Customer Review

206 of 219 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Observations, 11 May 2011
This review is from: Let Them Talk (Audio CD)
I heard Laurie's album playing in Tesco this afternoon and loved it but was hesitant about buying it, purely because of what I call the 'crossover curse'. Sinatra was a good singer, horrific actor. The same can be said of many actors, singers etc. who attempt to cross over into something different. Only very few have managed the feat credibly and in my opinion, Laurie has managed it. In his favour, he clearly knows his voice very well and knows that in some ways, it's very limited but in blues, that doesn't really matter. Solomon Burke was not really a great singer, but blues music needs a bit of rough around the edges charm to be really good and it's fortunate that Laurie has that in abundance. It's also to his credit that on songs that need a 'good' singer, Laurie defers to someone else who is much better suited to the task - Tom Jones being one such instance.

The album won't suit some people's tastes, particularly those buying the album purely because it was made by Hugh Laurie of House fame. For me, I love the album because of the instrumental performances first and Laurie's voice second. Listening to the album it is clear that you're being taken to the New Orleans music soaked atmosphere and those who appreciate that type of music will love it. It's sincere and mixes joy and pain together very well whilst maintaining an air of sophistication possessed by someone who really does love the music he's performing - and no one can deny that Laurie is very talented, particularly on piano and guitar. Yes, the vocals are rough, but if they were polished and perfect I think that the album would be somehow be lacking, blues needs that feel of being performed after a heavy night of drinking in order to work properly.

I've read one review elsewhere that objected to Laurie's use of an American accent when singing, but really this strikes me as a bit of a nonsensical argument because there is no way that you can take a genre of music so quintessentially American and then sing it with an British accent. It would be like Lily Allen singing without the cockney accent - it wouldn't work. Similarly, some have raised eyebrows at an Englishman attempting blues classics, but to them I say that music is the one thing in life, or one of them anyway, that should be genderless, colourless and geographically free. There's no harm in trying something, and as a listener, I am able to choose my preferred option. For example, I really love Procol Harem's A Whiter Shade of Pale but consider Annie Lennox's version as an inferior version. Cat Power's version of Sea of Love is amazing and I prefer it to Phil Phillips and the Twilights' version. Good music done badly just makes you want the better version, whilst good music done well, as Laurie does it, just makes you appreciate it more.

In summary, I'm pleasantly surprised by Hugh Laurie's album. It's instrumentally fantastic and his vocal ability, whilst not up there with the greats, adds a great deal of warmth and sincerity to the material. What shines through for me is that he really appreciates the music and in my opinion, there's a great many singers on the charts today who, although technically better singers, could take a leaf out of Hugh Laurie's book and learn to love music as opposed to using it as a money making venture.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 May 2011 20:17:39 BDT
PD Flood says:
Protocol Harlem! lol!!!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2011 20:42:27 BDT
Frank Sinatra was an horrific actor? I don't think so. Oscar nominated, and very underrated.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2011 16:42:12 BDT
Don't judge me! lol.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2011 16:42:56 BDT
I never thought he was good, great singer, but acting... It's my believe the Academy made a bit of a mistake.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2011 01:08:43 BDT
Rudyard says:
LOL. I think Spellcheck just struck again!

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2011 01:22:10 BDT
Ha! I shall consider myself slapped!

Posted on 26 May 2011 01:36:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 May 2011 01:55:01 BDT
badgerman says:
Odd how most of the comments are about Sinatra. Mine too. Sinatra made a lot of seriously bad films, which is a shame, becasue he was a seriously talented actor; but you need to watch the right films. He WON an Oscar for "From Here to Eternity." (Best Supporing Actor) and it was no mistake. The Oscars don't always go the the right person or film, but they aren't handed out to people whose acting is 'horrific.' Sinatra was also spellbinding in "The Manchurian Candidiate" (watch it, then watch the remake with Denzil Washington - there are very few films where the remake doesn't disappoint; this is one). Other notable performances are "The Man With The Golden Arm", "Some Came Running." "The Joker Is Wild", "Suddenly" and "Johnny Concho." A bit like Michael Caine, he did most of his best work in films that weren't hugely successful, or didn't have big budgets.

I'm not a big Sinatra fan (as a singer), I don't particularly like House, or at least I'm glad he's not my GP. (Come to think of it, who IS my GP?), and the bits of this that I have heard, on the Culture Show Special, sounded a bit restrained, almost clinical (no Dr. pun intended), and I did have impression that Laurie's blues voice was slightly 'affected', though fairly 'authentic.' (Perhaps that's a contradiction? If you were not seeing Hugh Laurie, or had no idea who he was, you'd probably be quite convinced.) But, you know what? To hell with it; good luck to the guy. How many Old Etonians have made a blues album? I might even buy it myself; and I've just bought five Dr. John albums, so I'm fairly seruious about the blues. (By the way, for a seriously good version of St. James Infirmary, check out Doug Duffey. And for a good, but slightly outre (sorry, having trouble with my French accent) version, Eric Clapton and Dr. John's take, where Eric seems to have developed a 'Santana plays the blues' guitar sound.)

Oh, and thanks for the extensive and considered review Mr. Davies;you might just have talked me into it...

Posted on 26 May 2011 01:36:06 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 26 May 2011 01:55:15 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jun 2011 16:28:09 BDT
Dr Johnson says:
"You heard in Tesco's" - that just about sums up this record. Laurie ought to refer himself to "House" to see why is voice is so weak. A record for people who can't be bothered to go down to HMV and buy the real thing whether Dr John, Allen Toussaint. PS I think you will also find that the band that who recorded "Whiter Shade of Pale" was Procol Harum not Protocol!

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jun 2011 16:36:22 BDT
Well, I'll consider myself thoroughly slapped for accidentally getting the name of the band wrong and for being a Tesco shopper. I'm curious though as to what venue would be the most acceptable for you in terms of finding new music? As for not being bothered going to HMV - I don't because it's an overpriced shop and I've moved into the 21st century and buy digitally. With a music collection of over 1600 albums I would hardly describe myself as ignorant with regards to music (although admittedly I was mistaken with the Procol Harum; I blame that on an error in iTunes when I imported the CD).
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