Michael Bolton

Ain't No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville U.S.A.

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Once he became a superstar, Michael Bolton contented himself with recording covers of popular standards, whether that meant the soul hits of the '60s (1992's Timeless: The Classics, 1999's Timeless: The Classics, Vol. 2) or the Great American Songbook (2003's Vintage, 2006's Bolton Swings Sinatra), so it's something of a surprise that he neglected to release a dedicated Motown album until 2013, when he issued Ain't No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville USA. Lasting no longer than a tight ten tracks, Bolton picks nine songs familiar to all -- among them, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "What's Going On," and "Tracks of My Tears" -- emphasizing the latter half the '60s and Marvin Gaye in particular. He dares not mess with the arrangements, he just replicates the originals, giving them a harder, brighter gloss -- a gleaming surface that isn't necessarily unappealing. More importantly, Bolton has settled into his skin as a singer, deciding to never reach for the gut-busting heights that could make him an object of ridicule back in the '90s. Here, he sounds relaxed and happy to be singing songs he's always loved, sometimes in the company of Kelly Rowland ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough") or Melanie Fiona ("Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"). It's hardly major by any stretch -- these are songs you know and love, sung how you know and love them -- but it is one of the most likeable records Bolton has made.

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