CD Review: Melissa Errico Dramatically Lights Up Film Noir With OUT OF THE DARK: THE FILM NOIR PROJECT

Theme albums can sometimes be a rather tricky business…not for the musical artist – for the listener. Naturally, the artists have a wonderful time conceiving and arranging and then recording their album of songs by The Carpenters, songs sung in Spanish, songs about winter, water, or fighting the system. If artists are lucky, the collections they create easily rise to the top. Do you remember the excellence of Barbra Streisand’s albums centered respectively on the French language and classical music? Or maybe John Pizzarelli’s Beatles tribute CD is a win? When considering an entire album of torch songs, however, one might wonder, “Does the CD come with a straight razor?” or maybe an entire CD of lullabies might tend to work in unrecognized ways…everything has to be done on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of Melissa Errico’s new album OUT OF THE DARK: THE FILM NOIR PROJECT, there is no doubt that the theme, the collection, the creation is, from beginning to end, a winner.

Melissa Errico is one of the most prolific artists working in the cabaret and concert industry today, producing not only a different series of shows every year, a new album every year or two, virtual concerts and social media entries (while working as an actress), she is a popular contributor to The New York Times. And Melissa Errico loves her themes, as evidenced by her deep dives into Stephen Sondheim, Michel Legrand and French culture, so the release of a new theme project is not just to be expected, it should be celebrated.

For her theme, this round, Ms. Errico has chosen music from an art for which she has a particular fascination, detailed in the liner notes: Film Noir. The film noir movement has been one of the most beloved and respected cinematic art forms of all time, producing dramatic and emotional scores filled with lush arrangements and flamboyant melodies, and Ms. Errico brings all those factors to each of the seventeen tracks on Out of The Dark, from the wonderfully melodramatic “With Every Breath I Take” to the short, teasing but immensely satisfying “Shadows and Light.” By curating its content from a variety of sources which Errico breaks down for the listener in his liner notes, Melissa and her team have created an extraordinarily generous album lasting over seventy-five glorious minutes, and , if this listener could offer a modest suggestion: take the listening journey first. Do not call the album on Spotify shuffle. Don’t buy a single song on iTunes. Don’t just preview songs. Melissa Errico is a master of storytelling and she and her advisers (writer Adam Gopnik and musical director Tedd Firth) have forged a path of storytelling that is essentially enjoyed from start to finish, real-time, visceral, emotional and (sometimes) overwhelming. Don’t deprive yourself of the experience by researching it, reading the notes, or listening to it as background music during another activity. Start the album with “Angel Eyes” by Errico and co. Indeed, if you are a person who smokes or still drinks, go ahead: light up, pour the scotch (use Waterford or Baccarat).

Observe, as the album progresses, the changing moods with each new song, sometimes flamboyant (a mournful “Haunted Heart”), sometimes bright and hopeful (an uplifting “Written in the Stars”), and others simple and direct in the storytelling (a mesmerizing “We Live, We Love”). Melissa et al have gone to great lengths to present this seventeen-course feast of weaving musical tales, with this writer finding, particularly appealing, a powerfully sultry “The Bad and the Beautiful” and a bewitching “Love, Love” which transported my memory of the years I spent living in Europe. It’s also worth saying that, lo, those many years, any time (ANY time) that I became aware that a singer was about to sing “The Man That Got Away”, I audibly rolled my eyes and visibly sighed in frustration, and that on this album Ms. Errico broke the curse by becoming the vocalist to make the legendary composition a new one, and completely her own, eliciting from this devotee of Garland a smile of satisfied relief. The Torch Song to End All Torch Songs is the fourteenth track in the remarkable and intellectual song cycle, and as Errico completes his journey into the Nation of Noir, the listener can prepare to take the CD booklet and dive meticulously into the liner notes. composed in Melissa’s now-famous New York Times writing style, and learn about the history of CD, the choices, explorations and need that led this supreme artist – one of the industry’s greatest cabaret and concert – to create what many are sure to consider one of the best albums of 2022.

Melissa Errico OUT OF THE DARK: THE FILM NOIR PROJECT is available on the Label Ghostlight and on Amazon, iTunes, Apple Music and all other platforms.

Melissa Errico celebrates the release of OUT OF THE DARK: THE FILM NOIR PROJECT with a two-night concert at 54 Below. For information and tickets click HERE.

Read about OUT OF THE DARK: THE FILM NOIR PROJECT HERE.

Visit Melissa Errico’s website HERE.

Jack L. Goldstein