Album: Cyndi Lauper

At Last, Epic
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The Independent Culture

It is probably just a demographic thing, but these days every singer of a certain age seems to be doing their standards album - or two, in Rod Stewart's case. Cyndi Lauper's At Last is rather more personal than the usual wall-to-wall Gershwin, Berlin and Porter, comprised instead of the songs she remembers from growing up in a cosmopolitan section of New York. So although it includes "Sunny Side of the Street" and the mandatory duet with Tony Bennett on "Makin' Whoopee", it is a largely Sixties-oriented affair, with engaging versions of R&B pop classics such as "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me", and a restrained "Unchained Melody". The arrangements are varied and inventive, always searching for an original slant, whether it is a salsa-fied Latin take on Maurice Williams' "Stay", or the resonant drum and mournful strings that bring a suitably wretched disposition to "If You Go Away". But it is Lauper's voice that is front and centre throughout, wielded with a maturity that enables her to scrupulously avoid ugly diva showboating. Instead, she draws inspiration from more outré sources, with a Blossom Dearie impression that is perfect for "My Baby Just Cares For Me", and a "Walk on by" delivered in the blue-eyed soul style of Laura Nyro.