Neil Sedaka may not seem like the hippest performer, someone only the parents might enjoy, but consider this:
One of his compositions, “Solitaire,” appears on the Carpenters tribute album, “If I Were a Carpenter” (sung by Sheryl Crow); Gloria Estefan does a ballad version of his No. 1 hit “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” on her new album; he once dated Carole King and formed the Tokens during high school; members of 10cc once produced him; Elton John helped engineer his well-storied ’70s comeback, and if you want to get technical, Sedaka had a song titled “Stairway to Heaven” long before Led Zeppelin.
Blowing caution to the wind, Sedaka is about to make another return. In February, PolyGram is planning the European release of his “Classically Sedaka” album, in which he wrote original lyrics for classical melodies by the likes of Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. A U.S. release date is unknown.
“If this takes off,” Sedaka said recently, “it could be the biggest move of my career.”
He said classical purists should reserve judgment of such a bold move till they’ve had a chance to hear the words and his performance.
“It’s a reinvention of my career for me,” Sedaka said. “I’m singing in a Pavarotti style and playing virtuoso piano. It’s very different. But the words are so natural that people think these pieces always had words to them.”
For those more inclined to Sedaka’s past work, Varese Vintage recently released “Laughter in the Rain: The Best of Neil Sedaka, 1974-1980.” Among the 20 tracks, his ’75 No. 1 “Bad Blood” (with Elton John on backup vocals) makes its CD debut.
“I’m lucky I’m still working after 35 years and people are still paying money to see me all over the world,” Sedaka said.
(Varese Vintage Records, 11846 Ventura Blvd., Suite 130, Studio City, CA; 818-753-4143.)
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