James Tormé : Love for Sale

Apparently the apple can fall pretty far from the tree. James Tormé sounds no more like his legendary father than he does Mel Tillis. Instead, Love for Sale demonstrates far greater kinship with soft-rock singers of the James Taylor school. Stylistically, there is obvious affection for Michael Jackson (whose “Rock With You” Tormé pays laudable, if imitative, homage), plus hints of Chet Baker’s cool atonality and the swagger of various post-millennial lounge singers.

Though the 38-year-old progeny is neither foggy nor velveted, Tormé can swing, as evidenced by effervescent treatments of the title track, “Autumn Leaves” and “Come Back to Me.” As a balladeer, he is less even. Reinterpreting “Let’s Stay Together” as a slice of Jackson-esque pop significantly diminishes its fragile yearning, and his take on the deeply romantic “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” seems oddly dispassionate. Yet Ellington’s “Reminiscing in Tempo,” wrapped in Baker-like cloudiness, is sincerely moving.

As a songwriter, Tormé is similarly inconsistent. “One or the Other” is a pleasant but murky examination of a romantic triangle, and the downy “Soft Songs” is limply insipid. But the deluxe-edition bonus track “Little Black Spider,” an analogical tale of self-determination, is deftly crafted. Interestingly, the album’s most impressive track is its sole extraction from the senior Tormé’s songbook: a “Comin’ Home Baby” that mirrors Mel’s propulsive original and is very nearly as compelling.