“Nowwwwwwwww you say you’re looooonely”
Sings a seemingly bruised, slightly battered and passionate-sounding Michael Bublé at the start of his new collection of songs on “Crazy Love.” The song “Cry Me A River” is a story full of sound and fury – of love gone wrong. Bublé’s performance embodies the very essence of the soul of a man whose heart has been torn apart. A bummer tent of rejection and rage.
And that’s just the first song!
You might think you know that tune “Cry Me A River” because it’s already been covered with sly and subtle contempt by artists as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald to Joe Cocker. But Bublé’s version breathes fresh new fire into the torrid torch song in a while different and often wrenching way. “My songs have always been about love – mine and everyone else’s. But this time it was a little more extreme – and I dug deeper – way deeper,” says Bublé about the collection.
Right away you can feel the real.
For starters, Michael Bublé wanted the doors of the studio left open during the recording sessions for “Crazy Love.” He wanted to hear the drums bleed into the horn section. He wanted his fans to feel what it was like in the studio - to feel like they were sitting with him - to have them be part of his experience. So the engineers miked the floor and put up sky stand microphones and it was all recorded just like that with the thrill of the moment in mind – even though the songs were written over the course of 80 years. It wasn’t all that different from the way it might have been in a Louis Armstrong session in the '40s or even Elvis Presley in the late 50s. The strings would get to carry an extra micro-vibration along with the bows. Sometimes acapella - other times with live bands and even huge orchestras - even some sessions with primitive 8-track recording devices that are a rarity in the crystalline perfection sound of 2009. But it isn't just the time period that iscrucial but the breadth of emotional territory a man is willing to live through and share by coming clean emotionally -- in front of a bunch of strangers no less.
Aside from discovering a fresh way to deliver the live authentic feeling musical goods he is known for, his choice of material shows an artist still hungry to innovate and make his mark both as a stylist, but also as a songwriter. He has already proven his mettle composing the smash “Home” that is the remembrance song for so many soldiers and their loved ones in these times of war. The homesick homage scored as a number one hit around the world. More evidence of the song’s power would come from cowboy crooner Blake Sheldon's No. 1 country version of "Home." And lest we forget Michael's performance of his song "Everything" which launched gazillion of newlywed’s first dance as Mr. and Mrs. That voice has evolved from breezy, funny, and passionate. Now it’s sometimes as strong as a hockey player with a stick. Old fans will quickly notice that the callow youth of MB yore has given way to a complex man who takes the stage in top form even in the recording studio.
Like it or not, Michael Bublé is now at what playwright David Mamet once referred to as "The Big Table.” The place comes with weight and license to express any emotion artistically as long as it is authentic. Are you willing to be taken at your word? Or lyrics? Now at the big table of singers who can sell out Madison Square Garden, he has to summon the heat and nerve to navigate the icebergs and cruise ships at sail on the ocean of love. Yet, a smile is still easy to come by on Michael's face. His essence remains solid as a rock. Like Elvis he is a guy girls love and many guys want to be like. He's been a heart breaker a few times. (OK, maybe more than a few). And keeps his childhood friends and family close to him always.
It's also impressive the wide bite Michael tears imaginatively from thefantastically varied American Lovesong Feast. He goes from Live at the Sands to Heartbreak Hotel in a skipped heartbeat. In many of the tunes, too, you hear that love of melody matched with a clever lyrical refrain.
The open door feeling is taken a step further on the two new songs Michael wrote including "Hold On" and the first single “Haven’t Met You Yet,” which carries a Beatles vibe with even the fabs Love-love-loooove refrain. Though the Beatles as a band had long broken up by the time he was born in British Columbia in 1975, it is clear he has absorbed the Quirky Queen's Quartet with Mersey Beat playful melodies with an optimistic message.
It would have been easier to kick back, but instead he has the cojones to take the title cut, already one of the best loved songs from the canon of no one less weighty in the music cosmos than Van Morrison. “When I sing ‘Crazy Love’ it’s not that I am going to sing better or sound better than Van Morrison,it's that it's going to be different than Van Morrison. It is going to be my interpretation of the song. That can only come from my life experience and what I have gone through. Or the love or the loss I've gone through.” You can listen and decide if he sells his version.
“One of the great challenges of a song stylist is to take highly familiar songs like "Stardust" and "Georgia On My Mind" already recorded by hundreds of artists and ask myself, can I bring something special to this song? Otherwise why waste everyone's time in the studio -- just go get drunk and sing at a Karaoke bar -- and I've done that too!"
You hear many facets of a man from the optimistic happy go lucky boy, the angry jilted ex - a perfect boyfriend, - a maybe not-so-perfect suitor or the only man in a crowded room. You hear him sing of accepting lasting friendship as a replacement following a bitter-ended break-up as is recounted in the story of the star-crossed couplewho broke up but never break their connection in the Bublé penned "Hold On." Or the heartbreaking final scene in "At This Moment."
Another door opened on a tiny little studio hidden away in the noir bowels of Brooklyn where Michael convened with a comparatively stone age 8-track device and recorded a Motown vibed swinging harmonious r & b tune that was a hit for Dinah Washington and Brook Benton as a duet in 1960. On this go round, he sang with the legendary Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. ”It was completely outside of what I've ever done-- out of my comfort zone but I had a blast,” says Bublé.
Bublé reveals a rowdy world weary party animal in a reworking of the great country rocker "Heartache Tonight" written by rugged rock legends and a mega-hit for the Eagles. And then returns to a sentimental yet again hopeful "All I do Is Dream of You.” Reaching both further out into the margins of other songs to interpret his deeper truthis the pain and happiness the resides within Bublé as he delivers the wise and almost wistful goods of “You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” while at the same time taking it cool even beyond Dean Martin, one of Michael's idols.
After all, the trademark of Bublé's love songs is a voice that evokes his passion for life and an edgy sense of humanity and romance. The honesty of feeling sprawls out in the vocals that cut through the night like a dark echo of an aching heart.
It surely becomes clear listening to “Crazy Love” that you don't need to read the headlines of a gossip tabloid or read obscene tweets to know Michael has had his heart walking around the block of late. But just as often you can find him basking in the sunshine of the day.
As Michael Bublé opens wide the doors to his own emotions for the world to see on “Crazy Love”, he knows he has no other choice. "I can't bullshit my fans, he says. They will know it’s real because they will feel it too -- and after that we are no longer strangers."
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