DIVA TALK: A Dozen Must-Have Female Vocal Recordings

By Andrew Gans
19 Jul 2013

Cover art

Betty Buckley
"Betty Buckley"

Few have ever boasted a voice like the one the Cats and Sunset Boulevard star possesses. It is a singular voice that has wowed audiences and dazzled critics around the world. There are the rich, vibrato-filled chest tones — that powerful Broadway belt with its seemingly unending range for which she is most associated. And, then there is her upper register, an ethereal soprano that is as emotionally powerful as her biggest belt. That voice, in all its glory, can be heard on her debut solo recording, which is simply titled "Betty Buckley" and was initially released by Rizzoli Records in 1986. Buckley's singing on this disc, recorded live during a concert at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan, is so beautiful, whether she's singing her own compositions, the work of theatre composers or country/pop tunes. There is poetry and kindness in many of her lyrics, and I am especially fond of the sentiment "You and me alone together/and whether O whether or not that you know it/You and me alone./The glow in between is the love." Perhaps her greatest song, which she co-wrote with Lyle Mays, is "Dark Blue-Eyed Blues," which showcases her innumerable gifts as a singing actress. Other highlights include a spellbinding, soaring "Meadowlark," a superb "Wind Beneath My Wings" and the definitive "Ship in a Bottle." As I've written before, it is not just the voice that creates such magic, it is Buckley's consummate acting skills as well as her intelligent choice of material. Like a pointillist painting, all these elements somehow combine to form a masterwork, and one can't help but become mesmerized by the world of her artistry. This may be the solo recording I have listened to most often.