Al Jarreau has a lollapalooza of a vocal organ.
Morag Reavley 2008-03-18
You can't argue with the voice. Al Jarreau has a lollapalooza of a vocal organ – supple, sweet-toned, velutinous. With a career spanning five decades, he's the only singer ever to win Grammy awards in three distinct musical categories – r & b, pop and jazz – and he segues stylishly between genres in his work.
But with an album like Love Songs you can’t help but feel short-changed. For a start, the 14 tracks are not new recordings but compiled from earlier albums, so there won't be much new here for Jarreau's fans. For those less familiar with Jarreau, it's not a great introduction to a unique artist, focusing as it does on the commercial, sentimental elements of his oeuvre. There are some obvious omissions, too – like his theme tune for '80s TV smash hit, Moonlighting.
The tracks themselves are musically mixed. Songs such as We're In This Love Together and Teach Me Tonight are middle-of-the-road numbers which sound incredibly dated and sappy. And the pace of the album is another problem – it's so lights-down and laid-back it's almost supine.
There are glimmers of greatness. After All, his 1984 hit, is cheesily enjoyable eighties nostalgia. Brite 'N' Sunny Babe from 1978 is a slice of funk which was well ahead of its time. And there are some nice jazz moments – for example, his cover of My Foolish Heart, with its lovely scatting, and a very palatable rendition of Elton John's Our Song.
But even with these highlights, the album veers dangerously close to mundane and middle-of-the-road. And that, for a singer like Jarreau, is a shame.