In Jacques Tourneur’s 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past, Robert Mitchum recounts his hellish relationship with angel-faced murderess Jane Greer to his new girlfriend Virginia Huston. “She can’t be all bad,” Huston protests. “No one is.” Mitchum replies, “She comes the closest.” Prompted by her misbegotten new CD, the same observation applies to Carly Simon. Film Noir is a ludicrous celebrity vanity production—overblown orchestrations, fawning Martin Scorsese liner notes, and black-and-white Greg Gorman photographs of the goldfish-lipped songstress hiding behind black sunglasses—that misfires on every count. Only three of the 11 songs—”Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year,” “Laura,” and “Somewhere in the Night”—actually derive from noir movies. Simon justifies the remaining ringers, including the wartime anthem “Lili Marlene,” Cole Porter’s wistful “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” and Hoagy Carmichael’s frothy “Two Sleepy People,” by asserting that they “qualify as having a noir mood,” a judgment as clueless as mistaking a chamber pot for a soup tureen. One could write a musicology dissertation on all that’s wrong with this project, starting with Simon’s vapid, sour, short-breathed vocalizing and the absurdly grandiose neo-symphonic settings. Special embarrassments include the hilariously misguided attempt to transform Porter’s elegant ballad into a Top 40 pop tune complete with backup chorus, Simon’s and arranger Van Dyke Parks’ shameless plagiarism of Peggy Lee’s classic “Don’t Smoke in Bed,” and a woebegone duet with John Travolta. In 1989, Chicago singer-pianist Audrey Morris made a CD with the same title, a scrupulously researched, sensitively performed program of 16 songs drawn from noir films. Save your money for this Film Noir, soon to be reissued as an antidote to Simon’s debacle.

—Joel E. Siegel