In theory, this was a great idea for a show—Liza Minnelli recording a tribute to her father, the great Hollywood director, made up entirely of songs from his many classic musical movies. But somehow the result turned out to be one of the biggest embarrassments of Liza’s career.
It’s odd, because normally Minnelli is famous for her spectacularly great live albums. In fact, the best albums of her career other than her Broadway cast albums and the Cabaret soundtrack are all live albums…the London Palladium concert with her mother, the Winter Garden album, the Carnegie Hall recording, Liza With a Z…the list goes on and on. But this is easily the worst live show of Minnelli’s career, or at least the worst to be captured on a recording.
Not only is she in absolutely terrible voice, with a cavernous vibrato and a generally hoarse sound, but she slurs her speech so much that she sounds like a stereotypical drunk in a bad comedy (her version of “Taking a Chance on Love” is particularly problematic in this regard; it’s become something of a running joke among those who know this album to refer to it as “Chakin’ a Shansh on Love”). For all I know, she may actually have been drunk on stage…I certainly hope she was, because frankly I don’t want to live in a world where a monumental talent like Liza Minnelli could give a performance this bad sober.
In any case, this wasn’t just an issue of one unluckily-timed bad performance on the night the recording was made, since this live album was made over two nights and she sounds pretty much the same throughout it. Apart from “Taking a Chance on Love”, the other low point comes at the climax, where Minnelli sings a desperate-sounding duet with a recording of her mother on “The Trolley Song”. Not only is the “Unforgettable”-type duet with a pre-existing recording severely unsuited to being done live, but putting herself next to her famous mother at her professional peak only serves to highlight what bad form Minnelli is in here.
This show and the recording it left behind is just a sad spectacle all around, and one of the few blemishes on a truly great performer’s otherwise illustrious career.