Bruce Willis

If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger

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It's hard to fully explain the lukewarm reception that Willis's second album received, especially after the generally warm reception for The Return of Bruno. It's possible it was the rather dull cover artwork, possibly the long album title. It could even have been the choice of music and musical styles, which covers R&B from the '40s to the '60s for the most part -- horn-driven, powerhouse music that has Stax all over it. Rather than trying to appeal to everyone and coming up with abysmal vanity projects, Willis, one of many actors who decided to try the music world, has thrown himself at the music he loves best, and has come up looking good on the second release. Willis is no opera tenor, but he has a powerful bluesy shout (not to mention a mean harmonica talent) that deserves its thundering presence in generally thundering mixes (this band works, sweats, and rocks out with a nice live sound in the studio). He also writes fairly decent Iyrics, which is a major plus, and he has a distinct sense of humor, which goes even further toward making the man likable. The exceptions are the somewhat pedestrian cover of "Save the Last Dance for Me," which has the disadvantage of a beautiful, unsurpassable original to compare it against (Willis doesn't seem to know what to do with it, and sort of wanders around vocally) and the cover of Louis Jordan's "Barnyard Boogie," executed from Jordan's charts. Overall, though, this is a hyped-up and extremely energizing album.

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