Album review: "One Cannot Kiss Alone"
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
As "The Artist" vies for the first silent-film Oscar since 1929, this may be Max Raabe's moment. The tuxedo-clad Berlin smoothie warbles 1920s-style tunes that - for most American listeners - might as well be wordless. Few on this side of the Atlantic would know what "Kussen Kann Man Nicht Alleine" means, if it hadn't been translated for the American title of Raabe's new album, "One Cannot Kiss Alone."
The U.S. version does more than Anglicize song titles. After a dozen tunes in Deutsch, the album appends English remakes of five numbers, including the title track. That's wise, because words matter in this sort of music. The 12-piece Palast Orchester plays expertly, and Raabe croons elegantly. But the melodies tend to be slight and become more memorable when the lyrics are understandable - even if they're as silly as "Top Secret Mission's" super-spy pastiche.
"One Cannot Kiss Alone" will appeal to Weimar nostalgists and other antiquarians. But Raabe's American career probably will rely more on his live performances, which include such standards as "Cheek to Cheek" and "Just a Gigolo," as well as Jazz Age rearrangements of more recent hits. While Raabe's retro sound is impeccable, his original songs are merely competent.