...an impressive and consistently entertaining enterprise.
Alwyn Turner 2006-12-01
The covers album of pre-rock standards is generally the last refuge of the scoundrel and, for those whose image of Michael Bolton is fixed in his early-1990s incarnation (over-haired, over-emoting and over here), the idea of him delivering a collection of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra doesn’t exactly inspire hope.
Such cynicism, however, would be misplaced. Because, unlike many other such projects, this is actually an impressive and consistently entertaining enterprise.
Key to its success is the fact that the music throughout is provided by a highly competent big band led by Chris Walden. His arrangements stick fairly closely to the originals ("That’s Life", for example, is still driven by organ accompaniment), but they swing in all the right places, and the production by Alex Christensen is crisp and full.
And while the choice of material is always going to be debatable (just twelve songs from Sinatra’s vast legacy), it does cover most of the bases from the after-hours introspection of "My Funny Valentine" to the show-stopping "New York New York". Elsewhere, no one can argue with the genius of songs like "You Go To My Head" and "I’ve Got You Under My Skin".
Which leaves us with the voice. And, while Bolton is never going to rival the perfection of Sinatra’s perfect phrasing, he does a sterling job: avoiding the soul-derived histrionics of his younger days, he delivers most of this with impressive restraint. Cool, light and breathy, his vocals sit authoritatively in the settings created by his collaborators. Even his duet with Desperate Housewives star (and fiancée) Nicollette Sheridan on "The Second Time Around" works and doesn’t disrupt the organic flow of the collection.
In short, an accomplished album that does justice to the material and goes a long way to redeeming the concept of covering pre-rock standards.