Jim Conroy

Heart of the Man

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Although a tribute to the consummate balladeer Johnny Hartman, Heart of the Man has only four tunes on the play list that Hartman sang. The remaining six are Jim Conroy compositions. Conroy has that deep baritone that made Hartman's vocal interpretations so special, and it is a pleasant voice indeed. But it does not have that smooth as melted chocolate tone that was uniquely Hartman's, nor the singer's one of a kind phrasing, which gave special expression to each song he sang irrespective of the tune's quality. "Heart of the Man" is one of the better efforts. Joined by backup vocals, this is an unapologetic psalm to the great singer. "Johnny Kept on Singing" is a vocalese tale of Hartman's continued efforts as balladeer despite the many changes in public taste in popular music that came along during his career, as well as the sometimes terrible material he had to cope with. Conroy does well with the tunes that are in Hartman's vocal bailiwick. "You Are Too Beautiful" is from the classic Lush Life recorded with the John Coltrane Quartet. Conroy's approach to this tune is commendable and legitimate. Edd Richards' piano does a nice job on the McCoy Tyner solo from this track. "Don't You Know I Care," from Hartman's 1963 I Just Dropped By to Say Hello, is helped considerably by the only appearance of Red Holloway at the session. This is a very listenable affair. Also, while an accolade to a great singer, it's done without aimless aping of songs the honoree sang. The one problem is that there are only 38 minutes of music, far too little for a CD.

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