A couple years agom, Liza Minnelli’s had a bit of a career resurgence – nothing like a Carlos Santa comeback, but her appearance on Sex and the City 2, singing a cover of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” made me think that she might try her hand at dance-pop again (she had a couple UK chart hits in 1989 with the Pet Shop Boys). But Confessions is similar to what she usually records: a collection of prerock pop standards. I’ve always been sad about Minnelli’s career – she was born in the wrong generation; she actually would’ve been a huge movie star if she was born in her mother’s era.
Confessions is a decent outing for Minnelli. It’s a good mix of some really well-known songs, alongside some more obscure stuff. She also re-records a couple numbers, as well. Minnelli’s weird talent was never really captured well by a recording studio – she’s got a good voice, but it’s not spectacular (not like Barbra Streisand – her musical soul sister). Her best records are her concert sets, where some of her stage presence translates (in a studio, she’s sort of diluted).
That doesn’t mean this is a disappointing listen – in fact, it’s one of Minnelli’s strongest studio albums of her career. Her voice
has aged quite a bit, and through years of drinking, drugs and hard living, it’s gotten well-deep and raspy, and she lost a lot of power behind her belting. She hasn’t turned into Marianne Faithfull (her voice is still too conventionally “pretty” despite the ravaging of age), but watching the fresh-faced gamin from Cabaret is like listening to a completely different woman.
The press hype behind the album had Minnelli say that she wanted to make a record that reminded her of the sing-a-longs she has at her home (where celebrity pals like Janet Jackson, Michael Feinstein and Mary J. Blige drop by). The production is pretty spare – it’s really just Minnelli and a piano – except her rendition of “Close Your Eyes” which has a truly horrible Casio-like keyboard accompaniment. It sounds like something someone would hear at a sad hotel lounge. Aside from that misstep, there are no huge disappointments – there are no earth-shattering moments either (but at this point in her career, Minnelli should really be aiming for consistency). Her version of “At Last” won’t have Etta James or even Beyonce losing sleep, but it’s okay; also her cover of Frank
Sinatra’s “All the Way” is solid. “This Heart of Mine” is better, with a jazzy beat and a spirited supper-club piano. “Confession” a short, obscure number that opens the record, is also excellent, with its lyrics a seemingly great fit for Minnelli’s public persona (with its allusions to lost love and alcohol).
Liza Minnelli won’t be breaking any records with Confessions, but at this point, she’s a legend, and cannot really do wrong at this point (in the eyes of her fans). She hasn’t tried stretching her artistry – which is too bad, as it would be interesting to hear an artist of Minnelli’s stature and caliber try to broaden her repertoire outside her usual confines. With Confessions, it’s more of the same, but it’s still satisfying.