 11, 2001
Babbie Green has been marked by her heritage for most of her career. That's a plus and a minus: a plus because she clearly has inherited the songwriting brilliance of her father, Johnny Green (composer of "Body and Soul," "Out of Nowhere" and "I Cover the Waterfront," among others); a minus because the familial connection has tended to obscure Green's own superb catalog of songs. "Soldiers of the Heart" (*** 1/2)--a two-CD collection of her songs--is a giant step toward bringing much-deserved visibility to her work. Performed by Green on vocals and piano--with frequent singing accompanists Kirsten Benton and Laurie McIntosh--the 29 songs offer an extraordinary collage of life and love in America around the turning of the new century. It's a grouping that asks for careful attention and repeated hearing, but one that offers the rewards of experiencing the creative energies of a gifted musical imagination in full flight.
Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2001 "
Soldiers of the Heart:
More Songs of Babbie Green
The world needs more Babbie Greens. Her pointed view of the foibles and wonders on matters of love, relationships and day to day living offers the kind of comfort one finds in the embrace of one¹s closest friend and a perceptive untangling of confusion one sometimes hopes to find by paying hundreds of dollars once a week to a (less than) perfect stranger.
What Green accomplishes in her songwriting is ideally capturing a thought, emotion or memory and recounting it in terms with which one instantly identifies, whether she¹s direct, as in the tale of the child of divorce found in Two Homes or the bitter reaction to thoughtless words in Did You Hear What You Just Said, or paints an illusion, as Green does with the tale of unspoken sadness in High Tea with Lewis and Carroll.
Through this generous two disc, 29-song set, one is alternately awed by the breadth of Green¹s musical and lyrical craftings and immediately inspired to join in song with Green, Laurie McIntosh and Kristen Benton. This is an instantly engaging musical trio, featuring unusual voices that, while not the most powerful ones you¹ll ever hear, convey a lyric with clarion truthfulness and boundless guile. Whether going solo, teaming up in pairs or triad, Green, McIntosh and Benton are purveyors of song who obviously love the words they¹re singing and the melodies on which they ride. And with Green¹s songs, how could they feel any different?
While many performers have made Green¹s creations part of their own repertoire, there is something about hearing a songwriter perform her (or his) own work that brings an added, sometimes entirely different, dimension to the song. A good case in point is David Friedman, who¹s turned to performing his own work lately and infuses his now well known titles with a passion others simply could never achieve. And that¹s what Green does as well. Sure, finer voices have sung her songs, but it¹s Green¹s heart and soul that gave them life, and one would almost swear McIntosh and Benton are their godmothers.
-- Jeff Rossen
In Nobody's Shadow
- Songs for the Theatre
by Babbie Green
... breathtaking originality.. .an extraordinary talent.. .her range.. .from the sweetly lyrical to wryly humorous, off-the-wall ditties. Good stuff, all of it, underscoring everything with the kind of harmonic subtlety and melodic flow one only hears in the most gifted songwriters." L.A. Times
"Babbie Green, one of our most lyrically adept composers, combines the exquisite precision of Emily Dickinson, the pointed wit of Dorothy Parker... underlying intelligence characterizes Green's work." Drama-Logue (L.A.Cabaret)
"Babbie Green's music is ironic and wistful.. .with a decided edge." Drama-Logue (N.Y./N.Y.)
"Green is both a wonderful melody writer and sharp lyricist." Glendale News-Press
SPACES WEEKLY MAGAZINE
"This 1993 compilation of songs by one of cabaret's foremost composers is as fresh and thought-provoking the hundredth time as it is the first, and serves as a true educational tool on how to produce an album of this type. ...It's never too late to discover an album as glorious as this one!"
"...a contemporary cabaret treasure chest...a remarkably varied series of canvasses...from the frivolous to the profound...linked chiefly by the underlying intelligence that characterizes Green's work."
"...Babbie Green, one of our most lyically adept composers, combines the exquisite precision of Emily Dickinson and the pointed wit of Dorothy Parker..."
THE SONGWRITERS SHOWCASE
"Those interested in staying on the cutting edge of theatre music should give a listen to this CD of songs by Babbie Green."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
under the headline, "JOHNNY'S GIRL MAKES GOOD":
"Musically...simple and spare...with touches of Ravel and Debussy in the harmony. The lyrics are rich in metaphor and wordplay...rarely boy-meets-girl. ...In contrast to her predecessors - the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen...her famous father Johnny Green...and others who wrote lots of love songs - she draws on a wider circle of experience: a mother-daughter relationship, getting a puppy at the pound, independence."
"...a fine first outing for Babbie Green...funny and heartrending in roughly equal proportions..."
"...funny and touching songs."
All songs published by Lion and Lark Songs (ASCAP)