The crooner is an endangered species. Once the aspiration of many an entertainer, being labeled a crooner slipped from hip to square long ago.
That is until Harry Connick, Jr. made us revisit the art of crooning. Only You
is perhaps his most over-the-top channeling of Bing Crosby to date (this coming from a Connick fan).Only You
is charming, in that "sipping a single malt in the lounge with a beautiful blonde on your arm" sort of way. Connick is out to prove that the suave, urban sophisticate has not truly disappeared. The album is quite consciously retro; Connick reconfigures the concept of "standard" by invading the popular song book of the 1950’s and 60’s (though most of the songs were written earlier and achieved a second wave of popularity in mid-century).
The arrangements are not quite as lush as some of Connick’s other forays into this genre (To See You
), and this is a good thing. Strings are used a bit more sparingly, swirling about and coloring vocals; there’s no doubt that Connick’s voice is the centerpiece. The band shines when the arrangements are stripped back and the Connick of She
and Star Turtle
successfully commingle with his big band alter ego. In particular the sparse arrangements on the Jobim-esque "My Blue Heaven" and "Once in My Life" are delightful. There’s a bounce to the latter that is driven home by the driving backbeat of the (go figure!) string section.
Some cheese and self-indulgence still pops through at points. The album slows toward the last few numbers, as the new agey/Celticized "Other Hours" is laden with acoustic guitar arpeggios conducive to a lullaby. The joke of teasing the theme from Jaws
to open up the arrangement of "I Only Have Eyes for You" wears off quickly, as well.
The band can still swing, though, as the bounce of "Save the Last Dance for Me" and the closing "Good Night My Love" both prove. They swing sweetly, with a lilt, but they still make you want to move your feet. All in all, that’s all Connick is after. Only You
isn’t a masterpiece, but as mood music goes, it’s as good as it gets.