Monday, October 06, 2003

CD Review: "Michael Bublé" by Michael Bublé

I’ve always been partial to American music from the 40’s and 50’s. In my mind, selections from that time period always represented my ideal image of Americana culture. I discovered most of the music from this time period from old American movies that I used to watch as a child as well as some of the newer ones that they shown locally. Most often than not, a song would come through in the movie that would simply captivate me and start me on a journey to discover the artist and their other works. It was by this way that I learned about Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sarah Vaughn among others. Their timeless songs and tunes have been reinterpreted by many and the latest name to put their mark on this illustrious list is Michael Bublé (pronounced boo-blay).

I first found out about this 25 year old Vancouver native from his appearance on a local music variety show a few weeks back. The first thing that struck me about this young artist is how mature he sounds despite his young age. In the show, they showed a music video clip of his rendition of “Sway” that immediately impressed me with the vitality of his interpretation. As an artist, Bublé specialized in covering songs that my grandparents used to hear and unfortunately have been overlooked by my generation. The songs that he covers in his self-titled debut items are best loved standards that have been lovingly reinterpreted for a new generation of listeners to appreciate.

The 13 track album, running just under 49 minutes, starts off with a smoldering rendition of Peggy Lee’s, Fever. His smooth vocals tease out the sensuality of the song with each note and he puts in just enough of an edge in the song that could easily heat up any situation. The slow burn transitions effortlessly into the next song, Van Morrison’s “Moondance”. Bublé’s rendition of this song is backed by an instrumental arrangement that harkens back to the Big Band period that gives the song a very welcomed bounce and leaves the listener with an enjoyable finger-snapping tune.

George Michael’s “Kissing a Fool” is given a slow piano lounge remake as the album’s 3rd song. I have to say that I personally liked the original version better but I have to admit that Bublé did admirable work in his interpretation. His cover invokes the image of an intimate and smoky piano lounge show specially performed for us, his listeners. “For Once in My Life”, which comes next, is an up tempo swing song that showcase Bublé at his best covering Ole Blue Eyes himself, the late Frank Sinatra. Bublé effortlessly channels the same energy and styling of the master with a hefty dollop of charm oozing with each line he sings.

I found that the inclusion of the Bee Gee’s song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” a bit jarring compared to the rest of the album. I guess this is because I didn’t get the same old time vibe from this song compared to the rest. On its own, this song is a soulful ballad of yearning perfectly presented by this young artist but as part of this album, it sounds tonally out of place. Fortunately we get back on track with the next song, “Summer Wind” which is another timeless swing song. I’m not sure if this song was originally sung by any of the Rat Pack but I definitely am reminded of them at the height of their success while listening to this song.

I was slightly confused by the next song, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” since it sounded so much like “Now It Can Be Told” by Ella Fitzgerald. I wasn’t sure if this is an original song or a cover of an earlier song that sampled Ella’s song. Although an enjoyable torch song to listen to, the confusion the similarities caused somewhat bugged me in this track. The choice of redoing Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” into an up tempo Graceland-Presley vibe is an interesting choice. It does imbue a level of swinging energy boost that fits well with the theme of the album although some Queen purists seem to hate Bublé’s version with a vengeance.

The song that follows can only be described as the best swoon-worthy rendition of Leif Garret’s (or Paul Anka’s depending on who you ask), “Put Your Head on My Shoulder”. This timeless standard was given the royal treatment that easily stirs the heart and awakens the romantic inside no matter how jaded the audience it. It would easily point to this song as the showpiece of the whole album followed very closely by the next song, “Sway”. This perennial swing standard is given a Latin boost by the percussions and smoothly styling that reminded me of a young Dean Martin. The rhythm and beat easily invokes the sensuality of the song that is hard to resist.

I wished that I like Bublé’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight” that follows but I have to say, although it was an accomplished attempt on his part, I just happen to like the Tony Bennet version better. I guess that I feel that this song is best sung at a slower tempo than the one Bublé covered to better appreciate the mood of longing this song carries with it in its beautiful lyrics. I have the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” to blame for this preference. I will never be able to listen to this song without thinking about Julia Robert’s character in that movie and how she was pining away for her best friend.

The quintessential Frank Sinatra song, “Come Fly With Me” is given yet another royal treatment by Bublé which further emphasis the fact that he can do Frank better than anybody else in the business today. Bublé effortlessly imbues the song with the right amount of charm and mischief that the listener is left soaring with each foot taping, finger snapping note. As an encore presentation, we are presented with a wonderful slow burn torch song “That’s All” that easily invokes the beauty and glamour of the Big Band era of 40’s Americana. This song is a perfect bookend to a wonderful album that encapsulates 50 years of swing and timeless standard in a package that spans a mere 49 minutes.

Filling in the void left behind by Harry Connick Jr., Michael Bublé effortlessly steps up to the plate with his good looks and smoldering vocals. In an age of hip hop and nu metal, artiste such as Norah Jones, Josh Gorban and now Michael Bublé are a welcomed addition to the music scene. In their own way, they are showing successfully that not all that are old are to be forgotten and sometimes old can be new with the right touch. As for Bublé, I seriously think that his natural style and flair for this genre of music is refreshing and this debut album is much superior that Robbie William’s effort released some time back. Although there are many who calls this young artist as the next Frank Sinatra but I definitely think that he has the goods to step out of that distinguished label and step out very soon as himself, Michael Bublé, the crooner for this generation.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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