Writer: Becky Roberts (The Audio Beatnik’s Wife)
Steve Tyrell’s 12th album, A Song for You, was released a few days ago on the New Direction/East West label, and I downloaded it last week. I don’t buy many albums for myself, but I own every one that Tyrell has released, and most of them, I purchased as soon as they were available. After listening to the new album several times now, it doesn’t disappoint.
You may not recognize Steve Tyrell’s name immediately, but I’ll bet you know his voice. Tyrell, a Grammy-Award winning producer and vocalist, was the musical producer for the Father of the Bride movie. He recorded a demo tape of the song “The Way You Look Tonight” proposing it for the father-daughter dance at the wedding reception. Steve Martin liked it so much he insisted that Tyrell should sing it in the movie. Before long, people were asking where they could get more Steve Tyrell recordings, and his second career was born. Incidentally, later he also was invited to sing the song for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. He was also in Father of the Bride 2 and has been the vocalist for multiple other movies and television shows.
I first saw Tyrell perform at Yoshi’s in Oakland maybe 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve seen several appearances at Yoshi’s, Feintstein’s in San Francisco, Jazz Alley in Seattle, and even at The Cafe Carlyle in New York where Tyrell does an annual appearance from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Since he lives in Southern California, Tyrell appears pretty frequently at the Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles. If you’d like to see him in person, tour dates for the new album are available here. He also hosts The Steve Tyrell Show on Los Angeles’ KJAZZ 88.1 from 5 pm to 8 pm Monday through Friday, and you can listen online from anywhere.
Tyrell is probably best known for his 9 albums of standards from The Great American Songbook, which have each been Billboard Top 5 sellers, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if A Song for You makes number 10. Tyrell says he thinks The Great American Songbook is America’s biggest contribution to the arts, and he has a passion for keeping this music alive.
Mixing Songs and Stories from His Career
While I like the selection of songs Tyrell’s sings, that’s not what keeps me buying his albums and going to his concerts anytime he’s in the Bay area. I like stories, and the man is a gifted storyteller. His stories about the composers, musicians and singers behind the songs he sings and the people he has worked with were what first attracted me to him. You only get the stories at the live events, but you can get a taste on his Live at The Cafe Carlyle album and by watching YouTube videos you’ll find online.
Tyrell moved to New York City at the age of 18 where he was made head of A&R and promotion at Scepter Records working mostly behind-the-scenes, producing hits for popular recording artists and movie soundtracks. At 19, he began working with legends such as Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Dionne Warwick and B.J. Thomas on such songs as “The Look of Love,” “Alfie” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Over the years, Tyrell’s work in the studio as a record producer has also included collaborations with such diverse and legendary artists as Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Blood Sweat and Tears, Mary J Blige, Chris Botti, Dave Koz, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Bette Midler, and Stevie Wonder, among many others.
About A Song for You
A Song for You bridges the gap between The Great American Songbook standards like the 1930’s “Them There Eyes” and the more contemporary “You Are So Beautiful” ballad by Joe Cocker. Although the album wasn’t recorded as a live performance, he featured these songs in his set list at The Cafe Carlyle during the 2017 holiday season. With his soulful crooner’s voice and a twinkle in his eye that makes one think he could be a bad boy if he tried, I’m sure this album is going to be a big favorite with his fans.
In addition to these two songs and the title track written by Leon Russell, the album also includes Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You,” the Otis Redding favorite “Try a Little Tenderness, and the country music standard, “Always on My Mind.” Other songs on this album include composers like Jackie Wilson, Victor Young, Edward Heyman, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, to name a few. Here’s a link to the complete track list. Notably, the album also features some of the final work of longtime Tyrell collaborator Paul Buckmaster, the Grammy Award-winning arranger who passed away in 2017.
Since I have been listening to Tyrell’s recordings for well over a decade now, I have to say that his voice on this album has continued to become more gravely. I miss the pure baritone voice he had a decade ago, but in some ways the passage of time makes the vocals on this album more special like a rare wine that is aging well. At any rate, the quality of the arrangements and the musicians is first rate as is Tyrell’s ability to put just the right timing, phrasing and emotion into the lyrics to make them uniquely his own.
About the Recording
Jack (The Audio Beatnik) says he remembers buying Steve Tyrell’s first album as an SACD, and that’s how he discovered his music. This album is available as a digital download, an MP3 or as an Audio CD from all of the usual places. I downloaded it to my iPhone and have been listening to it on the Cambridge Audio SE1 Beryllium In-ear Monitors. I’ve also played it using the small Audio Engine speakers that are on my desktop and thought the recording sounded great. If you are a Steve Tyrell fan like me, his artistic talent overcomes any shortcomings of the recording that might be noticed on a high-end system. If you haven’t discovered Tyrell, give him a listen. I’ll be at AXPONA in Chicago when Tyrell is at Feinstein’s in San Francisco in April, but I just may have to go see him in Seattle at Jazz Alley this summer!