Who knew that the Eagles can swing?
Michael Bublé answers that question and more on Crazy Love, his first album in two and a half years. The Canadian crooner has established himself as a first-class vocalist who brings the Great American Songbook to younger generations. At times it seems as if he was born in the wrong era, that he should have been a member of the Rat Pack. But he has one foot set firmly in contemporary music, having recorded both new material and reworked jazz covers of rock songs. Like his previous albums, Crazy Love contains both standards and modern songs, proving that Bublé can handle both with ease.
Standout cuts include "All of Me," with Bublé belting out the lyrics with the confidence of a seasoned pro. "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" also receives a traditional treatment, while his vocals on "Stardust" are exquisite (the addition of a capella group Naturally 7, however, was superfluous—such a delicate tune deserves a minimal arrangement). It takes courage to cover "Georgia on My Mind," as Ray Charles' bluesy rendition has become the standard. Still, Bublé's performance stands on its own; he clearly considers every word he sings.
Crazy Love also marks Bublé's welcome attempt to expand his range, mostly to positive effect. Electric guitars accent his enjoyable cover of the Eagle's "Heartache Tonight," but the majority of the song skews toward big band jazz. It's as fun a mashup as his previous version of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Retro soul and blues group Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings make an appearance, collaborating with Bublé on "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)." He and Jones engage in spirited vocal repartee, with both parties sounding like they had a fantastic time during the recording session. Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith also guests on "Whatever It Takes," Bublé's cover of Sexsmith's 1995 tune. The duo's voices blend together beautifully, and the song should introduce Sexmith's music to a wider audience. 80s music fans should approve of his interpretation of Billy Vera and the Beaters' "At This Moment"–he manages to bring out the blues elements of the pop-rock classic.
The album also contains two Bublé co-written songs: the first single, "Haven't Met You Yet," and "Hold On." The former sounds like his version of Sara Bareilles' "Love Song"–while he sings lyrics with his usual enthusiasm, the song lacks the distinctive sound of "Home" from 2005's It's Time.
As previously mentioned, Bublé should expand his sound, as his warm voice can wrap itself around a variety of genres. One element that merits consideration is changing producers. David Foster, a co-producer on Crazy Love, tends to dominate songs with his at times heavy-handed arrangements. A prime example is "Cry Me A River," with the horn-heavy band practically drowning out Bublé's voice. It would be fascinating to hear Bublé front a jazz trio, á la Tony Bennett's work with the Ralph Sharon Trio. Minimalist arrangements would better showcase his supple voice and allow him to better communicate the lyrics' subtle meanings. Another option would be to work with Jorge Calandrelli, the producer/arranger who so superbly helmed Jane Monheit's 2007 breakthrough Surrender. Calandrelli kept the focus on Monheit's voice while still conducting complex orchestrations. In addition, he retained an intimate tone, which fit the album's romantic sounds and Monheit's buttery vocals. Working with other producers experienced in jazz would do wonders for Bublé's voice and repertoire.
Despite the arrangements, Crazy Love is yet another example of why Michael Bublé has garnered attention for his smooth song interpretations. The album's ebullient sound demonstrates how Bublé should continue exploring different musical genres. And yes, he can make even The Eagles sound jazzy.