A great song is a great song no matter what. If a song is truly great, it can transcend genres, artists, and interpretations and still deliver on its musical hook and impact with an emotional intensity. With her latest record, Rock Me Sweet, singer, model, and actress Barbara Lusch puts this theory to the test in a big way, taking on some of the biggest songs from the 80s and recreates them in a torch song setting, infusing each track with her own emotion and story. It’s a daunting task but Lusch delivers something rather interesting here for open minded listeners.
Inspired by an idea from friend and popular executive producer Tom Nunan, who suggested reinterpreting classic 80s male-fronted ballads in a jazz-flavored setting, Lusch took the idea and ran with it, drawing from eleven nostalgic classics from artists like Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and U2, among others. The addition of Earl Sweet as arranger and orchestra leader only helped to strengthen the deal and give the recording even more polish.
Drawing from her acting experience, Lusch chose to approach these songs in a unique manner, seeking to find the unique story within each for her interpretations.
"I worked on these songs as if I were preparing a monologue,” she shares. “My acting experience has taught me story-telling techniques, and now it is so rewarding to perform this music, knowing that the lyrics have a deep significance for me and hoping this will be communicated to my audience as well."
The overall result is an album that brings something new to listeners as well as a renewed respect for Lusch of the artists whose work she draws from.
"Once we brought the tempos down, the emotions and stories contained in the lyrics emerged so clearly. I began to love these songs more and more, and to gain new admiration for the artists who conceived them,” she says.
Those emotions range from lovelorn and emotionally tortured to downright sultry and seductive from one track to another. Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” is envisioned as a siren song, Lusch’s vocals warm and inviting, flirtatious in their delivery while “Dancing In the Dark” is treated to a slow, string-laden arrangement that tempers the lyric, putting it starkly at the front and echoing with a touch of sadness.
Bits of horn and subtle percussion color Lusch’s take on “Living on a Prayer,” the track infused almost with a touch of samba while “Sweet Child of Mine” is a light and airy affair, gentle strings and guitar pressing it forward, a far cry from the Guns ‘N’ Roses original. “Hungry Like the Wolf” is another sultry delivery, Lusch teasing listeners with the lyric and the easy going composition as “Hot Blooded” amps it up even more, rich swells of horns providing a sonic wink and a nod throughout.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” has a blues tone to it, the horns continuing to provide added emotion alongside some smooth percussion and keys, Lusch crooning effortlessly through the track, evoking thoughts of a smoky singer in a classic pulp fiction noir. But the artist’s finest effort might be her rendition of the U2 classic, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Engaging listeners with a tone that evokes sadness at the outset, the track builds, resonant strings providing a sense of movement before moving from sorrow to joy, Bono’s lyric as powerful here as ever.
Barbara Lusch’s Rock Me Sweet is not an album that will be for everyone but, for an adventurous listener, there’s a lot to be heard here. Taking on some daunting classics, the artist boldly dives into these eleven songs and infuses them with healthy doses of herself while maintaining the integrity of what are still great songs.