Taylor Hicks - Taylor Hicks
Not just one, but two albums by American Idol winners are being unleashed on an unsuspecting public this week. Fantasia's Fantasia album is also hitting stores. They're keeping the album titles simple (see also Chris Daughtry's Daughtry).
I was never a member of the soul patrol. I watched Idol, I've watched every season but the first (it's a good show to watch with the folks). I really didn't much like any of the folks in the final six as far as their singing, some had their charms, but consistently solid vocals wasn't one of them.
Taylor Hicks is a pretty solid singer, for that he should be respected and not dismissed as a novelty act, or just some guy who got lucky.
He's good at just singing the song, that sounds simple, yet so many artists nowadays can't do that simple task.
There's twelve songs on this album, and there's not an absolutely awful song in the bunch. There isn't anything that will make you weep in joy, either.
The whole album is a bit of a throwback to soul flavored soft rock from the early/mid 80s a la Huey Lewis, Steve Winwood, Phil Collins or Michael McDonald (especially him). You're fondness for that sound will color your feelings towards this effort.
I hated that stuff back in those days, but it's hard not to appreciate the craft that went into that music. The same can be said of this album.
There's plenty of musical plagiarism, but it's done well, and seems clearly done with some affection and not just affectation.
One stand out track is Heaven Knows which almost steals the organ from Ray Charles' "What I Say", and if you're going to steal, steal from the best. In the same song there's even a nice little Prince-ish break towards the middle. Add to that just a touch of horns at the end, and you got yourself a solid song.
The other track that he verges into Ray Charles territory is the closing track Right Place. It's a pretty standard love ballad, but he sings it well, and they give it some gospel touches around the edges in the production. I predict it will be a wedding song for some time to come (for some that might be a high compliment, for others that might be damning with faint praise).
Another good one is Give Me Tonight, which has some interesting things going on (especially in the intro) and breaks out of the 4/4 straight jacket that the rest of the album is confined in. His vocals really suit this song, and they've got some good back-up singers in support to give him someone to play off of.
My favorite track is The Maze, his vocals are strong, he doesn't push his voice, he just plays his instrument well in this song. This song's got a nice lush arrangement, and even though it's kind of a standard radio friendly rocker, it's not just inoffensive, it's actually kind of good.
Having seen him perform, and his inherent goofiness, it's difficult to buy him trying to sell a "I love 'em and leave 'em" song like Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home). It's a pleasant enough song, but hearing him actually sing the lines, "For I'm the type of guy, who gives the girls the eye, everyone knows, but I love them and leave them, break their hearts and deceive them, everywhere I go" is a bit too much for me.
That leads to what is the weakest part of this album. The lyrics veer from insipid, to down right laughable. The less said about Places I've Been the better (but he does sound good on the song).
As far as some of the other tunes, for a song called Soul Thing, that song is surprisingly unsoulful, but all in all, there are no songs that are outright unlistenable, and there are plenty of tracks that you can actually enjoy.
With that said, while listening to this, I couldn't help but flash on that scene from American Psycho where the Psycho was extolling on the pleasures of Huey Lewis. Yes, I'm a sick puppy, but much of what he says about Huey and Hip to Be Square, could be said about this album.
(the bloody, NSFW scene is YouTubed below)