Given the knocks and pans he gets from critics old enough to know what these songs are supposed to sound like, it's brave of Bolton to barrel ahead, not caring whether he's culturally correct in recording, among others, soul classics made famous by singers the likes of Sam Cooke, Sam & Dave and the Four Tops.
The Tops themselves join him on his version of one of their biggest signature hits, "Reach Out, I'll Be There," and there's nothing to knock here. This song is so robust and tamper-proof that Bolton's typically lung-busting treatment suits it just fine. Likewise, on Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming," easily this album's best track, Bolton goes at it full-throttle--anything more restrained wouldn't have been worth the trip.
Bolton's past versions of songs made famous by others have rarely been definitive gems that set the standards. One can only wonder what Bing Crosby would think of his "White Christmas"--but Bolton disgraces neither himself nor the material he chooses on this album. Definitive, de-schminitive , it mostly sounds pretty good.
*** Sue Ann Carwell, "Painkiller," MCA. The former Prince protegee has slowly but surely honed her own musical identity. There's a growl and a soulful heft to her music, which compares favorably to the '70s-era R&B that inspired it. Best known for her remake of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady" a few years ago, Carwell sounds feistiest here on one of her own compositions, "7 Days, 7 Nights."
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).