I have always connected with Michael McDonald’s one-of-a-kind, woo-me-into-the-night soulful voice. Play me a hundred voices, and I can tell you right away which one is McDonald’s. Maybe that’s because I’ve listened to him for over three decades, but I’m more inclined to think that soul of his speaks to me in a way like no other.
Soul Speak is appropriately titled.
This latest CD represents McDonald’s artistry and maturity. He has the amazing ability to take just about any song and effectively pour soul over every note and word. Soul Speak is a fine representation of that incredibly satisfying quality. Think about this: Who other than Michael McDonald could courageously take a collection of songs ranging from Burt Bacharach to Van Morrison to Bob Marley and harvest the particles of soul never heard before?
Bringing out the soul isn’t a new endeavor for McDonald; but as good as his Motown (2003) and Motown Two (2004) are, Soul Speak is a whole different level of musicianship and artistry. Perhaps, it’s age and experience–at 56, McDonald has had played and sung plenty of life with a career span of least thirty-five years–but I think his soulfulness comes from a different place. I believe it takes a whole lot of confidence and courage to imprint one’s own voice into a song. McDonald seems to accomplish that effortlessly and without a flaw. I don’t think that any songwriter would be disappointed to hear what McDonald could do with their work.
When I picked up the CD yesterday and looked at the contents, I wasn’t too thrilled about hearing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah for the zillionth time. In fact, I was ready to skip over it on the first go ’round, but McDonald’s magic turned my anticipated disappointment into enchantment. I was also enchanted by Michael’s imprint on Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic and the fresh nuances in Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By. Plus, the three original songs (Only God Can Help Me Now, Enemy Within, and Can’t Get Over You) are solid as a rock.
Soul Speak is pretty darn close to perfection. Even if you’ve heard some of the titles on this CD thousands of times, you haven’t heard them the way Michael McDonald delivers them.