Stars and the Moon: Live at the Donmar
Betty Buckley is an entirely different breed of singing celebrity. Like Days of Our Lives' aspiring jazz singer Steve Blackwood, she's best known as a TV star. It has, however, been eons since Buckley's Eight Is Enough days, and she has since established herself as one of contemporary musical theater's best and most versatile performers. What she's not, as she herself would quickly concede, is a jazz singer. Instead, she's an exceptionally good storyteller with a refreshing penchant for gut-level honesty. Buckley's voice never lies, nor does she ever allow Broadway brassiness to scuttle a song's message. Like Barbara Cook, she's particularly enticing in a cabaret or concert-hall setting. That's why her latest album, Stars and the Moon (Concord CCD-4949-2; 52:10), is such a treat. Recorded live at London's Donmar Warehouse, Buckley's 50-minute set opens with the gentle embrace of Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" and closes with a spare, stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace." In between, she serves up a tasty smorgasbord that varies from the galloping horsepower of Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" to the haunting emptiness of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." Most sublime is her poignantly playful performance of "Old Friend." Everyone from Michael Feinstein to Liza Minnelli has covered the Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford show tune, but Buckley's is the definitive version, sung with the kind of loving smile that only a genuine soul mate could inspire.