I don’t like remakes. Well, let me rephrase. I’m weary of remakes. I don’t like them unless I feel as though the remake somehow improves upon the original song. Usually, I find that when people do remakes, they’ve done nothing to make the song better, and I just wind up wishing I was listening to the original instead.
It’s an interesting career choice to basically release albums of nothing but remakes. Hey, I know that one of my favorite artists is Jamie Cullum, who is notorious for his first albums being quite remake heavy, but as I said before, I don’t mind remakes, if they’ve got an original spin on them, which Cullum’s always do.
And most often compared to Cullum, for the fact that his first CDs were basically all remakes, is singer, Michael Bublé. Canadian-born Bublé started off as an actor, but ended up releasing his self-titled debut in 2003, with producer David Foster (who has also worked with Josh Groban). The album, mostly composed of remakes of standards, saw success and critical acclaim, so Bublé released its follow up,It’s Time, in 2005.
It’s Time is a decent collection of songs- you can’t find fault in the selections that Bublé choose to remake, really. However, he doesn’t seem to realize that even though he has a nice voice, simply re-singing a song doesn’t make it “better”. Unlike Cullum, Bublé has yet to perfect the art of reworking a song to better fit your own, original sound.
Most critics and music fans, I’ve found, weren’t fond of Bublé’s update on the Nina Simone classic, Feeling Good. I, on the other hand, absolutely love this opening track. The song begins with Bublé singing the opening lines, accompanied only by violin. Soon, the horns and drums kick in, leading way to a triumphant, soulful number. Sure, Bublé’s version can’t hold a candle to Simone’s, but I don’t think Bublé was trying to compete with her anyway. His rendition is solid on its own, and I love listening to this song before work if I’m in a particularly good mood; there’s just something about the way that he sings the final line (“It’s a new dawn!/It’s a new day!/It’s a new life!/For me…/And I’m feeling good!”) that just gets me pumped for whatever kind of day I have ahead of me.
Next up is A Foggy Day (In London Town). The song starts off with a fanfare of instruments that sounds incredibly over the top, calling to mind the bands marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, or something. Anyway, the rest of the song is pleasant, and Bublé sounds just like an old school crooner- calling to mind whom I’m sure he would most like to be compared to- Mr. Frank Sinatra, himself.
You Don’t Know Me is a remake of a Nat King Cole song. The song is a sensual, slow-paced ballad that you’d imagine your parents slow dancing to in front of the fire. Though the track is a bit of a bore, it’d make for the perfect background music for a romantic evening at home with your love. Quando, Quando, Quando features guest vocalist, Nelly Furtado. The track sounds like a continuation of the song before it, and though Furtado and Bublé sound good together, nothing can really save this track from mediocrity.
Another ballad appears with Home, and the album could really use a change in tempo at this point. However, this song definitely gets brownie points for being the only original track on the album- co-written by Bublé. Because of this fact, and the lyrics about being on the road and feeling homesick (“And I’m surrounded by/A million people I/Still feel all alone/Oh, let me go home/Oh, I miss you, you know”), the song is one of my favorites on the album. Bublé’s vocals are also on point, and he sounds great.
Bublé dares to cover a Beatles’ classic next with Can’t Buy Me Love. Well, the remake is a lively one, at least, but it sounds like something you’d hear in a karaoke bar, or even worse- a cruise ship. I can practically hear Simon Cowell’s voice floating around in my head, saying, “This sounds like a bad lounge act. Absolutely dreadful.” While I wouldn’t say the song is exactly “dreadful”, it’s not that great, either. Let’s just leave this one to Paul and the gang, okay, Bublé?
The More I See You is another Nat King Cole/Nina Simone remake and actually is a bit dreadful, or mostly just very, very boring. Bublé’s rendition of Try A Little Tenderness lacks all the soul that the Otis Redding version has, and shouldn’t have been redone in the first place, really. The same can be said of the James Taylor classic, How Sweet It Is, which has frankly been remade too many times, and since Bublé’s version does nothing to differentiate it from the many other remakes, it’s unnecessary. Save The Last Dance For Me turns out to be surprisingly spicy and fun, but still nothing incredible.
Song For You is smooth, sultry, slow and dull, and again, lacks the soul that Danny Hathaway’s version had. At least there’s a nice trumpet solo from Chris Botti, which is easily the highlight of the song. There’s not much to say about I’ve Got You Under My Skin, except that this reworking is lifeless and uninspired, and Jamie Cullum’s live version (filled with excitement, and instrument solos) is better. But as I said at the beginning, when it comes to Cullum and Bublé, there’s really no comparison- at least in my very biased eyes.
The album comes to a close with You and I. The slow paced, power ballad definitely shows that Bublé is a talented singer, but I’m afraid it comes far too late in the album. Chances are, you haven’t stuck around this long, anyway, and if you have- the music is probably just background for something more engaging that you’re doing.
I’m not here to rag on Michael Bublé. He’s talented, and likeable. I’ve liked albums of standards and remakes before (I thoroughly enjoyed Natalie Cole’s album of standards), but I think the problem with It’s Time is that Bublé seems to rest on his smooth voice and the strengths of the original songs without trying to experiment or do anything different. His one original song is the best one on the album, so that makes me hopeful that perhaps, if Bublé branches out (and he may already have- this is currently his only album that I own) and writes more of his own music, I may appreciate him a bit more.
1. Feeling Good
2. A Foggy Day (In London Town)
3. You Don’t Know Me
4. Quando, Quando, Quando – (with Nelly Furtado)
6. Can’t Buy Me Love
7. The More I See You
8. Save the Last Dance For Me
9. Try a Little Tenderness
10. How Sweet It Is
11. Song For You – (with Chris Botti)
12. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
13. You and I