Personnel: Ron Elliot (guitar); Randy Newman (piano); Lincoln Mayorga (keyboards); Jim Gordon (drums).
Photographer: Barry Feinstein.
A funny thing happened to easy listening pop around 1968: many of the studio musicians in Los Angeles and New York got turned on to the same hip new sounds as everyone else, and for a brief period, the middle of the road got gently psychedelicized. This led to oddball goodies like the fragmentary, dreamlike The Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre, those weird records where Sebastian Cabot and William Shatner were intoning Bob Dylan like he was Shakespeare, and Claudine Longet's Colours. Previously preferring Europop schmaltz like Paul Mauriat's "Love Is Blue," Longet stretches out to include two of Donovan's early folky tunes, "Catch the Wind" and the title track, a delicate acoustic reading of Gordon Lightfoot's "Pussywillows, Cat-Tails" that's really quite lovely, and perhaps most surprisingly, a tender recasting of the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me" with a coda featuring new French lyrics penned by Longet herself. Not everything works: the opening version of "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" doesn't hint at the complexity of the harmonies of the Simon & Garfunkel original, and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" skates so dangerously close to tweeness by itself that the addition of Longet's wispy little-girl vocals and prominent lisp sends it over the edge. Longet redeems herself at the album's end, however, with a delicately mournful take on Randy Newman's oft-recorded "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" that features only the composer's piano and Longet's uncharacteristically self-assured vocals. Colours is certainly enjoyable on the shallow, kitschy "ha ha, look at this" level that most modern-day hipsters condescend to, but for true connoisseurs of the style, it's probably Claudine Longet's best album. ~ Stewart Mason