Michael Buble: Caught in the Act

It’s now official: Michael Buble is the self-crowned king of retro swing. As evident throughout this brief CD, recorded live in L.A. and covering just eight tunes in a scant 31 minutes, and the accompanying DVD that captures significantly more of the same evening, Buble has found the pot of gold at the end of his Sinatra-wannabe rainbow. He records for Reprise, the label Frank founded. He covers Sinatra tunes (here, a sparkling “Summer Wind”). Judging from the adolescent squeals from the audience, he’s mighty big with whatever modern-day bobbysoxers are called.

Most important, and most deliberately, he’s mastered the cool Sinatra self-assurance that hints at cocky arrogance. Yet he remains the carbon copy you study when the original’s no longer available. Apart perhaps from the heartfelt “Home,” it’s all outward, never inward. All gloss, no scars. Don’t get me wrong. I like and admire Buble’s brand of showmanship, and readily concede he’s got great chops. But until he discovers a fuller sense of self, as Sinatra did during the dark days of the early ’50s, he’ll remain more aligned with the slickly choreographed Sammy Davis Jr. school (again, no insult; the razzle-dazzle Davis made some dandy records) than the play-it-as-it-lays Sinatra camp.