We usually like Cyndi Lauper — except when her website is stealing from us — so we approached her new album, “Memphis Blues,” with both excitement and trepidation. We were excited to see her join Tom Petty and Steve Miller in the release of new Blues albums over the last week; we were trepidatious because, in our experience, the best Blues albums come from those who are musicians first and singers second.
The Blues is a stringed instrument method of music making. Sure, vocal cords can sing the Blues, but to move The Blues, you need the vibration of string in the air against wood to bring alive the heartache of the earth — and that means a piano or a guitar or even a thumping bass.
Brass does not play the Blues. Brass celebrates Jazz.
Cyndi Lauper’s “Memphis Blues” stars a wide variety of Blues legends: B.B. King, Charles Musselwhite, Allen Toussaint, Johnny Lang and Ann Peebles — but they all outshine Cyndi because she is trying too hard to match them and The Blues is not the natural genre for her type of screechy Pop singing.
Cyndi released this album on “Mercer Street Records” — not her usual SONY/BMG Music label — so it looks like she was dealing with an immediate aesthetic disconnect between her old label and the risk of a new one.
When Cyndi performed “Just Your Fool” with Musselwhite on the Celebrity Apprentice finale, it was uncomfortable watching her squirm on the table in front of Donald Trump:
You don’t lap dance The Blues and you also don’t ask the audience to clap along during a Blues song. Cyndi has the wrong tone, temperature and intonation for singing and performing The Blues.
If you purchase “Memphis Blues” from iTunes, you’ll get one version of the album that includes a digital booklet.
Now, I’m not going to say Cyndi Lauper is an Old Hag at 57 — not that there’s anything wrong with that — but why include such a horrible image of her when there are obviously other shots you could use that are more lucidly charming?
I can’t imagine SONY/BMG ever letting loose a posed Old Hag image like this one for the public eye:
I don’t know why Cyndi Lauper wanted to make a Blues album; her soulless voice is thin and erratic throughout — perhaps she was just bored and wanted to record some tone exploration — but that doesn’t mean she can actually sing the proper Blues or that she should release the failed effort for sale.
For Cyndi Lauper to leap into the Blues realm without the proper historic insight, musical edification, or yearning confidence we have come to expect from her — she leaves us cold and lifeless in Memphis — and still searching for The Real Blues.