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The Summer We Crossed Europe
In The Rain

by Kazuo Ishiguro
Summer Me Winter Me
by Stacey Kent

Kazuo Ishiguro's superb book The Summer We Crossed Europe In The Rain (Lyrics for Stacey Kent) is a 116 page hardcover book with illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Bianca Bagnarelli. It is a collection of lyrics written by Ishiguro for the singer Stacey Kent since 2006, lyrics that were set to music on Stacey's various albums by her partner, saxophonist Jim Tomlinson. It also includes five lyrics still to be recorded by Stacey - Best Casablanca; Catherine In Indochine; Gabin; Voyager and Turning Noir.


Kazuo Ishiguro, born in Japan, moved to Britain when he was nine. He is best known as a novelist - his novel Remains Of The Day  is now a classic film - in 2017 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his Introduction to the book he says: "I've built a reputation over the years as a writer of stories, but I started out writing songs ...... I must say here that I've often felt ambivalent about the practice of publishing on printed pages the lyrics of songs created to be performed. It's rare that a song lyric, isolated from its melody, orchestration and performance, can satisfyingly double as something to be read. And it remains my belief that a song lyric is not, and works differently from, a poem. Mindful of this challenge, my editors and I have attempted to create with this book something fresh and unique by persuading the brilliant Italian comics artist Bianca Bagnarelli ... to bring her own vision and dimension to each song."

The approach works well. Personally, I think the difference between poetry and lyrics is more blurred than Kazuo Ishiguro suggests - I find there is some poetry that lends itself well to being set to music and some lyrics that qualify as poetry in their own right. Here I feel that there are lyrics that are like poems, sitting comfortably within the illustrations as the pages are turned. This is also one of those occasions where you realise that handling a printed book is so much better than experiencing words and pictures online. This is partly due to the quality of the print but more to do with our ability to spend time appreciating the art work and the words.

You said there'd be shutters

And rusty ceiling fans

And broken hearted gangsters

With roses in their hands

There would be tango in Macao

That's what you told me

And I believed you somehow

Believed all your baloney

We've come halfway round the world

I guess I'm stuck with you for now

I'm not saying that you lied

But it was definitely implied

There would be tango

In Macao

From the lyrics for Tango In Macao

Here is a brief introductory video with more information about Kazuo Ishiguro and the book, and here is Stacey Kent singing the title track. The Summer We Crossed Europe In The Rain, published by Faber, is available from a number of retailers. I wish I could show you more of the illustrations and the book itself, but Amazon here have a few pictures you can click on . If you can, go into a bookshop and take a look, I think you will be impressed.

Which brings us to Stacey Kent's latest album Summer Me Winter Me. Kazuo Ishiguro's lyrics appear again on the track Postcard Lovers, but the album is full of music and lyrics by composers we know well - Michel Legrand, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jacques Brel, as well as Stacey's partner saxophonist Jim Tomlinson who also arranged the album.

Award-winning Stacey Kent should need no introduction; she is such a popular singer in the UK. Born in New Jersey, she studied music at the Guildhall College of Music and Drama in London. She began her professional career in the 1990s, singing at Café Bohème in London's Soho, and after two or three years, she began opening for established acts at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. Since then she has released more than fifteen albums of which several have won or been nominated for awards.

Of Summer Me Winter Me Stacey says: "Which album is that song on?" is a question I often get asked after a concert at signings. Since our set lists invariably include a mixture of old and new repertoire, the answer is sometimes, "it's not on any album." This album is therefore a collection of those songs. It's a response to all those people who have said over the years, somewhat disappointed, "you haven't recorded If You Go Away?" and so on."

As usual, Stacey's singing is clear; sensitive, expressive and always so able to interpret and phrase the lyrics. Jim Tomlinson's arrangements and contribution on a myriad of instruments including flute, tenor sax, guitar and keyboards  is just right. Stacey's followers know what to expect. For example, listen to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Happy Talk from South Pacific:

As is often the case, reviewers favour different songs, but try these: Show Me  (from My Fair Lady) or Antonio Carlos Jobim's Corcovado, but you can aslo sample the other songs from those YouTube links. The album Summer Me Winter Me is available here.

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