“At last!” is not just the title of Cyndi Lauper’s new album, but it’s undoubtedly the sentiment of the singer’s small but loyal fanbase, who haven’t gotten a new full-length studio album from the ‘80s icon since 1997’s failed Sisters Of Avalon (Lauper fulfilled her contract with Epic Records the following year with a Christmas album and last year’s 5-track EP Shine was only independently released). Lauper has rejoined forces with Epic for At Last, an album of reworked standards. While it’s unlikely to match the success of Rod Stewart’s recent Great American Songbook albums, At Last is infinitely more bearable and, for an artist who’s struggled to find her place in the industry in recent years, the standard material fits Lauper like a glove (the satiny, elbow-to-fingertip kind, like the ones she wears on the album’s cover). Lauper and company (which includes veteran producer Russ Titelman, Stevie Wonder and Sheila E) offer mostly somber, haunting arrangements of classics like the title track, the sparse instrumentation of which allows for Lauper’s idiosyncratic voice to shine through crystal clear, and Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By,” which is given a melancholy, even gloomy vibe. Likewise, the dark and foreboding “If You Go Away” could almost be a Portishead track. But that’s not to say there aren’t any uptempo numbers here: Maurice Williams’ “Stay” is given a full-on Latin treatment, while Tony Bennett joins Lauper on the peppy “Makin’ Whoopee.” Lauper deserves a better partner than a glorified lounge singer, but with Frank gone (Sinatra and Lauper sang together a decade ago on A Very Special Christmas 2), I suppose Tony will have to do. By the second half of At Last, the act wears a bit thin, but Lauper seems to have finally hit her stride.
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