Fran Landesman was a lyricist, and what one might call a free spirit. In her 2011 obituary (She died at 83), the New York Times said she “made her life into an art form — not least because of the exuberantly public extramarital sex life she delighted in sharing with London tabloids.”
For years, BBC Radio has featured a program called “Desert Island Discs,” inviting guests to pick their favorite records, and the one luxury item with which they’d want to be stranded. In a 1996 episode, Ms. Landesman caused a bit of a stir when she said her luxury would be cannabis seeds.
The Times obit goes on to say, “…her lasting footprint was the mordant, biting, yet strangely tender lyrics she used to chronicle the world’s lovers, lunatics and losers.” Probably the two most-recorded from her body of work are “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” and “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men.”
Lyrics by Ms. Landesman. Music by Simon Wallace. Unforgettable interpretation by Sarah Moule.
My introduction to Ms. Moule came in an email: “I am married to Simon Wallace and have been recording his and Fran’s songs since 2002….I wonder whether you would be interested in a CD of mainly Fran Landesman and Simon Wallace songs.”
The disc opens with echoes of St. Augustine in “Lord, I Want To Be Good,” one of six Landesman-Wallace tracks getting their recorded debut here, and this track hooked me for the rest, a very pleasant (if somewhat melancholy) trip through titles like “Don’t Fall In Love With Me,” along with “Did I Break Your Heart,” and “Scars,” which is more tender than the title would suggest:
Don’t be ashamed | Everybody’s got Scars,
From our various wars | On the way to the stars
Don’t try to hide | Everybody’s got scars,
From crash landing on Mars | With these egos of ours
And yet, if I had to choose a single track, it would be Cole Porter’s “Under My Skin,” delivered with such longing that it took me a little while to exit my own reverie, remembering my own tales of little romantic infatuations. These songs aren’t for kids. Ms. Moule isn’t just technically perfect, she proves that one needs more than a few life experiences to instinctively deliver these lyrics the way they were written. She’s not only revealing her own soul – she seemed to be looking into mine.
It’s good that I don’t have to pick just one. Neither should you. Highest recommendation for this handcrafted set – this work of art.
Tracks in bold have been added to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com.