Ronan Keating

Bring You Home

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After five consecutive number one studio albums as one fifth of Boyzone and as a solo singer, Irish balladeer Ronan Keating suffered something of a setback when his last release, Turn It On, stalled at a disappointing number 21. Never the most adventurous of artists, Keating hasn't used the surprising career blip as an opportunity for reinvention. Instead his fourth LP, Bring You Home, offers the same kind of soft rock midtempos and inspirational power ballads that have defined his solo output, albeit with a stronger country influence than has been previously hinted at through his covers of tracks by Lee Ann Womack, Garth Brooks, and Keith Whitley. Taking more of an active role, Keating has co-written over half of the album's 13 tracks with the likes of Richard Marx, New Radicals' Gregg Alexander, and regular collaborators Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, but unfortunately his habit of recording pointless cover versions is still well and truly alive. Neil Diamond's Jazz Singer soundtrack number "Hello Again" is given a bland karaoke treatment that strips away the poignancy of the original; his rendition of Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris," a late-'90s minor hit in the U.K. but which has since been recognized as something of a modern rock classic, is just as anodyne; and "To Be Loved," previously recorded by Westlife (the band he used to manage) on their World of Our Own album, is perhaps the most lazy and unimaginative track of his seven-year solo career. But wade through the bland covers and plodding acoustic ballads like "This I Promise You" and "Just When I'd Given Up Dreaming," and there are occasional flashes of ingenuity that prove Keating is far more interesting when venturing outside his MOR comfort zone. "All Over Again," arguably his best single to date, is a beautifully subtle folk-led duet with Mercury Music Prize nominee Kate Rusby; "Back in the Backseat" sees him take a rare venture onto the dancefloor on a surprisingly enjoyable slice of organic disco; and "So Easy Lovin' You" is an authentic stab at Lonestar-esque contemporary country-pop. But these moments are few and far between, as the majority of Bring You Home is as dull as the stormy seafarer cover art, and continues Keating's premature descent into middle-aged croonery.

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