Newest Review: ... The first disc contains 13 tracks: fever moondance kissing a fool for once in my life how can you mend a broken heart summer wind you'l... more
Swinging and Swaying Into The Spotlight
Michael Buble - Michael Buble
Member Name: Hishyeness
Michael Buble - Michael Buble
Advantages: A superb mix of tracks on an accomplished debut album
Disadvantages: One or two weaker links.
Despite my passion for Depeche Mode and some heavy duty pining for the 80's New Romantic movement, my musical tastes remain pretty eclectic. That said, despite blessing my MP3 player with a bit of jazz here, a touch of classical there, and maybe some ear-splitting nu-metal as well, there is one particular genre of music that I have a real soft spot for. I just love to step up, snap my fingers and tap my feet to the groovy beat of some good old school swing.
Give me some bass, some tinkling ivories and a big brass band - give me a good old fashioned fifties retro-style chrome microphone, a lounge suit with a white bowtie and a barnet slicked back with Brylcreem and I'm in my element. Failing all that, I could make do with a karaoke machine, but somehow its just not the same.
It's hard to believe that there is still a market in this day and age for re-interpretations of big band classics, but the repertoire of the original Rat Pack has been fair game for some time and is enjoyed equally by those hankering after the halcyon days of yesteryear and new fans discovering these classics for the first time. It's ageless music, but the question remains, can the modern mimics do those original tunes justice or should the stellar work of the legendary likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and Bobby Darin be left well enough alone?
There have been many great pretenders hoping to fill the void left by the King of Cool and Old Blue Eyes when they shuffled off to that great big lounge in the sky, including in recent times, the talented Harry Connick Jr., Jamie Cullum and even Robbie Williams - whose "Swing When You're Winning" album did much to bring the genre into the popular spotlight. However, arguably the most successful of the new boys has been the Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.
THE SINGER & ALBUM
Grammy award-winning Michael Bublé burst on to the scene with this, his eponymous debut in 2003, which features a number of well-known covers spanning several decades of popular music. It was received extremely well by both the paying public and music critics alike, winning him the honour of Best New Talent at Canada's 2004 Juno Awards (think the equivalent of the Brits).
Along with genre classics live "Fever", "Sway" and "Come Fly With Me", he also finds room for his own interpretations of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen, one of my favourite George Michael songs, "Kissing A Fool", and the Van Morrison classic "Moondance".
I bought the album on the back of hearing his rendition of "Come Fly With Me" and when I examined the track listing, I suspected he may have bitten off more than he could chew. It's one thing to cover a Peggy Lee classic, which, perhaps a younger audience would not have heard so much - but another thing entirely to take on a consummate showman like Freddie Mercury with a song still very much in the public conscience.
That said, on the well-known Bee Gees standard "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" he not only puts his own spin on a seventies super group classic, but he even gets one of the brothers, Barry Gibb, to sing backing vocals for him. That's either supreme confidence, or supreme arrogance. So does he pull it off?
It's a testament to the prodigious talent of Michael Bublé that he manages to do justice to just about everything he attempts on this, his debut album. The line between cheap imitation and genuine interpretation is a fine one which most run-of-the mill singers find beyond their ability (ironic then, in many ways, that he did a guest spot on the X-Factor last season coaching the contestants for the Big Band weekend).
Whenever I hear this song I automatically think of the smouldering Peggy Lee version - this was her signature tune - and as such, I am most used to hearing it represented from a female point of view. Bublé manages to inject a freshness and passion into his performance that comes across as entirely genuine. His vocal performance is technically flawless and is complemented rather than dominated superbly by his backing band. It's still a little strange to hear it sung by a man, so perhaps comparisons with the original are unfair. As such, listened to in isolation, it works very well in its own right.
On the second track, Michael tackles the ever-popular Van Morrison standard first released in the 1970's on the Northern-Irish legend's "Moondance" album. Although it retains elements of the original - especially in the baseline - he gives it much more of a big band interpretation. Hauntingly, at times, he even sounds like Van Morrison, but there are enough flourishes and variations to make it much more interesting than mere imitation. All in all, quite a respectable effort and a fitting tribute to a popular classic.
> Kissing A Fool
To be frank, this was one of the songs I bought the album for. It is one of my favourite ever songs, with deep personal meaning, and I doubted very much whether Bublé could do it justice. I was wrong. As with most of the material on this album, it would be foolish to make a like for like comparison with the original - the arrangement works well in its own right and Bublé's polished and mellifluous voice brings vocal depth to the track. I still prefer the original, but this version runs a close second.
> You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
I didn't know this track by name, but it is an instantly recognisable staple of lounge lizards and wedding singers everywhere. I have heard it covered live so abysmally, so often, that I convinced myself I hated it. The song was originally performed by Lou Rawls in 1976 and was easily his most popular song. Bublé tries his best to give it depth and maturity, but for me, it is easily his least accomplished performance on the album. This is the one track that bears the closest comparison to the silky smooth and classy delivery of the original artist, probably because it is so identifiably a seventies song. Adequate, but not a stand-out.
> Crazy Little Thing Called Love
It takes balls to cover a much-loved track from one of the ultimate über-bands of the rock era. However of all of Queen's songs, this is the probably the one that lends itself most readily to the big band treatment. It's a lighter, airier and more rock-a-billy than rock version of the original song - with piano, bass and brass featuring heavily instead of the guitars and snare drums of the original. In a way it's much more Elvis (uh-huh) than Mercury (who injected a seventies glam-rock camp-ness to his performance) and it works a treat.
> The Way You Look Tonight
This song has been covered by pretty much anyone with a dinner jacket, undone bow tie and recording contract, so, of all the songs on the album, it comes with the least amount of baggage. As such, you can listen to it for what it is - a consummate, smooth and endearing rendition of a classic love song. The big band is toned down for soaring strings, plucked guitars and swishy percussion giving Bublé the perfect platform on which to exercise his talented pipes. I have heard Sinatra do this, Harry Connick Jr., Tony Bennett. Andy Williams, and even Rod Stewart - and Bublé clearly holds his own in that exalted company. Perfect.
> Come Fly With Me
I just love this song and must confess to it being my karaoke standard. As such, I am more critical than most in assessing Bublé's performance relative to the Sinatra version (the song was actually written for him and is the title track of his 1958 album). However, his delivery is near flawless, and I can happily endorse it as the equal - possibly even the better of - the original version. It is a lively, fun, joyful and young interpretation that would have lent itself brilliantly to a duet with the great man. My favourite track on the album and the song that attracted me to Bublé in the first place.
Bublé's lasting appeal and continued popularity owes more to his talent and wonderful singing voice than to any passing fad - which is great news for those who appreciate good music, whatever its form. In taking on so many much-loved artists and much-heard songs on his debut, Bublé took something of a risk. The fact that, by and large, almost everything he tackles comes off is testament to his consummate ability and creativity.
There are one or two weak links on the album (notably "You'll Never Find..." and the slightly cabaret rendition of Dean Martin's mambo inspired "Sway"), but this is an encouragingly impressive opening salvo in what has already proved to be a star-studded career. At £4.98 with free delivery from Amazon, this album is fantastic value and comes highly recommended.
FULL TRACK LISTING
3. Kissing A Fool
4. For Once In My Life
5. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
6. Summer Wind
7. You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
8. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
9. Put Your Head On My Shoulder
11. The Way You Look Tonight
12. Come Fly With Me
13. That's All
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: A real talent and the next heir apparent to the original Rat Pack