Album of the Week
Album: Rumer, Boys Don't Cry (Atlantic)
Rumer's risky follow-up hasn't quite got it covered
Covers albums are often taken as indications of creative stasis, a drying of the well, so to release one as the follow-up to your debut album is a very risky strategy indeed.
And in the case of Rumer's Boys Don't Cry, it's made riskier still by the way the interpretations immerse her so completely in the Karen Carpenter vibe that hovered around parts of Seasons of My Soul. Here, the singer's ghostly presence becomes so obtrusive that it interferes with one's ability to enjoy Rumer just for herself.
The idea behind the album was to cover songs that reveal the more sensitive, even feminine, side of male songwriters from the Seventies. Accordingly, Rumer has unearthed hidden classics from the likes of Jimmy Webb, Todd Rundgren, Townes Van Zandt and Terry Reid, the peculiarities of which she and producer Steve Brown have then rather ironed out. The results aren't unpleasant, but the alacrity with which they pursue the mainstream doesn't always serve them best. Any grit in Richie Havens' "It Could Be the First Day", for instance, is ruthlessly excised, while the virtues of songs as varied as Reid's "Brave Awakening" and Van Zandt's "Flyin' Shoes" seem underplayed.
When everything comes together right, however, it works spectacularly. Jimmy Webb's tribute to the writer of "Eve of Destruction", the haunting "P.F. Sloan", is marvellous, the baroque embellishment of cor anglais lending just the right degree of valour, while her version of "Soulsville", from Isaac Hayes' Shaft soundtrack, has a perfect latte-soul touch. And with its blissful lilt and Bacharach-style brass, Todd Rundgren's "Be Nice to Me" is perfectly suited to Rumer's style – more so, ironically, than "Travelling Boy" by Paul Williams, writer of several Carpenters' hits, where the sickly piano and strings curdle the emotion. This hints at what is ultimately the biggest drawback of the project: the homogeneity of the album's arrangements effectively denudes the individual songs of their emotional power.
Download: P.F. Sloan; Be Nice to Me; Soulsville
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