PopMatters home | short takes home | archivesPopMatters Music Short Takes
Michael McDonald, Motown (Motown)
Michael McDonald -- whose sexy, R&B-tinged vocals not only changed the sound of the formerly country-ish Doobie Brothers when he joined in the mid-'70s, but also brought the band its greatest acclaim -- has found a surprisingly good match on this collection of Motown covers. While covers are always risky -- God knows there have been more missteps by more singers one would even care to count -- McDonald knows both his smoky voice and which songs would work best with it. Produced by blues aficionado Simon Climie, Motown has not only the power of McDonald's fantastically soulful vocals but also the precision of jazz-masters Fourplay providing the musical muscle. With a focus on songs by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder -- two of the Motor City's most romantic and inspired vocalists -- McDonald (himself sounding plenty romantic and inspired) gives impressive interpretations of charmers like "Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing" and "I Want You". His love and respect for Motown, and the original masters behind these songs, is evident throughout. Without changing their basic structure, McDonald does a fine job of breathing new, inspired life into these classics.