CD REVIEWS: LOVE ME TENDER
The Sunday Times March 6.05 **** stars
Poised between pop, jazz and cabaret, Jungr’s tributes to Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré and Dylan are among the most thoughtful British recordings of the past decade. She takes risks — an album dedicated to Presley could easily turn into high-grade kitsch — but there are no such problems here. Always on My Mind, along with the title ballad and the superb Love Letters, are transformed. The arrangers, Adrian York and Jonathan Cooper, have stripped the pieces to their basics, with Jungr’s voice cushioned by celeste, minimalist piano figures and string quartet. Presley’s lush sentimentality goes out of the window: in its place is an art-song sensibility tinged with cultured R&B. (Clive Davis)
Audiophile Edition, Aug 05. ****1/2 stars
Cabaret singer's unexpected takes on hits of Elvis and Dylan
If you hate it when you go to a concert and all your favourite band plays is cover songs, then don't go see Barb Jungr's fall tour. She is tearing up Europe and West following the recent release of Love Me Tender; which includes 11 songs performed by Elvis and two by Bob Dylan. Her exotic voice drives me to fantasise about her sitting atop a piano in a smoky pub, holding a cigarello in one hand and a tall glass of Boddingtons in the other. Heartbreak Hotel blows me away every time I listen to it. The fresh rendition with Barb‘s signature jazzy overtone touch is so breath-taking, you really can't believe the rock roots behind it. To compare Barb with other singers wouldn’t do her talents justice, but if I had to, I would say the closest audible comparison would be Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. I have never been a fan of Elvis' music, but get me to Graceland baby, I have been reborn!!!!
Barb, a cabaret singer by trade, has herein followed up her 2002 release, Every Grain of Sand, a superb album chock full of Bob Dylan’s songs. Her raspy, Marlboro-perfected voice out performs any impersonator I have ever heard. Barb's soulful voice does wonders for all 13 tracks on the album. In the Ghetto is perfectly crooned. I can only imagine how lucky the band members felt at the end of that session. One of my favourites, Are You Lonely Tonight, is done with such raw emotion, that I can't visualise it being sung by Elvis.
Barb's classical rendition of the rebellious song I Shall Be Released (one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs snuck into this album) could start riots in the prisons with her, “Come on boys follow me!” attitude. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the album. I have never been a fan of Elvis' music when performed by him, but these covers are amazing. I just wish Barb was gigging over here, maybe at the Green Mill in Chicago… I dream big! (Paul Pelon IV)
Record Collector, December 2005. * * * * stars
The King’s Music as you’ve never heard it before.
If pigeonholed as a kind of British “answer” to Juliette Greco, Jungr functions as a composer as well as an adroit interpreter of the songs of others. nevertheless, as Greco did with Serge Gainsbourg, she has chosen to focus on one particular artist over an entire album. Response to the general result depends upon a number of variables - such as how precious you are about one such as she warping Presley so daringly to her own highly individual devices - and enunciating clearly lyrics that the Hillbilly Cat mumbles.
She hasn’t picked much that’s especially stylised; no 12-bar Blue Suede Shoes or I Was The One with its cliched chord sequence - though there’s a spooky Heartbreak Hotel that is more eye-stretching an overhaul than even John Cale’s in 1974. Other highlights include a brace of Dylan numbers that Elvis recorded - plus a jagged Jungr original, Looking For Elvis - and, fellas, that’s Mari Wilson, sometime Neasden Queen of Soul, helping her out on backing vocals. (Alan Clayson)
All Music Guide, 2005. * * * * and a half stars
Another exquisite, at times astonishing, album from Miss Jungr. Unlike Bob Dylan, whose songbook the singer had so expressively re-imagined on Every Grain of Sand, Elvis Presley was never himself a composer, depending instead entirely on professional publishers for his material, much of it originally chosen for its commercial prospects; however, even at its worst -- the soundtracks to the crap cookie-cutter movies the King made in the '60s usually come to mind here -- his recorded output had a certain consistency to it. On reflection that is primarily because, even at their qualitative best, his songs were as much about the sensual, muscular, bel canto performances and tied to the superstar singer's outsize, magnetic personality as they were about the merits of the tunes themselves. In other words, you are listening to Elvis sing those songs more than you are listening to the songs he is singing. In a way, that makes Jungr's Love Me Tender all the more remarkable: you do not hear the King at all here except in faint echoes and traces, like barely remembered fairy tales you were told as a child as you were drifting off to sleep. This isn't an exercise in dress-up, as it very easily might have been. Instead you are treated to a phenomenally responsive singer finding her way into and breathing the oxygen of forgotten stories, while, in the process, refitting them to say something real and useful, something personal about your world and about the one long past. In a sense, you are hearing these songs -- many of them now considered classics (pop/rock standards, if such things exist) -- for the first time. Worlds of passion and pain, discovery and dislocation exist in these songs. They are so entirely reinvented by Jungr, her brilliant arrangers Adrian York and Jonathan Cooper, and producer Calum Malcolm that the prevailing mood of the album is transformed into a mosaic, a complex map of one woman's fully lived life, from the dizzy, tender love letters of expectation to the lonesome heartbreak hotels that litter the highways of life, and all the attendant reveries, roadblocks, and realisations along the way, until she arrives at the gospel of her -- your -- existence, an exultant take on one of Presley's own favourite Baptist hymns, Thomas A. Dorsey's "Peace in the Valley." Jungr may have been "Looking for Elvis," as she sings in the album's sole self-written original, but she found herself. And in that discovery, there is a certain gesture of sublime benevolence toward the listener. Love Me Tender is an autobiography of shared memory, but more than that it is a primer to how people refashion that memory to ascertain and navigate their own trajectories. (Stanton Swihart)
The Daily Express - May 2005, * * * * stars
Whether it's adding a different spin or simply revealing hidden depths, a good cover version should always bring something new to a song. This collection of Elvis Presley covers from jazz singer and cabaret queen Barb Jungr manages to do both marvellously. From a slow and stripped-back "Heartbreak Hotel", with only piano and harp accompanying it, through to a spooky "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", these versions brilliantly bring out the haunting beauty of some of Elvis Presley's biggest hits. In the process, they make you feel as if your hearing the all-too familiar songs for the very first time. A must-have.
