Tuesday, May 01, 2007

He's Back!

If you're already a Michael Buble fan, I don't have to ask you to do this. But if you're an MB newbie, then please... buy this album.

His latest offering is interestingly named Call Me Irresponsible, and he performed the title track during a recent guest appearance on American Idol 6 ( jazz week ).

Funnily enough, despite its official May 1st worldwide release date, I managed to get my hands on it last Friday ( April 27th ) at a nearby Sembawang Music Shop outlet. They hid the disc behind the counter but displayed the promotional poster in the window. Made me feel like I was doing something illegal, haha. :)

On to the album review proper.

Overall opinion: always favourable, of course. Michael can sing anything and breathe new life into it, and his vocals remain strong and smooth as ever.

Still, I have to say that of all his 3 studio recordings so far, this is probably my least favourite. His personal best was It's Time ( 2005 ), on which he really stretched himself and produced beautifully rendered classics like Song For You, Quando Quando Quando, Try A Little Tenderness, Save The Last Dance For Me and ( the one I love most ) You And I.

His debut in 2003 was equally stunning, with smouldering covers of Fever, Moondance and The Way You Look Tonight.

Call Me Irresponsible, on the other hand, heads in a slightly different direction, which has its pros and cons. The good part is, he shows off his playful personality more, especially on tracks like I've Got The World On A String, That's Life and Everything. Still, much of the trademark MB style is retained, as he croons gorgeously on Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight ( redone as a Portuguese jazz ballad -- sounds very similar to The Way You Look Tonight ), Me And Mrs Jones, Always On My Mind and Dream.

The not-so-good part? He gives the impression that he's playing it safe, which is a huge pity considering his immense success with It's Time, where he pushed the limits in vocal delivery and contemporary arrangement.

The result: Album #3 pales in comparison to #1 and #2; though if this had been his debut, it probably would've launched his career anyway, 'cos there's no doubt it's good. Just that it isn't as good as its predecessors.

Right then, beating about the bush aside, here's a brief summary of the tracks:

What Works:

Wonderful Tonight -- Eric Clapton's slow rock ballad works amazingly well as a rumba. Credit goes to the exquisite arrangement ( lots of strings coupled with a sexy Latin beat ) and Michael's soothing performance. Ivan Lins, who duets with MB, does a competent job, but it's really his exotic accent that adds the icing on the cake. :)

Everything -- one of 2 original compositions MB co-wrote with his pianist / music director Alan Chang, this is an upbeat and infectiously happy pop piece, complete with cute lyrics like "You're the swimming pool / on an August day". My favourite line though, is "And I get to kiss you baby / just because I can", which he infuses with a combination of cheeky mischief and winsome longing. Very very nice indeed.

Dream -- this was written by Johnny Mercer, who also penned the legendary Moon River, Autumn Leaves, Summer Wind and One For My Baby ( And One More For The Road ), among others. Dream is a lovely little song not unlike Charlie Chaplin's inspiring and heartwarming Smile. As Michael whispers "Dream, when you're feeling blue / Dream, that's the thing to do / Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air / You'll find your share of memories there", I can feel my pulse rate drop and the world outside fade into oblivion. Highly recommended for drives home from work after a tough day. :)

Call Me Irresponsible -- This is vintage MB is all his glory. Naughty and irreverent to the core, with a superb swing orchestra backing, you'll be tapping your feet and snapping your fingers in no time.

L-O-V-E -- Another cutesy classic ( bonus track on the Singapore album ), given the MB workover. I adore it. :)

What Doesn't Really Work:

It Had Better Be Tonight -- comes across like a lounge act in a Latin nightclub, a la Barry Manilow's much maligned Copacabana. Didn't like it much.

Always On My Mind -- believe it or not, Willie Nelson's version ( nasal and simple as it may be ) conveys more angst. Somehow, Michael's crooning doesn't fit this particular love song. Go figure.

Comin' Home Baby -- Maybe I'm just disturbed by the fact that a Grammy Award-winning R&B group is now reduced to singing backup. It isn't that bad a performance, but let's face it, Michael doesn't NEED backup, and even if he did, it doesn't HAVE to be Boyz II Men providing it. I found it pretty lacklustre and routine.

I still recommend this to potential buyers. But if you have any doubts, just sample it at HMV or That CD Shop. The good outweighs the bad, I promise. :)

A music video for Everything can be accessed here. Keep checking his tour schedule, 'cos he always drops by Singapore months after a new album's released. I just hope he doesn't come down while I'm overseas. Will be away for 4 weeks later this year.

Another Album Review

I like tenors. Especially young, good-looking ones from Italy. :) But only if they have real talent of course. :)

Just picked up Vittorio Grigolo's debut CD, and man, can this guy sing. He can belt anthems and Broadway classics with aplomb, yet easily switches to serenade mode on the softer, more tender tracks.

Songs worthy of mention:

You Are My Miracle ( a duet with lead Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger )
-- make sure you plug in your earphones or play it in the car, because letting the sound dissipate will destroy the effect completely. Nicole is utterly mesmerizing ( eat your heart out, Sarah Brightman ), while Vittorio shines with his beautifully controlled delivery. Ahhhh. :)
There's a solo Italian version right at the end ( track 13 ) which is also breath-taking.

