Michael Bublé, To Be Loved (Reprise) * *
The Canadian crooner scored his fourth No. 1 album last week with his first full studio set since 2009’s Crazy Love and it’s not hard to see why he’s so popular. Bublé sings with such enthusiasm and charm he’s irresistible.
On To Be Loved he’s also a man in love which, given his pending fatherhood with Argentine actress/model wife Luisana Lopilato, isn’t surprising. The lyrics of It’s a Beautiful Day, one of four originals he co-wrote, read like a Billy Joel-style kiss-off, but the musical arrangement is so perky, even a break-up is cause for celebration: It’s a beautiful day and I can’t stop myself from smiling/If I’m drinking, then I’m buying/And I know there’s no denying/It’s a beautiful day, the sun is up, the music’s playing/And even if it started raining/You won’t hear this boy complaining/‘Cause I’m glad that you’re the one who got away.
Alas, Bublé must have been distracted when preparing To Be Loved as it lacks the attention, freshness and imagination that helped Crazy Love transcend its mix of pop and jazz covers and originals. It’s a Beautiful Day even feels like a pale rewrite of that set’s delightful Haven’t Met You Yet.
Bublé and producer Bob Rock’s biggest problem is their unimaginative choice of obvious and overdone material. There have been countless pop and soul covers of the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody (listen to Nina Simone’s or Janis Joplin’s) and the songs associated with Frank Sinatra, You Make Me Feel So Young, Young at Hear t, Come Dance With Me and Something Stupid. (Nancy Sinatra’s duet part on the latter is rendered here by a flat Reese Witherspoon).
The recording mix is also over-loud, lacks dynamic range and it appears some unnecessary processing has been added to Bublé’s voice. Next time out, a new producer, more originals and smarter covers will advance Bublé’s studio craft.
Download: Close Your Eyes, I Got It Easy.
Fleetwood Mac, Extended Play (LMJS Productions) * * * 1/2
Fleetwood Mac’s first new music since 2003’s Say You Will is short on Stevie Nicks, who resisted recording a full album with the group. The resulting four-track EP, released to iTunes as a digital download, makes you wish for more on the strength of Lindsey Buckingham’s three new songs.
Nicks contributes the folksy Without You, a reject from the 1973 sessions for the Buckingham Nicks LP. The pair harmonize over Buckingham’s tinny acoustic strumming. Meh.
Much better: Buckingham’s fresh songs in which he returns to writing crisp, accessible, engaging California pop/rock, like the infectiously melodic and rhythmically driving Sad Angel and the breezy Miss Fantasy, a piquant taste of Mirage-era Mac that makes great use of the famed rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.
His stark solo piano ballad, It Takes Time — imagine Christine McVie’s Songbird as its closest cousin — intrigues the most because it’s unlike anything the guitarist has released.