CD Review: RICHARD RODGERS REIMAGINED (Kyle Riabko on Ghostlight Records)

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by Tony Frankel on November 13, 2017



I had a chance to catch Kyle Riabko on stage at The Wallis in Beverly Hills last weekend, where he returned to offer the Los Angeles debut of his Richard Rodgers Reimagined concert (his successful cabaret of Burt Bacharach songs played last year). Aided by three back-up musicians/vocalists, it was surprising that someone (and, yes, someone who is a heartthrob) could take one of the most covered catalogs in music history and ably make these oft-recorded songs his own.

Even more surprising than the concert is the recently released CD of the concert, which I intentionally gave a spin after the concert. Why surprised? Because Riabko goes solo on this Ghostlight Records release, not only proving his worth as a multi-instrumentalist, but actually making the listener feel connected to the music—a profound achievement given that Broadway and Pop mergers usually involve screeching, belting, and yodeling, making it more about the singer than the songs.

This thoughtful CD is all about the songs. But it’s not just Riabko’s pleasing voice and earnest manner that won me over; it was the arrangements. Imagine soul and harmonica making “I Have Dreamed” a little bit Stevie Wonder, and a country jazz feel with sweet harmonies (all by Riabko) turning “The Lady Is a Tramp” into a snazzy light honky-tonk. There’s breathy romanticism in “Bewitched”, and imagination is in full force with both a folk-infused “Where or When” and a 50s’ combo-like “If I Loved You.” The gorgeous “Blue Moon” would slip easily into the soundtrack of Twin Peaks. And anyone who salutes the joyful ukulele playing of Cliff Edwards with “Some Enchanted Evening” gets my vote. My favorite? Another South Pacific selection: the dreamy soft “This Nearly Was Mine” turned into a lovely bittersweet lullaby. My only regret: All 12 tracks add up to only 36 minutes. Still, I’d rather turn off the stereo wanting more. This one’s a keeper.

Richard Rodgers Reimagined
Kyle Riabko
Ghostlight Records
12 tracks | 36:03
released October 27, 2017
available at Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify
for more info, visit Ghostlight

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