-- a Keane anthem sung like an Italian aria! Once your head stops spinning, you'll love it. :)

-- woo, quite simply the best and my personal favourite. ( I happen to be a huge West Side Story fan since childhood. ) Vittorio soars effortlessly through this immensely challenging Broadway classic. And the closing note is pure heaven. Major goosebumps!

Which reminds me, I should place an order for a 7 Brides for 7 Brothers DVD on Amazon one of these days. My all-time favourite musical, surpassing even The Sound of Music.

Spider-Man 3

No, I haven't seen it.

No, I don't think I'll be able to catch it in theatres, considering how all the shows at the cinemas I frequent are almost sold out by now.

Got my May roster on 30th April, hence the delay.

Am working lots of morning shifts. Considering how I avoid the crowds, evening and weekend shows are out of the question.

Someone please tell me what you think of the film. I'll probably end up borrowing the DVD, arrgh.

Speaking of DVDs

Rented a few this past fortnight.

Casino Royale -- bloody fantastic. Fully agree that Daniel Craig's the best Bond ever. Not conventionally handsome, but possesses loads of charisma, and has one of the best swaggers I've ever seen ( other notable contenders include Matthew McConaughey, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Douglas and Robert Redford ).
Yes, I pay attention to how a guy walks. :)

Curse Of The Golden Flower -- wow, didn't think anything could be more tragic than Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, but this almost takes the cake. Lots of melodrama, but doesn't have much of a kick. I can see why it wasn't nominated for a Foreign Film Oscar.

The Prestige -- didn't like it. Had high hopes, but it bored me despite my trying so hard to enjoy it.

The Departed -- the foul language ruined the experience. And there're loopholes. Especially near the finale. Best Picture? Nah...

Blood Diamond -- Couldn't tahan and only finished half of it. A perfect example of how good actors can't save a film which suffers from a dull script and poor pacing.

Better Shows Worth Watching

1. Anything with Peter Sarsgaard in it.

I first noticed him in Shattered Glass, where he plays a tortured editor to perfection. ( He won tonnes of well-deserved awards for this breakout role. )
However, he also played John Malkovich's son Raoul in The Man In The Iron Mask ( costarring Leonardo DiCaprio ).
Then, I caught him in Flightplan, a very stupid movie in which Jodie Foster acts like a raving lunatic. Fortunately, Sarsgaard holds his own and is the only reason I bothered to sit through this drivel.
Most recently, I saw him in Jarhead with Jake Gyllenhaal. It's a very underrated film but deeply affecting. Sarsgaard plays a sergeant who is so traumatized by his experience in the Gulf War he later sinks into depression and has a mental meltdown. Performances are excellent all around, and make sure to sit tight during the burning-oil-wells scene, as it literally rains black gold and drenches the entire Kuwaiti desert. Awesome. :)

By the way, Sarsgaard's girlfriend is Jake Gyllenhaal's older sister, Maggie, who's another quirky actress famous for playing very kooky characters ( e.g. an S&M-addicted assistant to James Spader's domineering boss in The Secretary ).

He's definitely among the top 3 on my Favourite Actors list, along with Kevin Spacey and John Cusack. Spacey and Cusack have already appeared together in Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. Now if only ALL 3 would act in the same movie someday.

2. The latest episodes of CSI ( Season 7 )

Liev Schreiber joins the team as Gil Grissom ( William Petersen ) goes on extended hiatus.
Schreiber is another terrific actor ( on my Top 5 list ) who's done everything from comedy ( watch him cross-dress and tango with Steve Martin in Mixed Nuts ) to horror ( the Scream trilogy, The Omen, The Manchurian Candidate ) and romance ( The Painted Veil ).
Boyfriend to Naomi Watts ( King Kong remake gal ), with one of the best voices around ( voices are big with me :)). Rent his movies if you have time.


Prison Break. The plotholes finally got to me, and I bade it farewell 2 weeks ago.

Watch Out For...

Supernatural Season 2 - premieres May 29th on AXN.

On The Lot - mid-May on HBO.

Last But Not Least

For your reading pleasure:

An article on medical blogging, from the May 2007 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Drs. Allen Roberts and Nicholas Genes were part of the writing team for The Lingual Nerve a couple of years back ( the team included myself and other medical personnel from the US, England and Australia ), and I'm thrilled to see them featured in the interviews. Very nice guys, both of them.

Addition to the SMA News editorial board:

With the recent reshuffle, we've managed to persuade one extremely talented writer to join us in stirring things up. Just need a formal meeting to finalize things then you'll be able to enjoy humourous pieces along the lines of the legendary Hobbit's column.

Be safe:

Couple of nights ago, 2 young fellows were hauled in by ambulance after being attacked by a parang-wielding man at a hawker centre. Yes, a bustling hawker centre. At dinner-time. One can only imagine the chaos at the scene, but the victims' conditions were absolutely horrific, with one chap's hand almost completely severed at the wrist, and the other... well, let's just say he was practically minced.

Both survived, but will no doubt require prolonged rehabilitation, with guarded prognoses where recovery is concerned.

Lesson to be learnt here: Singapore isn't safe anymore. Where the hell are the police?!

Posts on Vietnam to be postponed till next time.

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