11 February 2009

Review: Andy Scott - Don't Tempt Fate

Making a good cream puff is hard. Sure, you can buy them by the frozen bucketful at Costco. And while you're there you can also buy a cushy leather sofa and that big flat screen television you've had your eye on. Then you can go home, put on your sweat pants and eat that whole bucket while you watch all those Friends episodes on DVD and mourn the fact that you never moved to New York like you told all your actual friends you were going to back in the 90s.

Someone who won't be joining you on the couch for your pity party is Andrew Scott Rosen, who left Cleveland behind for a music career in New York. For a while he left that name behind, too, putting out two albums out under the name Goat ("Great Life" made it onto the soundtrack of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and some car ads). But that's the great thing about moving off to the big city: reinventing yourself. (Remember how you were going to change your name to Schuyler Della Verite when you got to New York and wear all in those vintage duds you bought at the DAV thrift store? Well, did ya ever, steampunk? Did ya?)

And now he's gone from Goat to Andy Scott and he's just released a new album, "Don't Tempt Fate." Where Goat was a puckish pop artist with eclectic influences that included jazz and cabaret, Andy Scott is a straight up cabaret jazz artist. It's a move that really works for him, so I hope he sticks with it.

Getting back to baked goods, "Don't Tempt Fate" is as fine a cream puff as you are likely to find. All ten songs are smartly written and the arrangements expertly crafted, something to be lauded from the highest Upper East condo in these days of sampling and mishmashups. And this attention to craft is enhanced by the great musicians backing Scott throughout, including the venerable Victor Lewis on drums and Sam Yahel on keyboards.

Sadly, there's also an air of playacting hanging about the project. It's there right from the start with title track, a duet featuring Madeliene Peyroux. I've never been a fan of Peyroux, who has always struck me as Billie Holiday without the Strange Fruit. Andy Scott, on the available evidence, is Randy Newman without the Bad Love. I suspect they're both stronger singers than they let on.

Critics have dropped the name Hoagy Carmichael in connection with this CD and Andy would do well to study Carmichael's knack for allusive specificity. Carmichael may have a kid from Indiana but could make you believe that he had Georgia on his mind or that a skylark could hear the music of the night. By contrast, many of the lyrics on "Fate" have a borrowed quality that keeps them from rising much higher than a commercial jingle.

Andy escapes this trap on the album's penultimate track, "Who Doesn't Call" (see spanky video below) where the elusive becomes the point, in the process taking on an existential dimension. He strips the accompaniment down to an acoustic guitar and the result reminds me favorably of classic Leon Redbone (born Dickran Gobalian, supposedly). It also gave me hope that the next time out Andy Scott will offer us a whole meal and not just dessert.

Video: Who Doesn't Call, with animation by Andy Cahill

Further Clickage

Andy Scott on MySpace

MilkRocks.com - The music of Goat

Amplifier Magazine - Interview with Goat

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