Paul Middleton – Covers 3 – Album Sampler/Singles Review
Ahhhhhhhh the cover crowd…ya gotta love’em.
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking there’s no risk involved with taking on your own version of a cover tune…if you’re not careful with your selections, you can create all kinds of impossible scenarios where the odds of making an impact are against you…or even worse, can set you right up to fail. In every situation, especially in those that are covered specifically by singers – it’ll come down to purpose. As in…what brought that cover about in the first place? Where did the desire come from? Can you, in fact, hear the passion & connection to the words? Is there still enough identity to hear that it’s a cover tune via the perspective of another artist/band…can they make it their own, or is it simply a rehashing of a tune we just wanna sing along with, like so many covers end up becoming? Will we remember YOU – or will we remember the song? All these factors are worth considering before you push record.
There we go. I feel like that’s a sufficient amount of tension and drama to start this review off right. I do after all, have it on good authority that Paul Middleton hates surprises…so we’ll see how he does with a little suspense instead. Did he choose songs that’ll work for him? Can we hear Paul in these tunes on his new Covers 3 album? Did I enjoy myself in listening to these versions? So many questions right? I tell ya…if only we could find someone out there willing to type a few answers to’em…eh Paul?
I’ll say this first, just to take some of that pressure off his shoulders – he’s chosen BIG, but he’s chosen well too. For instance…he’s taking on songs that feature singers of the highest caliber…Tracy Chapman, George Michael, Sia, Norah Jones…and of course, multiple others on the full-length record as well. High standards to say the least – songs that you should be plenty familiar with…ALL factors in terms of how people will receive these covers as listeners…there’s no doubt that he’ll have to rise to the occasion.
So let’s find out if this artist based out of London over there in the UK across the pond, in fact, did.
“Fast Car” – the mellow megahit originally by Tracy Chapman. No matter who you are, chances are, ya know this one well. Now close your eyes and name that next giant Tracy Chapman tune… Alright, alright, you can’t do it – and for honest reasons – there wouldn’t be a song in her catalog that would have come close to how gigantic of a hit “Fast Car” ended up being. “Give Me One Reason,” you say? Great tune, yep – and no, it’s not even close to how huge “Fast Car” was. I’m old enough to remember the satire behind the making-of “Fast Car” on the old Keenan Ivory Wayans show In Living Color…which, I’ll admit, somewhat tainted the experience of listening to the song just about ever since. I’ll do my best to keep those feelings separate right now. Point being though, it’s been said many times that satire is one of the best forms of flattery…I mean this song has inspired other art to create ideas around it – how cool is that? And of course, the thousands of covers of this tune also confirm that “Fast Car” is indeed, an amazing song. Taking the tempo & energy in the vibe up far beyond the melancholy melody of the original, Paul’s version brings a fresh perspective & sound to the Chapman song that certainly works. Without a doubt, the song is in his wheelhouse…there’s no issues when it comes to his control, tone, or approach here – he’s stepped up to the mic to own this moment and I think that makes a huge difference when we listen. Personally I dig the revitalized energy he’s put into this song…I mean, let’s face facts, for the “Fast Car” that Chapman was singing about, she ended up playing it kinda slow don’t ya think? Paul surrounds himself in vibrant sound on this worthy cover-version…and I felt like he came out with a really engaging & catchy way to roll through this monumental tune with his vocals. The update on the music and the slight increase in the song’s tempo all work really well…he’s found excellent spots to take advantage of the dynamics of the music and make the most of the potential it has to deliver those key lines of the verse & chorus in ways that we’ll truly hear & wanna turn up.
If you follow these pages on the regular, you already know how much I love my talent shows like America’s Got Talent…or Britain’s Got Talent in Paul’s case (mine too though, love me some Ant & Dec!)…or even the short-lived & sad Canada’s Got Talent, the latter of which I suppose proved after just the one season, that my own country didn’t have a whole bunch of that ‘talent’ stuff. Anyhow…in many ways, Paul reminds me of that style of performer/entertainer/singer…the kind of guy that has the potential to captivate a massive audience via the sincerity he sings with and the smart choices he makes in terms of how to create changes to these originals without damaging them. Like, I was dying to hear how he’d choose to do Michael’s massive 80’s tune “Careless Whisper” – and Paul made incredible choices in how to steer his cover…this is what I mean about rising up to those expectations. To bring it back to the opening of this narrative…close your eyes and listen to Middleton’s version of “Careless Whisper” – you can hear this is THAT song that would bring the house down on one of those talent shows when performed with this approach. I do think there’s a bit more potential in Paul that he doesn’t quite give us yet…and it might take that live-setting to fully tap into that intensity & connection to the core emotions that could make for some seriously massive moments…BUT…I still dig the more subdued & controlled performance he puts in here as well. Love the way the music has come out sounding…like listen to that spot around the two-minute mark…that’s the magic right there – that’s taking a tune to the next-level and really adding something powerful the original just doesn’t have. Sure the Michael’s version will repeat the chorus with more strength as the song goes on – but the drama & sound don’t become half as epic as this Middleton version does – this is extremely cool to experience. Would Simon stop him halfway through the performance and send him packing? I hardly think so. I do however, think he might recommend that, somewhere around that final chorus run-through, is a spot where if I were Paul, I’d be thinking about how to make that the epic moment the ending deserves…and really belt out those final notes at full-strength, full-confidence, with everything he’s got. You can hear in the background layers of his vocals that he’s got it in him…and there’s a couple moments there between them where the roles might have been better reversed; as in, bring up that electrifying presence the backing vocals have into the spotlight, and have those lead-vocals become the harmonies. To some extent, I think that’s what he’s going for…I’m just encouraging the man to completely go for it is all…like I said, you can hear the potential within him and within the song…this could be a really big tune for him with the extra theatrics & dramatic sound that comes into play on “Careless Whisper.”
