Carly Simon skimmed the surface of old pop standards nine years ago, in an album titled, somewhat wishfully, Torch. Now she's doing it again, on My Romance, and no amount of wishful thinking can disguise how wretched she sounds.
Her voice is blank. Her phrasing is flat, often flat-footed. Songs lose their meaning. ''In the Wee Small Hours'' doesn't weep; there's no smile in ''My Funny Valentine.'' In ''Danny Boy'' Simon grabs for a high note, sounds as if she nearly can't make it, and for a long moment seems to hang on by her fingernails. Then at least on an advance tape of the album there's a troubling effect. Simon's voice can be heard fading out on the high note and at the same time singing the phrase that follows. There's an audible overlap. Did the high note strain her so much that she had to record the next phrase separately? That's how it sounds.
Had I graded Torch, I'd have given it a C+. This new album? Maybe it never should have been released. D