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Il pop versatile di Michael Bolton

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Easily one of the most reviled figures in mainstream pop, Michael Bolton has a powerful, expressive, remarkably versatile voice -- and an almost perverse sense of how to apply it. While he owed his initial popularity to he-man power ballads that made him a late-'80s heartthrob, his subsequent decision to remake various R&B chestnuts made him a figure of derision and disdain in some circles.

Bolton began life as Michael Bolotin, and sang in several nondescript Connecticut hard rock bands before being signed to Columbia in 1982. (The cover-heavy The Early Years offers all anyone need hear from that period.) Michael Bolton is better balanced and more pop-savvy, but falters when he attempts an overburdened rendition of the Supremes'"Back in My Arms Again."

Finally having learned to relax, The Hunger finds him turning to Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," which gets an earnest, respectful read-ing so faithful to the original you'd think Bolton had begun doing impressions. Chuffed by that single's success, he takes greater liberties with Soul Provider, overemoting his way through such classics as "Georgia on My Mind" (as expected, Bolton goes through "Georgia" like Sherman). By Time, Love & Tenderness, his approach to the likes of "When a Man Loves a Woman" seems almost a parody of soul singing.

A pity, really, because when left to his own material, Bolton's singing is quite bearable. "Walk Away" and "That's What Love Is All About" (from The Hunger) may look like pro forma rock ballads, but Bolton understands how to play the inner dynamics to add drama to their heartbreak sentiment. While that may easily lead to schmaltz, performances such as "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" or "How Can We Be Lovers" (both from Soul Provider) suggest that Bolton could be capable of greatness.

But it was not to be. He continued to ransack the classics through cover versions, offering a pair of albums shamelessly dubbed Timeless: The Classics (and if you think what he does to R&B is cruel, wait 'til you hear his cheerily bombastic take on "Like a Rolling Stone" from Timeless, Vol. 2), but otherwise seemed stylistically adrift. The One Thing compiles most of the worst clichés of '80s MOR rock, while All That Matters (despite some nicely subtle singing on "Safe Place from the Storm") is muddled and unconvincing. By contrast, My Secret Passion, his foray into operatic arias, is surprisingly good -- not quite Metropolitan Opera caliber, but tasteful and quite competent. But what his public preferred was the soppy emotionalism of the material collected in Love Songs, and so Only a Woman Like You delivered the sad spectacle of Bolton trying to seem relevant through wan attempts to catch some of Marc Anthony's buzz through soppy, Latin-inflected love songs. Sad, very sad.

Tratto da "The New Rolling Stone Album Guide 2004"

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