Let's hear it for the boys!

For sure, I adore girlbands, disco divas and Eurovision melodramas. Occasionally however, I do dip my fingers in my c.d collection (I know, retro!) and dig out my tuxedo-loving men who recall a time when only a few traveled by plane, Queen Elizabeth hadn't yet heard of Camilla and big bold melodies ruled supreme in the charts via mighty and smooth baritone voices. No samples, rappers or Fern Cotton, this was a golden era of music. This post is to raise a toast to the new acts who've brought back yesterday, spun it around and provided some albums in the past few years.

Michael Feinstein

First off is the iconic Michael Feinstein. He's got his own institute of music and a little ballroom in New York . He taught the boys below pretty much all the tricks of the trade when it comes to big band, Cole Porter and swing. Namely, never ever try and be a tribute act, basically. When attempting to cover the masters already made famous by the likes of Frank, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Tom Jones, Matt Monroe and so forth stylize it in your very unique way. This is so important. Deconstruct it if you can. Otherwise, you are just one step away from producing an album that sounds like what some shake-and-bake reality television contest winner might rush out before the Christmas sales. Michael Feinstein is the kid that started off the interest pre-rock-and-roll music and when he got married to his long time partner Terrence Flannery it was Judge Judy (!) who presided over the ceremony. He's produced so many albums it's impossible for me to point to one recording. However, I always have time for Michael Feinsteins music and his lush arrangements. In short, they're all good. An incredibly talented man and a real asset to the world of music. Download tip: Pure Imagination, Angels on Your Pillow.

Tom Gabel

Hailing from Germany, Tom sounds ridiculously like Frank Sinatra. It is unbelievable. Rarely doing covers, Tom Gabel's albums constantly renew the field of swing, jazz and the big band genre. Moreover, they are packed with brilliantly arranged epics like Where Do You Start, You Took Your Love Away and Catch Me If You Can. Where Tom Gabel (sometimes written as Gaebel) leads, Michael Bublé will follow. Take Bublé's Haven't Met You Yet. Wonderfully cute, bespoke, retro and thoroughly contemporary, it's truly a lovely ditty if ever there was one. Then listen to Tom's Its A Good Life. The similarity is "intriguing". I don't want to slight Bublé in any way. He's fab. But Tom Gabel's already been there and done it. So, highly recommended for the glorious arrangements alone. Download tips: Catch Me If You Can, You Took Your Love Away.

Matt Dusk

Matt's first two big albums Back In Town and Two Shots are an absolute joy. I haven't had a real chance to get down and listen to his 2009 release, Good News, but the aforementioned releases are well worth it and contain absolutely stunning string arrangements that make you feel a thousand bucks, dressed in a t so op hat and off to some exclusive members' bar that time long lost forgot. Shame he always dresses in what seems to be "bank manager" couture. Or at worst, estate agent chic. Big band and ultra dramatic, Matt always dips his perky twinkle toes in the modern swing scene for instance the title track of Back In Town will have shades of 1980s hip hop in the production while the beautiful Don't Go Looking has aspects of contemporary pop in-between classic strands of 1960's Bacharach-esque melodic narratives. The boy loves a challenge and covering The Proppellerheads/Shirley Bassey's History Repeating from 1997 illustrates the point. Download tips: Back In Town, The Theme from Loaded Gun, Don't Go Looking

Michael Bublé

Not only is this Canadian boy absolutely ravishing, but his stage persona truly sparkles. Initially, Michael Bublé started with small residencies in and around Canada and New York state and released cover albums that were always keen to stress that, despite not being original, they instilled Michael's bombastic character. The covers have led to more amazing covers (his version of Cry Me A River is absolutely epic) which eventually led to original songs doing rather well in the mainstream charts. Download tips: Cry Me A River, Stardust, Feeling Good

Cheyenne Jackson

I first came accross this boy when he did an album with Michael Feinstein on the highly recommended album The Power Of Two. Not only is he a fab singer, excruciatingly beautiful but also a hilarious actor often seen in Tina Fey's Emmy award winning show 30 Rock. I am now a bit of a Cheyenne fan. Hailing from an strict Christian family in Idaho, Cheyenne's star promises to burn bright this year with a solo tour (11 of November he's at Carnegie Hall!) and his first debut solo album. Download tips: Me and My Shadow, I'm Checking Out!

Rick Guard

I don't understand how this boy didn't quite take-off. I think it was the unfortunately pretty naff lead-single (Stop It, I like It) that caused all the problems. The album that followed is pretty fabulous however. Coming from Salford, Rick Guard might have launched his big band albums perhaps before the world was ready for that sound. Putting aside that leacherous first single, the first album, Hands of a Giant, contains absolutely wonderfully fun big band choonage. The songs Love Bug, Show Me Yours and Balls need to be heard to believed. Looking back, I can understand why the album Hands Of A Giant had issues when finding an appropriate runway to land on. I mean the chorus of Balls includes the rather dodgy lyric "Drop, they're waiting for their balls to drop! Waiting for their balls to drop!". Not suave, smooth or dapper. But highly recommended. When it was time to brush himself down and release a second album he included the awful Stop It, I Like It again but this time proffered a far more refined and polished piece of musical meat. Anything But Me is an album by a British crooner that has really got the balance of interesting covers (his version of Big Spender is brilliant) and nu-jazz originals down to a key.
I can't listen to his tribute to his mother who suffered from Alzheimers and died in 2008 without getting emotional and it's not schmaltzy or anything. Missing Person is simply just an absolutely beautiful song that conveys the story perfectly. Anyway, I can't wait for his third album! Download tips: The Truth, Making Movies, Show Me Yours, All or Nothing, Balls

Peter Grant

A crooner from the north of England, Peter has one of the warmest voices "on the nu-jazz scene" so to speak. He's released two very strong albums New Vintage and Traditional. He reminds me of a young Matt Monroe. He's just wrapped up the mixing for his 3rd album which I hope is going to final break away from his cover song comfort zone. For me, Traditional was a bit of a let down after the breathtaking New Vintage. Suddenly he sounded like he was auditioning for some corporate function in Norway, which anyone doing this sort of music must be incredibly aware of when covering these monumental decade-defining songs. The singer has got to impart his own story within the already known epic. Peter nails the gem that is The Windmills Of Your Mind on his album and makes New Vintage a brilliant debut. Download tips: The Windmills of Your Mind, The Fool of The Hill, Didn't We

Spencer Day

After coming second in Star Search (America's original Idol-type show) Spencer had his card marked. His 2009 release Vagabond is an beautiful and subtle release. Whereas all the other lads above and below all go for huge soaring orchestral runs, Spencer has moved away from his earlier albums and instead released a soft blues/jazz collection of songs that even include fusions of southern blue grass country textures. If you loved the softer moments of Dana Glover's Testimony, Vagabond might be up your street. This could be because of his Mormon upbringing and how he came terms with his homosexuality. Indeed the song Joe is a (Self)-testimony of sorts. He's recently done a stint in London's West End supporting Polly Rae in her Hurly Burly Show where he set the audience aflame with his Buddy Holly cover of Oh Boy that was an absolute revelation. Download tips: Joe, Better Day



Paul said...

excellent :) I love love love Matt Dusk, you really should check out Good News it's a solid album of originals that fuse jazz and pop and swing seamlessly. I didn't know Rick Guard was still going so I'm off to check out his albums now :) And thanks for the Spencer Day tip. I'm absolutely smitten :)

Baron Chueca said...

And talking of Feinstein, you should really check out his new Live album with the amazing Barbara Cook recorded at Loews Regency!