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Opie Bellas: Live for Life

Unless you’re a diehard devotee of San Francisco nightspots, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of Opie Bellas. Pity. You’ve been missing out on a great performer in her prime. The Northern Californian, who originally hails from sunny Southern Florida, has the clarity and countenance of Streisand without any of la Barbra’s pesky histrionics. Much of her third album, Live for Life (Bella Blue JBA0301; 44:53), is offered in memory of her brother John, who died in a car accident at age 40. As the title track suggests, it is, however, a tribute filled with positive affirmations. Such traditionally somber selections as Michel Legrand and Johnny Mercer’s “Once Upon a Summertime” and Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” are infused with a refreshing air of optimism, and she lends heightened warmth to the cozy embrace of Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around.” Both “Since You Stayed Here,” an achingly beautiful adieu to a departed loved one, and Judy Collins’ softly sentimental “My Father” are welcome surprises, as is Bellas’ lighthearted ramble through Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.” Live for Life might not be easy to locate at your local record store. Do yourself a favor: make the effort to track it down.

Originally Published