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Steve Tyrell: This Guy’s in Love

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If you’re ever in a music store and, for whatever unfathomable reason, feel the urge to buy either of Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook albums, rest assured that there’s an easy antidote. Put the disc down, step away from the poseur rack, walk directly to the legit jazz vocal section and grab a copy of Steve Tyrell’s latest, This Guy’s in Love.

If Stewart (who I still tremendously respect as a rock icon) were capable of adding an ounce of originality to chestnuts like “It Had to Be You” and “My Heart Stood Still,” he’d likely sound an awful lot like the gravel-throated Tyrell. But unlike Stewart, whose treats such gems like they were disposable party favors, Tyrell’s rough magic is the real deal. The guy sings from his heart, not his wallet. In the past I’ve suggested Tyrell plays it too safe on his albums, each track handled with precisely the same conservative reverence. That complaint can again be made here, but to a significantly lesser degree.

While “The Nearness of You,” “Nevertheless,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and “That’s All” sound as if they were cut from the same bolt of crushed velvet, and his “This Guy’s in Love With You” is overly derivative of Herb Alpert’s dusky original, elsewhere there are delightful surprises. Tyrell’s “Just in Time” is nicely simmered in a soft samba, his “Isn’t It Romantic?” positively glows with ebullient anticipation and there’s a jauntily assured bounce to both “Manhattan” and “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me.”

Most appealing, though, is the battered disillusion he brings to the Dusty Springfield-associated staple “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” suggesting that, next time out, Tyrell might want to consider closing the Great American Songbook and, like Curtis Stigers, unearth more contemporary treasures.