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Review: Rachelle Garniez stylishly remembers Bowie, Aretha

Rachelle Garniez, “Gone to Glory" (StorySound Records) Rachelle Garniez's musical world is as wide and wonderful as the range of recently-departed artists she pays tribute to on “Gone to Glory,” from David Bowie and Della Reese to Glen Campbell and Aretha Franklin.

With arrangements prominently featuring accordions, strings and horns, Garniez covers bonafide classics like Prince's “Raspberry Beret,” which sounds here like a John Mellencamp song, as well as lesser known gems like Reese's take on Bobby Worth's “Don't You Know.”

Garniez, a veteran of New York's cabaret scene, infuses these 14 versions with the same engaging theatricality she stamps on her original tunes. Bowie's “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" is truly ominous and Mose Allison's “Monsters of the Id” comes across on the far side of disturbing.

Mel Tillis is remembered with a song he wrote for Kenny Rogers, “Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town”; composer Galt MacDermot is recalled with the humorous “Frank Mills” from “Hair"; and Sharon Jones, the late singer of soul resurrectors The Dap-Kings, surely would have enjoyed the pathos Garniez brings to “100 Days, 100 Nights.”

Some songs include hidden acknowledgements, their intros citing compositions linked to other late greats. One of the most easily recognizable is a tip of the cap to Glen Frey on Lemmy and Motörhead’s “Killed by Death,” which is prefaced by the melody of the “Hotel California” guitar solo and then turns into what could be an outtake from “The Threepenny Opera.”

Debbie Reynolds is recognized with a snippet of “Singin' in the Rain,” which ushers in “My Sister and I,” a genuinely moving and compassionate song from the 1940s about the effects of war and trauma. Among the closing trio of tunes, Franklin's “Day Dreaming” is a tad overwrought, but both Leonard Cohen's “Anthem” and Campbell's “Rhinestone Cowboy,” written by Larry Weiss, use light as a metaphor for hope and perseverance.

Garniez, whose musical persona has been compared to Liza Minnelli and Rickie Lee Jones, has created quirky and lovely versions of songs that would fit stylishly at any memorial services for those she is honoring.

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