Paul Sylvan

Good Paul Sylvan

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Issued by Jerry Ross' Colossus imprint during the label's late-'60s zenith, Paul Sylvan's debut is a soulful slice of AM pop with plenty of good, if not great moments. Featuring Sylvan's earnest, slightly gritty vocals and fortified by a clutch of crack studio players (including guitarist Jerry Friedman and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker), Good Paul Sylvan runs through an ambitious ten-song set that likes to get lightly funky but is equally enamored of ambitious, if not entirely successful soft-focus love epics. The animalistic grunts that begin "I Ain't No Fool Jim" ain't no joke -- hell hath no fury like a man who has been crossed, and Sylvan sells it with aplomb. He tears into the smart, sharp lyrics over a stuttering beat and a horn section that never stops flirting with the songbird backup singers. "I bought me a bright red shirt/I'm gonna put on that shirt tonight/I'm gonna move my feet down to Bourbon Street!" The same flair for delivery that marked the work of Joe South or early Tom Jones is apparent in Sylvan's voice -- his strained end notes and slight over-singing on the ballads suggest (in a good way) a barroom belter who has suddenly found himself in a studio with professionals. It is this street-level intangible -- as well as the consistently great instrumentation -- that helps shape Good Paul Sylvan's cloudier moments. "Happy Eyes" aims for the gently swelling contours of "MacArthur Park" and might have deflated in less confident hands. But Sylvan hits his marks, no matter how sappy, and that makes the song work. He and his mates cannot save every moment of the album though, and it occasionally stumbles over melodrama. Nevertheless, Paul Sylvan's freewheeling debut is a hidden gem not to be missed by fans of Neil Diamond's Bang Records work.

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