‘Legrand Affair’: Errico & Michel make beautiful music together

More than five years in the making, the new Ghostlight recording “Melissa Errico: Legrand Affair” serves up the tasty combination of one of the best contemporary Broadway singers and an overview of a great composer.

Errico and Michel Legrand first collaborated a decade ago on the musical “Amour” which was probably too small and too eccentric for Broadway at that time. (It might still be.) The show only ran for a few weeks but those who were lucky enough to see it didn’t forget it (fortunately, a cast album with Errico and Malcolm Gets was recorded).

The singer and composer clicked and for years they went over the Legrand songbook for an assortment that would work well together on CD and bring out the best in Errico’s voice.

The recorded music industry has semi-collapsed in the meantime, but somehow Errico and Legrand managed to produce an album with an incredibly lush orchestral sound that caresses the star’s voice.

Legrand first broke through in this country with the 1964 French film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” a modern, sung-through musical that became a huge date picture despite the foreign language soundtrack its many storytelling eccentricities (singing car mechanics in a real Cherbourg garage etc.)

Legrand was Oscar-nominated for the score and the haunting ballad “I Will Wait for You” but he had to wait another four years before he took home the Academy Award for “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

The French composer then became one of the most eclectic movie music writers in Hollywood, going from bread-and-butter action films like “Ice Station Zebra” (1968) to lush romantic scores for smaller pictures such as “Summer of 42” (1971).

It’s no wonder that it took months for Errico and Legrand to decide on what they would record before the composer did new arrangements — the songbook is vast.

The duo wisely decided on a blend of the well-known and the obscure.

Errico does beautiful versions of “I Will Wait for You” and “The Windmills of Your Mind” but she also sings a second tune from “Thomas Crown” that has been rarely recorded but is just as strong as “Windmills” — “His Eyes, Her Eyes.”

The beauty of Legrand’s music and Errico’s voice make us forget the banality of the Alan and Marilyn Bergman lyrics for “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”:

“What are are you doing the rest of your life?
North and South and East and West of your life?
I have only one request of your life
That you spend it all with me.
All the seasons and the times of your days.
All the nickels and the dimes of your days.
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days.
All begin and end with me…”

The Bergmans are much honored figures in Hollywood — Barbra Streisand recently released an all-Bergman album — but their lyrics are just a tad mushy for my taste. Their real gift is to hook up with musicians like Legrand who can make soaring loveliness out of rather earthbound words.

“Legrand Affair” is a gorgeous throwback to an earlier era in recording when huge orchestras and powerful, emotionally subtle singers were in the center of the pop mainstream.

Joe Meyers