Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Michael Buble: Its Time

Michael Buble's self-titled debut album, released in 2003 went to 47 on the Billboard charts. Think about that for a moment. A Jazz crooner with a Sinatra-esque voice and a rat pack sensibility moved into a top 50 dominated by hip hop and rap and rock.

Michael Buble's second album, Its Time faced the challenge of proving whether the jazz crooner could repeat the minor miracle of a second swing album to cross over into the mainstream.

Track 1, "Feeling Good" is a standard drawn from the 60's Musical Roar of the Greasepaint- Smell of the Crowd that has been covered by Sammy Davis Jr., Muse and Nina Simone (among others).

Buble delivers a smooth, confident rendition of this classic with a lot of big, brassy horns and some ballsy piano work backing him up, giving the song a cock, blustery feel that gets this album off to a fantastic start.

Track 2 is a little more mellow and is another standard, "A Foggy Day in London Town". Buble's delivery on this track channels Sinatra and Tony Bennett at their smoothest. A great dance number for those romantic evenings I have heard other people talk about.

Track 3 is as classic as the first two tracks but from a completely different genre of music. "You Don't Know Me" is a blues and country classic written by Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold in the 50's and immortally rendered by Ray Charles in 1962. It was also covered by some guy named Elvis. You get the idea, its kind of a famous song.

While Buble's rendering of this song is nowhere near as good as Ray Charles' you can say that about everything recorded by Ray and, well, anyone else. Buble gives a workmanlike, solid rendering that showcases his smooth vocal talents. But for a classic country torch song I think I want to hear a little more pain.

Track 4, "Quando, Quando" is a Pat Boone song famously covered by Engelbert Humperdink. Buble records it as a duet with Nelly Furtado, a singer who's entrancing voice makes this track instantly enchanting and likeable.

Track 6 moves the album decidedly into more recent pop history with a Jazzed-up version of the Beatles classic "Can't Buy me Love". This song is such a winner it seems to fare well no matter who's recording it and Buble's rendition is no different.

Still, of all the versions of this song I've heard, this one messes with what was great about the original a little too much. A little too much production.

Track 8, the Drifters classic "Save the Last Dance for Me" does a much better job of updating a classic without trying too hard, adding a bit of a salsa feel that seems to make this great song even better.

Track 9 is a song near and dear to my heart, Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness", transformed by Buble from a raunchy blues number into a ballad. Like "Can't Buy me Love" it's a gutsy attempt to make the song his own.

Unfortunately, like with the Beatles classic, I think Buble went for something different rather than what would serve the song best.

It could also be that no one should try and cover one of my favorite songs, but I don't think that's it here. I've heard other covers of this song that I'd rate very highle (The Commitments for one).

Track 10, the Marvin Gaye classic "How Sweet it is (to be loved by you)" a song famously covered by James Taylor is a much more successful reinterpretation of a classic. Instead of going ultra-mellow, Buble goes Big Band and its a turn that serves this upbeat classic nicely.

Track 12 is a song closer to the sweet spot of Buble's musical style, "Under my Skin", a Cole Porter song perhaps even more famously recorded by Frank Sinatra.

Buble's comfort and affection for this song shines through, a great turn on an enduring classic that showcases Buble's talents nicely.


It's Time is a very good album only prevented from being great by a few stumbling blocks, mostly when Buble attempts to cover songs he probably shouldn't in an attempt to add more crossover appeal to the album. The closer he sticks to songs written for crooners like him (and he's a great one) the better he seems to fare.

Grade: B+

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