Keep Me In Your Heart For A While: The Best of Madeleine Peyroux
It’s been easy to dismiss Peyroux as a bit of a jazz-lite bore, something for the chardonnay-quaffing seat-fillers at any arts festival – but it’s been nearly 20 years since her rather extraordinary debut – then there was time off. It’s hard to believe, now, as she slips out the safe and obvious, that she was once scared of the industry – she seems like something only the music industry could manufacture, a trouble-free covers-artist with vague aspirations as singer/songwriter. That Billie Holiday-aping voice on a friendly girl-down-the-road face.
It’s easy to dismiss Peyroux – but there’s something remarkable about her very best work, and perhaps ironic that, to this day, her very best work is when she’s covering one of the really great songwriters: Dylan, Cohen, Newman, Zevon…
Her version of Leonard’s Dance Me To The End of Love has been everywhere – to its detriment. But this is where a Best of Madeleine Peyroux really does work, she’s always been a cherry-picker, as song-chooser/interpreter; makes sense to gather her very best versions. So if her own songwriting is under-represented you must be one of the very few Peyroux fans that’s in it for her own words. I’d much rather hear her sing from her heart the words from someone else’s mind. Her rendition of Bob Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When We Go matches the original’s world-weary aim for resolution – but with such a gorgeous voice. Similarly she instils the versions of chestnuts Smile and La Vie En Rose with more than just dutiful sweetness.
Some of Peyroux’s own writing is fine enough, which is why you hear some of it here – but it’s the brace of Zevon songs (a spot-on version of Desperadoes Under The Eaves – hard to fuck up a song that great, I should imagine) and Randy Newman’s Guilty that show she never lost the ability to make something new out of the old, great songs. For song selection alone she deserves an A+ and then there’s the way she caresses these songs, lifting them gently, know that you-break-it-you-buy-it, wanting instead to just borrow them. To keep them in her heart for a while.
Well, this is a smart collection of 15 tracks, career highlights. Worth keeping your collection for a while.