Rod McKuen

Goodtime Music

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When Rod McKuen sings his own songs, his performances are sometimes perfectly touching and sometimes endearingly homely, but most people would probably agree that he's a better songwriter than a vocalist. Goodtime Music attempts to recast McKuen as an interpreter of adult contemporary pop music, and the results are occasionally embarrassing. The fact that McKuen co-wrote over half the songs doesn't change the fact that much of the music is not well-suited to his style, and that many of the originals, which he wrote with a cast of collaborators, don't sound very much like him. His laughable lounge rendition of "Mr. Bojangles" is bad enough, but "Down at Mary's Oldtime Bar" -- a bizarre cross between "(Down At) Papa Joe's" and Cabaret -- is particularly unpleasant. McKuen sings Neil Diamond's "Stones" so far beneath his range that he has to whisper the low notes, and elsewhere (the ending of "Go Now," for instance) his voice wavers off key. McKuen hadn't lost his singing ability -- the performances on his 1982 album After Midnight are excellent -- but for some reason he couldn't pull it together for Goodtime Music.