When You’re Smiling
It came as some surprise to hear my review of Walsh’s first album – last winter’s big seller – quoted on mainstream TV by the delectable Holly Willoughby on her sports/comedy show..and with Bradley there looking nonplussed as he listened to my comments. It’s the nearest I will get to having anything of mine…no, let’s keep it clean…
Clearly the label wanted more of the same so here is the follow-up collection and the delivery has the same enthusiasm and warmth that Walsh seem to live and breathe. If anything the song choices are (overall) even better, if happy-go-lucky crooning by a natural performer is your thing. As usual with any recording by any act, the questions are 1/ what is attempted and 2/ how successful has it been. It would be churlish to be an aristarch when the results sound like this. Bradley has no need to emulate Marilyn Manson – and evenly, the latter is not that likely to host The Chase. A shame in itself, that.
Are the arrangements about right without drowning out the star? Yes. Are the key choices about right? Yes, every time. Are all the inclusions well-advised? Maybe not.
Get Happy immediately conjures up that 50s vibe and the ensemble is full-blooded. Something about Walsh’s touch-of-dry singing makes the listener smile. It’s like seeing a cat rolling about in the sunlight, even to a troubled rocker.
The Very Thought Of You is a lovely song and I recommend a listen to Albert King’s version. Here. The shimmering strings Disneyfy the recording, it shouts Christmas. Bradley is almost at the edge of his comfort zone on the key but that encourages the lighter touch. Who Can I Turn To is pastoral in arrangement and an almost convincing delivery. Luck Be A Lady has a real Broadway vibe and over the walking bass, Walsh gives the song a real dusting off and a touch of his own thing in the lyrical framing. Maybe the best cut on this collection.
When Do The Bells Ring For Me is happily a less done-to-death selection and no they can’t resist sticking the bells on! It’s a tender reading, very relaxed and a success. When You’re Smiling / All Of Me takes us back to cabaret standards over a Shortnin’ Bread tempo. Dusty but listenable and enduring melodies few could cock up. This Is All I Ask is a rather solemn piece but handled with taste. Maybe This Time has hot chocolate warmth and Walsh holds back to get the best out of the words. A good effort and a highlight of the record.
I Have Dreamed is the R&H gem with a suitably lush orchestration. Not their best composition and here a tad dull. Who would try to record one of Sinatra’s most popular songs? Bradley’s Come Fly With Me has airy arrangement but this is sacred territory and he can only emulate Frank. Every now and again at shows I get asked to play Dylan’s All Along The WatchTower and I will oblige BUT an attempt at recording would be a no-no, after Hendrix’ supernatural version. Happily the next cut The Good Life though a familiar number finds Walsh putting a bit more of himself into the performance. He holds the notes and doesn’t overdo the vibrato. Next up the late-night ramble that is One For My Baby, which I once heard Iggy Pop sing to rough-edged perfection. Bradley makes it work over his lad’s bright piano. Just about right and as tuneful as you could desire.
Next we get the BW spoken credits over When You’re Smiling / All Of Me and to end proceedings, You Know Best a paean to just doing it and an own composition.
So for 2/ it has to be a thumbs up.