Fifteen years ago, if you had told me that the words “Cyndi Lauper” and “critical renaissance” would apply to each other, I probably would have laughed in your face. This is because I don’t know anything at all, apparently; Lauper, over the past few years, has quietly undergone the sort of rose-colored reappraisal usually reserved for dead legends, not golden-throated wrestling fanatics with funny hair. She seemed to come full circle with 2003’s enervating At Last, a plodding, drawn-out set of standards that received a landslide of favorable buzz.
And now we have The Body Acoustic, in which Lauper runs through selected portions of her back catalog, often with assistance from special guests, rescuing these tunes from the various production crimes committed against their original versions. The results, as you might expect, are mixed.
A lot of it has to do with the quality of Lauper’s early material. None of her post-limelight releases are bad â€” in fact, 1993’s Hat Full of Stars is something like great â€” but they can’t help but suffer in comparison to her debut, and that point is driven home pretty convincingly here. Body opens with a solid update on “Money Changes Everything,” then moves on into “All through the Night” (which is actually pretty horrible due to the guest vocals from Shaggy, but hey, it’s still a great song) and a duet with Sarah McLachlan on the endlessly covered “Time After Time” (download). It’s all familiar enough to evoke warm feelings of nostalgia, yet sufficiently different to provoke a new level of interest. But after “Above the Clouds” (download), a gorgeous duet with Jeff Beck, things slide downhill fairly quickly. Songs like “Fearless” and “I’ll Be Your River” are okay, but they sound pretty bland next to the stuff that inspired fun-wanting girls back in 1983.