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Connick goes through the motions - but fails to thrill.
on 26 October 2000
Despite the hoop-la surrounding Harry Connick Jr's recent release, when all is said and done this is just another run-of-the-mill vocal / big band effort.
In this album Connick seems to try to take the high road to success, scorning simple melodic arrangements in favour of jazzy musical ramblings.
This album seems to highlight the fact that the role of vocalist and arranger should not ideally be the same person. Most of the best artists of the traditional vocal pop genre understood that the best musical orchestrations are crafted by the experts who can judge the singer's vocal talents with a professional, objective eye and write arrangements to suit.
Connick seems to work under the premise that more is better and concise creatitivity is therefore the main musical casualty. It is disappointing that almost every track meanders along for far too long with the band ambling along aimlessly while Connick injects almost universally bland vocalising into the performances.
Compare this with a snappy Sinatra-Riddle collaboration and the contrast between true quality and retro-swing arthouse posturing could not be greater.
Cry Me a River, for example, is given an off-kilter arrangement that is probably musically clever but when all is said and done Connick still treats it as a noirish ballad ala Julie London. When we are all used to this as a slow ballad, why not try to do something new / exciting? Had Connick injected some verve into the arrangement and interpreted the song as an uptempo swinger, a sort of rueful ballad of lost love, this might have hit the point more forcefully. OK, Connick wants to make his own musical identity but why treat us to an overlong musical dirge?
The whole album has a self-indulgent feel, the band is talented but the music is too-often soulless. "Nowhere with Love" is a nice song, the singing and arrangement is good and mesh well together. This being an original piece it does not suffer in the same way as re-hashed tunes from the past (some of the ones here are not really great Standards that can always be re-interpreted to good effect).
Connick is undeniably a good pianist and has a pleasant voice but this effort is just not entertaining enough. I suspect that after the initial thrills of the first listening there is little here to hold the buyer's attention for much more than a few weeks.