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Rawls Sings Sinatra

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Album Review

Tackling the Sinatra songbook seems like a dicey proposition. Who wants to be compared to one of the greatest singers of all time? Most likely you are going to come up short in comparison. Lou Rawls decided to take on the challenge on his 2003 release Rawls Sings Sinatra, which features Rawls wrapping his distinctive baritone around 12 songs associated with Sinatra. It is produced very cleanly by Billy Vera, arranged swingingly by Benny Golson, and split between up-tempo songs like "Come Fly With Me," "That's Life," and "My Kind of Town/Chicago" and ballads like "All the Way," "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road"), and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." Vera and Rawls make a few interesting choices song-wise, picking a few lesser-known songs like "Summer Wind," "The Second Time Around," and "Learnin' the Blues." All the pieces are in place to make this a pleasant exercise in Sinatra-worshipping nostalgia. The only problem is the less-than-perfect state of Rawls' vocals. He definitely shows his age as he occasionally scrapes his way through the trickier passages and growls his way through the swinging tunes. If you can handle him not sounding exactly as he did in his prime, Rawls actually sounds pretty good on most of the disc. In fact on some of the songs, and especially on the ballads like "All the Way" and "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road"), his newfound vocal unsteadiness adds a new shade of vulnerability that is quite interesting. Fans of Rawls who want to live in the past should avoid this disc for certain, but those who are willing to hear the real Rawls of 2003 will find themselves in possession of a pleasant and swinging disc. (Oh yeah, the Sinatra comparison. Does it stack up well against Sinatra in his prime? Not even close. How about against Sinatra when he was 68 as Rawls is in 2003? Well, Sinatra was still better, but not by much.)


Born: 01 December 1933 in Chicago, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

From gospel and early R&B to soul and jazz to blues and straight-up pop, Lou Rawls was a consummate master of African-American vocal music whose versatility helped him adapt to the changing musical times over and over again while always remaining unmistakably himself. Blessed with a four-octave vocal range, Rawls' smooth, classy elegance -- sort of a cross between Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole -- permeated nearly everything he sang, yet the fire of his early gospel days was never too far from the surface....
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Rawls Sings Sinatra, Lou Rawls
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