The Singer, June 2005
One could argue that there was always a darker side to The King, but the hips distracted you. paring his greatest hits down to their bare essentials, as Barb Jungr has done in her latest CD from Linn records (Love Me Tender - AKD 255) reveals a collection of tracks heavy with potent lyrics, which have, up till now, been more familiar to us for their melodies (and the hips) A tall order to achieve this, but naturally Jungr is the one to do it. And there is a feel to the whole album that renders multiple listenings possible, so that the achievement is more than just rearrangement for rearrangement’s sake. Some numbers are wonderfully quirky, such as ‘Wooden Heart’, and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ is haunting to the point of almost becoming an invocation of the spirit of The King himself.
Yorkshire Post , March 2005
Jazz meets sophisticated cabaret in the singing of Barb Jungr, and on this wonderful, offbeat CD, it also meets the music of Elvis Presley. An alliance between jazz and Elvis is an unlikely one, but Jungr makes it work thanks to her unorthodox approach to familiar material and her gift for finding the emotional centre of a song. Presley casts a long shadow over these songs, and it's testament to Jungr's individuality that she makes them sound as if they were written just for her. (Andrew Vin)
HMV Choice - March/April 2005
New high queen of cabaret reinterprets the songs of the king of rock 'n' roll. Barb Jungr is widely regarded as Britain's most gifted song stylist, a true renaissance woman with her heart and roots in alternative cabaret and her head in all manner of intellectual endeavour. Following on from her acclaimed collections of French chanson and classic Bob Dylan comes this beguiling sojourn in the steps of one Elvis Aaron Presley. Jungr displays a fearless originality in rescuing the man's legacy from all those legions of second-rate imitators, actively seeking out the unexplored nuance in songs long since rendered virtually meaningless through sheer familiarity. Lyrics are eloquently enunciated rather than laboured over, while the stark arrangements reveal a haunting dimension of lost innocence. Although Jungr abandons her restraint for a thrillingly soulful In the Ghetto and unexpectedly declamatory I Shall be Released, for the most part she leaves the listener hanging pensively on her every utterance.
Barb Jungr Takes an Uncharted Journey Into The King's Legacy
Barb Jungr has deconstructed some his most famous songs, as well as some of his lesser known and gospel songs, and created a dark and intriguing journey through, love, loneliness, obsession and faith. These new and revealing interpretations will surprise those who know the songs only as performed by Presley. Jungr’s renditions shift meaning and tone to create a completely new landscape and reveal as they do how the singer transforms a song. ‘Love Me Tender’ underlines Jungr’s reputation as one of the most original artists of our day.
JARS 154, April 05.
Jungr’s voice, always affecting courtesy of its ability to move uncontrivedly between the most intimate dramatic whisper, a confiding earnestness tinged with melancholy vibrato, and a strident assertiveness, brings out all her material’s subtlest nuances and the resulting album, which also contains a haunting original, ‘Looking for Elvis’, can only bolster Jungr’s already considerable reputation as one of Europe’s most intriguing and intelligent interpreters of the contemporary song.
Jazzwise, July 2005
Barb Jungr is one of Britain's most effective deliverers of sonic bombshells. Here she tackles a body of songs associated with Elvis Presley, complemented by an original composition written by her and Adrian York. She starts the proceedings with a luscious rendering of "Love Letters", a colloquy between voice, celeste and cello. "Heartbreak Hotel" has a similar leanness and leaning towards loneliness. The choice of two Dylan songs "I Shall Be Released" and "Tomorrow is a Long Time" seems tenuous, a throwback to her Dylan anthology, Every Grain of Sand. What she does with a bunch of songs that ubiquity has devalued is interesting and brave. (Ken Hunt)