So here's the thing: last week Michael Buble released a new CD; now Harry Connick Jr has a new collection of songs out.
As a singer of these songs, I have to say that I am thrilled to be living in an age when there are men of this quality releasing albums of this quality and having them hit the pop charts.
Harry's CD is quite different to MB's, as you'd expect. The production sound is more jazz, less pop, and the voice is - well, it's a matter of taste. If I'm honest, I do think that CDs get Buble at his best. Harry is a "live" act, and on record he can be an acquired taste. It's the flaws that make him perfect, as opposed to MB, where it's the perfection that makes him so good!
The songs are a mixed bag on "Your Songs", a concept album from an idea by "legendary" Sony record producer Clive Davies. All the songs are chosen by Davies and arranged by HCJ, all are well known, with some being obvious standards Harry might sing, whilst others are pop songs from the 60s and 70s (so far so similar to Buble) but perhaps Harry's more obviosuly jazz styling does not take so simply to these tunes. I am hoping that on some, repeated listening will bring increased pleasure; an album can grow on you. I think that there are others that I will learn to skip.
The songs that Harry ought to excel at - he really does. All the Way, The Way You Look Tonight, Who Can I Turn To, Some Enchanted Evening, Smile - and then a couple of surprises in a beautiful And I Love Her and on the version I have (an American import - thanks Chris!) Killing Me Softly. The band is good, and the arrangements have a lot of Harry's astringent wit to them. If I have a couple of questions over those arrangements (and to question Harry on music is like questioning Jesus, so I feel like I'm taking my soul into my hands here) I sometimes want to shoot the violins; they noodle away pointlessly when just the rhythm section would be a cleaner backing. And why (WHY???) do so many of these arrangements end in awkward rits? If a drummer is playing to a click track (rather too obviously) when he slows down he has to do it well; this is done too often and not well enough. Songs can end in other ways than by slowing the tempo, and I am amazed that this trick is employed so often - it makes me feel a song hasn't ended so much as just run out.
Then you get the Marsalis brothers playing beautifully restrained solos (don't play jazz! just play the tune! shouts Sony producer Clive Davies from his throne in the back office) and some mature music making of the first order, and Harry singing as Harry sings on some wonderful songs. Not enough Harry piano playing (alomost none, actually - clearly that would have been too jazzy) but here's the other thing -
Clive Davies won't be on the tour.
Harry is always better on tour. He produces slightly tame CDs and then gets his audience into the tour and introduces them to jazz- quite difficult jazz - and re-imagines the songs on the CD as he would really have liked to record them. This CD is good. Occasionally very good. Always listenable. I can't wait to hear it done AMAZINGLY - which will be when I hear it "live".