Review I Can Only Be Me

On the new album I Can Only Be Me, Eva Cassidy is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. Although this concept risks becoming kitschy, the project holds up thanks to the American singer’s hypnotic voice. Her delivery is so convincing and powerful that she is never overshadowed by the British orchestra. Because Cassidy is no longer among us, the makers of this album had to isolate her vocals from existing recordings. These were often made under anything but ideal conditions.

Using the latest A.I. techniques, the team managed to filter out cackling audiences, rattling tableware and out of tune playing musicians. The London Symphony Orchestra first released the quiet ballads ‘Songbird’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ (in the latter, Lenny Williams’ piano solo can still be heard). The orchestral arrangements are perfectly matched to Cassidy’s voice, that shines within this musical setting like never before.

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy

The orchestra also knows how to handle soul- and jazz-like songs like ‘People Get Ready’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘You’ve Changed’, with conductor Christopher Willis behind the keys. ‘Waly, Waly’ was one of Cassidy’s favourite traditionals. Her version on Eva By Heart was pimped up with digital Celtic drums and strings, the live version on Nightbird with only piano accompaniment was much better, but this symphonic performance also has a high emotional intensity.

Recording the album

Recording the album

In ‘Time After Time’ and ‘Tall Trees in Georgia’, musical storyteller Cassidy gives meaning to every word, dot and comma. The title track is a worthy finale to this carefully crafted album. Written by Stevie Wonder but never performed by him, this song is about the enduring wonder of everyday life. If anyone can convey that feeling, it is Eva Cassidy.

In honour of the singer’s 60th birthday (2 February), an updated edition of Eva Cassidy’s  biography Behind the Rainbow (written by Johan Bakker) was also published.

I Can Only Be Me

Eva Cassidy – Blix Street Records

Behind the Rainbow, the Story of Eva Cassidy – Johan Bakker (Omnibus Press, London)

‘Time After Time’:

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