Friday, December 15, 2006

Taylor Hicks: The Runaround? Or the Right Place?

I know I'm a little late delivering the Taylor Hicks debut CD review. That's what tending to the Fedorov Fandom can do sometimes! But I wanted to be fair to this CD and give it plenty of time to decide exactly how I felt about it. After multiple listens in multiple locations, I have come to a conclusion.

It's a'ight.

The first thing I had to do was get the Daughtry and Kellie Pickler comparisons out of my mind, because it wouldn't be fair to compare Taylor to them. While those two are outstanding albums, they're in a totally different field than Taylor, and shouldn't be used to judge him. Secondly, I had to forget everything I knew about Idol and try to come at this from a fresh perspective, which proved difficult.

The CD didn't come across very well for me while I was driving. But once I was settled in and relaxed, my perception of it changed quite a bit. Quite simply, this is music to chill to. It's upbeat enough, but it's the kind of music you'd sit and politely listen to in a smoky jazz club or in the comfort of your recliner. Once you're in the proper context, the CD is relaxing and enjoyable.

My knee-jerk reaction was to say that this was about to be another "Bo Bice" effort. But I think they put a little more thought into it than that. I was excited to see songs by Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson, because their kind of music was Taylor's strong point. I was a little startled to see a Bryan Adams songwriting credit in there, as well as Diane Warren, who apparently is contractually obligated to pen at least one song per Idol winner release. There are a lot of good influences here, though. Matchbox 20 comes directly to mind, with Matt Serletic producing the album and Rob Thomas contributing the song "Dream Myself Awake." Taylor himself gets a writing credit on only three of the songs (four if you bought the Wal-Mart version) with only two of them being solo credits. I suppose that ought to cement his publishing contract. Without a doubt, Taylor is at his most Taylor-ness on the songs he wrote. (Ironically, he sounds most like I remember him from his Idol days on the bonus song "Hell of a Day," which is only included on the Wal-Mart version of the disc.)

I do like this disc, but in the interest of honesty, I do have to point out a few negatives. The first is sort of trivial, but I have to mention it. The sticker on the front of the CD is misleading if you don't look at it closely. "Do I Make You Proud" is not included on this album, however you can use the information inside to download it. It's not a huge deal, and I actually like the fact that they finally decided to leave the "winner song" off, especially since it doesn't fit well with the rest of the music.

The rest of the bad: (1.) There's not really a stand-out track on this CD for me. I sort of enjoy them all the same, but none of them really scream "single" at me. "Heaven Knows" probably comes closest. (2.) If I were a program director at a radio station or group of radio stations, I'd be at a loss to know what to do with Taylor or where to put him. Would I put him in the Adult Contemporary format? Heritage Rock? Pop? Soul? On the other hand, cross-genre appeal has worked for others before (hey there, Carrie Underwood!) so maybe this isn't as much of a negative as I initially thought.

But minor negatives aside, this is a good CD, fairly solid in terms of most Idol productions, and worth having. I mean, after all, I've played it nearly ten times today. Go out and pick up the Wal-Mart version so you can have the bonus track. (Sigh, I thought I'd never say that again.)

Good CD, and the Season 5 streak stays alive. Soul patrol!


At 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving Taylor's CD A chance!!! I wish more critics were like you!!! You actually listened to his CD. After reading so many reviews, it's obvious they do not listen to there music. They just change the wording a little on some other critics review, just like they do in the newspapers. Now I know why people refer to critics as being lazy. I absolutely loved his cd!!! Once again, THANK YOU!!!

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Liana said...

by saying Daughtry and Pickler are on a different field.. r u saying u prefer their debuts better? Just wondering :D

At 2:43 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

No, I'm saying that they're a different style of music. Sorry if that was unclear. You can't really compare the merits of a jazz/blue-eyed-soul/whatever CD against a mainstream rock CD or a country CD. At least not musically. It would be sort of like comparing a Guns N' Roses album to a Ella Fitzgerald record. Both are just as artistically valid, but they're different styles of music. I do like both Daughtry and Kellie's debuts, and I do like Taylor's CD as well. I'm just saying that they shouldn't be compared, because they're apples and oranges.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger hickifino said...

You said there isn't really a stand out track for you. For me there are several: Heaven Knows, The Right Place come to mind immediately.

I like the CD for being musically layered, with lots of little touches that make it fun to listen to again and again. Also, the bass work of Lee Sklar is outstanding.


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