Luka Bloom has a well-deserved reputation as one of Ireland's most gifted singer/songwriters, but he has also ranked among the most gifted cover artists in contemporary music. Bloom's independently released fifth album, Keeper of the Flame, is the first to focus exclusively on the singer's remarkable interpretive skills. Bloom's covers avoid the treacherous pitfalls of unimaginative imitation on one side and obnoxious desecration on the other. He also demonstrates the impressive breadth of his musical tastes. Among the featured songwriters are folk giants Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, rock supergroups U2, Radiohead, and the Cure, reggae king Bob Marley, and even ABBA. Despite the fact that many of these songs were written by artists whose outlooks tend to be considerably darker than Bloom's, Keeper of the Flame is every bit as optimistic, mellow, and romantic as the singer's self-penned efforts. In some cases, this can be attributed to the song selection; "In Between Days" has to be one of the cheeriest songs Robert Smith has ever written, and "Make You Feel My Love" is so gentle and direct that it's almost hard to believe it was composed by Dylan and not Bloom. Radiohead's "No Surprises" is the only track that seems awkward in these benevolent surroundings. Thom Yorke's gorgeous melody works well in the stripped-down arrangement, but Bloom's sincere reading extracts nearly all of the song's acidic undertones. Nevertheless, it is the earnest warmth of Bloom's vocals (gracefully backed with light Celtic instrumentation) that holds this collection together so beautifully. The Australian edition of Keeper of the Flame includes a bonus disc with five live tracks -- a significant addition since it represents the first officially sanctioned concert release by an artist with a reputation for brilliant live performances.
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AllMusic Review by Evan Cater