Not the Classic Classics
Aptly titled, Classics, She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) present their take on past hits from the 1930’s through the 1970’s. Recorded live with a 20-piece orchestra, Classics completely sidesteps cliched “classic” albums, and goes straight for high quality tunes that showcase She & Him’s considerable musical talent.
Not the “classic” classics, Classics avoids the terribly overdone, opting to give some air time to lesser covered tunes. This includes 1964 Maxine Brown tune, “Oh No, Not My Baby” or Johnny Mathis’ “It’s Not For Me to Say” from 1957. On the more typical covers, such as 1934 jazz standard, “Stars Fell on Alabama” or sometimes eye-roll worthy, “Unchained Melody,” She & Him breathes new life into each song by fitting it into their aesthetic, which is both modern and respectful of the original tune.
On the downside, Classics lacks variation in mood or tempo, with most tracks clocking in at a moderate tempo with a unhurried vibe. The addition of at least one raucous, up tempo tune might have provided a better contrast to the medium and slower tempo choices.
Deschanel does the bulk of the singing, with M. Ward interjecting on some lovely but brief duets on tunes such as “Time After Time.” With a rich, flexible vocal timbre, Deschanel is perfectly suited for covering these songs. She has a very clean, precise voice, which hits intervals clearly, even on tunes such as “Teach Me Tonight,” whose melodic line jumps around considerably.
The orchestra provides a solid accompaniment to enhance the vocalists. The trombone features prominently with short solos on several tracks. A horn section, simple guitars, drums and the occasional added flair from tambourine or a piano are appropriate for the genre. Overall the album is very laid back–no need to rush, and nothing is forced. These are good enough musicians working on a project fitting of their styles.
The 5th album installment of She & Him, Classics, takes old tunes and makes them newer. With the warm vocal tone of Deschanel, highlights of M. Wards’ own jazz-inspired voice and a stellar backing ensemble, Classics successfully take on the songs of yore.