Interesting fun fact for you that you might not know…”Careless Whisper” was technically George Michael’s first solo single – I always thought it was technically a Wham! song due to the fact that he wrote it with Andrew Ridgeley and it appears on the Make It Big album. Who knew? Here’s another fun fact for you – if you were to have a peek under the wig hiding Sia’s face from us all, you’d actually find out it’s been Paul all along! Amazing right? Alright, alright…the first fact on Michaels/Wham! is true…I might have bent the truth a little bit on the Sia/Middleton scenario…so don’t quote me on that part. That being said – I think what works about his cover of “Titanium” is the fact that he’s not Sia – which, when you think about it, is a common trait that we all share between us…unless you ARE Sia, of course. All jokes aside though – I like what Paul brings to this particular track perhaps more than any of the others in this sample set…I felt like we got the most ‘Paul’ we can get here inside of songs written by ‘Not-Pauls’ – know what I mean? So like…how I felt about the ending of “Careless Whisper” is kind of how he approaches “Titanium” by David Guetta/Sia as well – only this time, this seems to really fit the artist that Paul is without stretching him too far in any direction other than where his own natural talent & beautiful voice lead him. Let’s face it…Sia’s superhuman to begin with…and no one can compete with that – and for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that Paul gets that. So rather than find his way to a mediocre version of this massively powerful song, he’s played this more subdued; it’s still got big notes to be enjoyed, but scaled down impressively to suit Paul’s own strengths as a singer. He’s picked great songs all-around when it comes to this sample set…they’re fairly bulletproof choices in terms of how they’d adapt from sound-to-sound and artist-to-artist…but still, gigantic hits that, were he not to find his way to success in his own versions, he’d probably get eaten alive by the trolls of the internet in one big bite. So make no mistake…it’s brave to pick a tune as gigantic as “Titanium” and scale it down even an inch, let alone how many changes have been made to the dynamics of the structure & sound on Paul’s version – but it’s because of the courage he’s shown in his approach to this song that it comes out as a completely worthy cover. Like, I love the way he sings the chorus for the very first time you hear it…it’s so chill, but so sincere…and like you’ll notice on the verses of this song as well, you can really hear audibly just how much Paul has connected with the words & meanings of this song…as a result, he locks right onto the heart of what drives the emotion & uplifting spirit of “Titanium.” Dude sounds fantastic in the song’s most tender & subtle moments – and when those bigger moments come along, they’re still big enough; he does a great job of taking it up to that next-level. Does he still have more to give? Perhaps…I suspect that’s probably the case, and as I pointed out with “Careless Whisper” – I think there are still more opportunities for him to bring that part of him to the surface in the future. That being said, assuming that he does have that extra gear in the tank still, he’s made a smart choice by not giving this particular tune that added gusto and trying to accomplish what Sia pulled off by attempting to replicate it entirely…he’s put himself genuinely into this cover and approached this one from his own way…I really think this worked strongly in Paul’s favor.
In terms of accessibility, “Titanium” probably has the edge with its more modern-day sound still fresh in so many memories out there…but in terms of performance, I think he should be really proud of what he’s brought to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” – he’s making magic happen on the mic here. I think the guitars on this cut are perfection, the piano/keys as well…but as good as any one element of the music on this tune may be, it’s the star that remains the star here. Paul’s really embraced the spirit of the Jones original and drawn that sweetness to the surface for all to hear, switching between his naturally beautiful tone and his falsetto impressively when the melody calls for it…and overall, I think he’s ended up with quite an enchanting, charming, and captivating cover of this song as a result. At its core, “Come Away With Me” is a very gentle & delicate, graceful & angelic tune – a real love song that has incredible layers of emotion & expression that contain equally impressive imagery in the words. Paul’s done an excellent job of singing this one on-point and keeping that subtleness intact; that slow jazzy & sweet sound of the melody is more than preserved here, it’s completely enhanced through Paul’s style and becomes more vibrant & alive. Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love the original – but I’m definitely in favor of how Middleton has somehow made this sweet song even sweeter by a noticeable degree or two. That sincerity & stunning melody you get from him is on display at all times throughout “Come Away With Me” – it’s definitely a song that reveals his talents & most endearing qualities as a singer, and another strong cover that shows just how deeply he can connect to the material & give it just enough of a twist to establish that lasting impression on us. He’s made smart choices in covering these songs and put a ton of skill into the spotlight…certainly no doubt that the man can sing – but perhaps most importantly, there’s no doubt that he wants to – and you feel that desire within every note he sings. Great job Paul.
Find out more about Paul Middleton and listen to his music from the links below!
Official website: http://www.paulmmusic.com
Fantastical Music Multi-Link To Covers 3: http://smarturl.it/PaulMCovers3
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