Diana Krall’s “Walflower” Reviewed
The thing about 70s schlock and soft rock was it didn’t see itself quite like that, sure, we did, we didn’t like it though we might now) but the majority couldn’t tell their Eltons from their Rods: it was a common ground of pasty faced youth adding strings and synths where none were needed. The war crier was slower, quieter, and when art appeared, it seemed that when art, well, maybe not art, but maybe Sid Vicious didn’t want to beat with his belt buckle, happened, it felt always by mistake: or by intuition. Something like the Carpenter’s “Superstar” just was, it wasn’t what it was yet it still was.
Punk rock pummeled it into oblivion by Diana Krall’s husband as well, long gone was his honky tonk tapes, and anyway, mainstream country was substantially stronger than mainstream pop.
So what has the jazz good who coulda been a contender Krall doing with soft rock? She is making I softer. Produced by David Foster (“the new Chairman of the Verve Music Group and a producer/musician dubbed in an old Rolling Stone album review as the master of the “Chicago-Journey-Toto school of bombastic pop kitsch.” Foster is the man behind more than one Celine Dion disc, a Michael Buble man, a Josh Groban groomer. In other words, this new Diana Krall album finds her packaged within an inch of her life.” Will Layman of Popmatters wrote that in his terrific review), this is an attempt to do what? Maybe a nostalgia exercise for stuff people aren’t particularly nostalgic for, at least not in his form.
It’s hard to know where to start with here, Will forgave her a couple of songs but I can’t hear anything that doesn’t make my skin crawl. Gilbert O’Sullivan was an Irish 20 something rhymer with a hell of a lot of the blarney about him, a weird dress sense and always a sense in his songs of the Chekov, of the storyteller. His masterful Back To Front is where you’ll find his best work including “Alone Again (Naturally)”, a song whose pathos are way too large to be taken seriously, it is too sad: the protagonist gets stood up in the first verse and by the second his Mom is gone as well, “and when she passed away, I cried and cried all day…” A classic song really, and the terrible dragged and fagged out tearjerker Michael Buble, who has absolutely outstayed his welcome, and Krall, who has never sounded worse, she sounds irritating, she is too overboard, is unlistenable.
If that is bad, Elton’s excellent “Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word” is a somnambulistic sleep walk, strings just add insult to injury. In the original you wait for the bridge, that’s where Elton nails it down, Krall can’t muster it for that track. Why not? Why the decision not to make the leap upwards an octave. And why the back up instruments. Why is it it awash in drear? It is like being stuck in an elevator with Elton’s overeager kid sister. As for the title track? Listen to Patti Smith’s terrific cover of “Wallflower” and then wonder what the hell were they thinking of.
Anyway, Krall is a pianist. Why doesn’t she piano? What gives?
McCartney offers up an awful original, the two Eagles tracks are… what gives? “Desperado”??? Why would she cover it? “Californi…”, why belabor it, it pretty much is terrible from one end to the other.
I wouldn’t have bothered a full review at all but… when punk happened in 1976 it was God and the rest of pop was Sodom And Gomorrah and everything it wiped out is on this this album only much, much worse than you remember it.