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05/31/13

Michael Bublé
To Be Loved
Reprise

Michael Bublé operates within an alternate reality to most jazz or traditional pop vocalists, a world where sales aren’t measured in hundreds or thousands but in multiples of platinum. To a significant degree, that vast audience defines his music. The expectation from several million fans is that each new album will deliver a couple high-octane tracks ideal for MOR radio play. This time around, there’s “It’s a Beautiful Day,” a horn-fueled mega-production with an intriguingly dark underlying theme that suggests a melding of Billy Joel and the Monkees, plus the rather pedestrian, overblown title tune.

Big-name guests are also mandatory. Britain’s Puppini Sisters provide surprisingly subtle, McGuire-esque support on “Nevertheless,” and Reese Witherspoon shows up on “Somethin’ Stupid”; unfortunately, she ends up too much in the background—winsome as her voice is, it’s no match for his—throwing the song annoyingly off-balance. Bryan Adams proves a more apt partner, blending well with his fellow Canadian on “After All.”

Like mini-mansions in a new suburb, such grand constructions are essential Bublé currency. But for those more interested in less gimmicky material, there’s plenty left to enjoy. His opening “You Make Me Feel So Young” is loose and swingin’, set to a brassy Billy May beat. A lithe, pop-country treatment of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” with Elvis-worthy backing from Naturally 7, exposes the raw beauty of Bublé’s voice. A blazing cha-cha reading of “Come Dance With Me” recalls both Peggy Lee and Pérez Prado. Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is unexpectedly underplayed, and becomes an easy, loping delight. “I Got It Easy” is a somber, authentic ode to plentitude and gratitude, and the closing “Young at Heart” is simply lovely.

Originally published in May 2013
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