Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are two of the most influential writers and poets of our age. Whilst they both possess distinctive voices and are able to effectively portray their music, few would call them singers in the traditional sense. Barb Jungr is of course a renowned jazz and Cabaret singer specializing in performing and interpreting the work of master songwriters such as Jacques Brel, Nina Simone and of course Dylan and Cohen.
Barb Jungr sings the songs of Cohen and Dylan with femininity and passion making them endlessly stylish and classy. Hard Rain has some first class arrangements by Simon Wallace, who by stripping the music back to its basics has created a atmospheric simplicity unlike any other recording I have heard of these songs. The album has also been produced with utmost clarity. The piano and shakuhachi along with Barb's tender vibrato on Land of Plenty leaves you speechless. Barb really brings out the beauty in this track. Like many of the songs on the album this one really benefits from the tonality of the female voice.
The album has some suburb choices of songs : First We Take Manhattan, Everybody Knows, Blowing in the Wind, Masters of War, Gotta Serve Somebody and of course Hard Rain.
Musically it has a very noirish feel and many of the tracks would not be out of place as the soundtrack to a 1950s thriller. The subtle piano and bass add a mystic character to the songs and bring new life to them, which is no easy task and Barb and Simon deserve kudos for that. As Dylan reworks his own material, Simon Wallace's arrangement and Barbs interpretation of Blowing In the Windgives a new slant on one of Dylan's most famous songs, making it a kin to Joni Mitchell or Mary Chapin Carpenter. Everybody Knows is an exceptionally difficult song to perform. It is lyrically challenging, the melody is complex and the timing is certainly tricky. With key changes lifting the song to new levels and raising the galloping melody makes the song more accessible and fresh. 1000 Kisses Deep, another song from Cohen's I'm Your Man, is sung with a heart breaking tenderness, which you rarely find in singers these days. It is such a pleasure to hear a vocalist using their voice as an instrument and not relying on over production or having the urge to showcase their vocal range in every song. I do hope that Barb keeps up these fantastic albums and giving us some re-imagining of timeless songs. ( It would be great to hear her sing Cohen's In My Secret Life or Alexandra Leaving.) Hard Rain is as endlessly listenable as the original songs and has a magical and ethereal quality to it making it a very special album indeed.