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John Proulx: The Best Thing For You

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Assessing this musical hodgepodge from vocalist and pianist John Proulx, it’s difficult to move the praise meter past “pleasant.” Proulx is undeniably talented, with a keyboard style that often suggests the verve of Vince Guaraldi and a voice that echoes the alluring atonality of Chet Baker without the lachrymose underpinnings. Yet there’s a lack of distinctiveness, a nagging sense that, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there isn’t enough there there.

When Proulx dives into the Irving Berlin title track, there’s plenty of pep but inadequate charm. There’s warmth but no passion in his “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” His handling of Joe Raposo’s “Sing” is sweet but stalls short of winsome, and his teaming with Michael Feinstein on the playful “Two of a Kind” seems blandly derivative of the sparkling Johnny Mercer-Bobby Darin original.

Proulx does prove a formidable composer across six originals, but all are hampered by pedestrian lyrics (most courtesy of K. Lawrence Dunham). “Love Is for Dreamers” is cookie-cutter romantic fare (though it provides a fine showcase for bassist Chuck Berghofer), as is the ersatz-Brazilian “Before We Say Goodnight” (with lyrics by D. Chassin Berry). “Jogger Chronicles” offers saxophonist Bob Sheppard plenty of space to stretch out but never really gets the endorphins pumping. “Proulx’s Blues” is a prosaic tally of workaday woes, and “Here’s to the Chuckster,” a lighthearted nod to Berghofer, dishes out such groan-worthy rhymes as “muckster” and “legendary pluckster.”

Originally Published