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12/23/11

Seth MacFarlane
Music Is Better Than Words
Universal Republic

Fans of the long-running animated TV hit Family Guy have likely heard series creator Seth MacFarlane sing standards in the guise of Brian, the Griffin family’s alcoholic, intellectual dog. Stepping out of character and into Hollywood’s fabled Capitol Studios, MacFarlane finally fully indulges his predilection for classic Vegas-style material and the singers who dispensed it.

Vocally, MacFarlane suggests a somewhat slighter variation on Steve Lawrence. What he lacks in range and robustness he more than makes up for in style, capturing the same laidback savoir-faire that Dean Martin built an entire career around. The arrangements, superbly crafted by producer and conductor Joel McNeely, are richly reminiscent of Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Don Costa. Adding significantly to the album’s sparkling appeal are MacFarlane’s ingenious song choices, many augmented with seldom-recorded choruses.

Rather than recycling the same-old Sinatra-Darin-Davis chestnuts, he digs up such delights as the breezy title track (from the 1955 film It’s Always Fair Weather), obscure Broadway tunes like Bob Merrill’s “Nine O’Clock” and Meredith Willson’s “You and I,” the Sinatra rarity “Anytime, Anywhere” and, lifted from the sassy Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney travelogue Fancy Meeting You Here, Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s deliciously effervescent “Love Won’t Let You Get Away” (with Sara Bareilles effectively filling the Clooney role). MacFarlane also proves himself a fine, Vic Damone-esque balladeer on “Something Good,” “Laura” and “It’s Easy to Remember” and finds an ideal snuggling partner in Norah Jones for a cashmere-soft “Two Sleepy People.”

Originally published in December 2011
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