Well it’s that time of the week again folks – the time where I hurriedly write my blog the night before it’s due, sending it in late accompanied with excuses such as: ‘I had heaps of Mariokart to catch up on’, or ‘What do you mean I can’t submit my blog in Wingdings?’
This week I’ve decided to tackle the latest offering from the Irish King of Pop, Ronan Keating and the all-round King of Pop, Burt Bacharach. The album is rather creatively titled When Ronan Met Burt, which sounds more like the name of a Sesame Street sketch than a potential Irish Grammy-winning covers album, but I digress.
Now, I am a big Burt Bacharach fan. Alongside Beck, Michael Jackson (RIP Michael) and The Bee Gees (RIP Maurice), Burt Bacharach was one of my favourite musicians as a youngster. As the years go by my appreciation for Burt only grows stronger, while Burt grows older and weaker. Every time I see a Burt Bacharach record lying around in a hospice shop, I’ll buy it no matter how horrible it looks (see fig 1. ‘The Royal Marines Play Burt Bacharach), and up until recently a poster of Burt hung above my bed looking down at me as I slept but my boyfriend told me it was creepy and said I should take it down. I don’t blame him for being threatened; Burt was a grade A hottie.
So, you can probably understand the mix of excitement and apprehension I experienced at the prospect of this potentially catastrophic collaboration. However, I had nothing to write my blog about, so I listened to it. 4 times.
The album cover shows Ronan in the recording booth, wistfully gazing at the microphone as if it he expects it to sing for him. While this happens, Burt looks on from the other side of the glass, which actually gives him a sort of creepy ghost-like look, almost as if he is instructing Ronan from beyond the grave to ‘add more vibrato’.
There’s also a bunch of amazingly awkward shots in the CD sleeve where Burt looks like he just does not want to be there. (See below – Burt is one centimeter away from exercising the hover hand.)
The CD begins with ‘The Look of Love’, a song originally sung by Dusty Springfield that featured in the 1967 James Bond spoof, ‘Casino Royale’ which starred Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and practically every other actor that was alive at the time. For a song that was composed for what was essentially the Austin Powers of that decade, it was a surprise hit in both the US and UK charts. I would liken it to Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ that featured in ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’; except I think I’m one of the only people in the world who remembers that song. The orchestration is beautiful, and Ronan’s vocals are…okay.There’s a type of harshness to his voice that you would usually be able to ignore in Boyzone songs, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a song like this.
This is probably one of the biggest challenges one faces when creating a covers album – somebody else has already sung the song that you’re singing. And they sang it really well. There’s a thin line between an amateur covers band who play ‘I Love Rock’n’Roll’ every Friday night at your local pub as opposed to a talented artist putting their own twist on a much-loved song to create a whole new musical experience. Ronan toes this line, and is only pushed into safety by the fact that he’s singing some sweet, sweet songs.
The album goes on to cover other Bacharach classics that includes ‘Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)’, the Oscar-winning song from the original 1981 film ‘Arthur’ (If you’ve seen the Russell Brand version and not this version, then get out my house right now); ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’ – this song made me laugh when Ronan pronounces ‘pneumonia’ as ‘nyaaaa-moan-yah’; ‘What The World Needs Now’, which is apparently not another mountain. Those things are the WORST.
The one song I really got quite mad at was his version of ‘Walk On By’. This was one of my favourite Bacharach songs when I was younger, primarily because Dionne Warwick owned the crap out of it. However, it’s with tracks like this where I feel as though Ronan hasn’t actually readthe lyrics to the song. It’s as if he is a Japanese pop star singing ‘Famine’ by Sinead O’Connor and not knowing what it’s actually about (in saying this, that is something I would pay to see). Some of the songs simply lack the passion that they deserve. I mean, I really felt it when Dusty Springfield told us that we don’t have to say we love her; I fully understood when Dionne Warwick told me not to make her over; and I totally got the message from Jack Jones in ‘Wives and Lovers’ that woman are supposed to look nice for their husbands or else they’ll leave them for their secretary. With Ronan, I just don’t believe him when he tells us he just doesn’t know what to do with himself. I think he knows exactly what to do with himself, and that is to sing every song as if the lyrics are just a bunch of rhyme-ey words.
This is not to say that the whole album is like this. It features three lesser known Bacharach songs (lesser known to me at least); ‘My Little Red Book’, ‘Something Big’ and ‘This House Is Empty Now’, all of which I actually really enjoyed. I suspect that this is because I don’t have anything to compare them to, so they stand alone as enjoyably catchy tunes that Ronan appears to enjoy singing.
All in all, if I had to describe this album in one sentence, it would be this: this album is the kind of CD that Jacqui Tate gives away on Coast FM at around midday to a highly unenthused listener who was really hoping they had won ‘The Best of Olivia Newton-John’ instead.