In an interview promoting his album It Had to Be You...The Great American Songbook, Rod Stewart said that singing pop standards was easier than singing his usual repertoire. While idiotic at face value, the remark was probably intended to refer to the technical demands of the material; Stewart, who had recently faced throat problems, simply meant he found it easier physically to croon ballads than to belt out rock songs. In fact, of course, standards are notoriously hard to sing well, especially for vocalists not brought up on them, presenting demands in terms of range, melody, interpretation, breath control, and intonation, and all that before one encounters the recorded competition from the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, and others. If any greater evidence of the challenge were required, it is provided by the album Live at Rick's Café, which finds Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of 1960s rock group Paul Revere & the Raiders, fronting a piano-bass-drums trio in a collection of standards from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. Though a versatile singer capable of adapting himself to a number of styles, Lindsay has never had a strong vocal personality of his own to make him identifiable, and that is a drawback to begin with in arrangements that put his voice front and center. But that's only the beginning of what's wrong with this album. Recording for his own website label, Lindsay appears to have treated the session (probably not recorded live, despite the title) as no more than a busman's holiday. He doesn't seem to have done much of any preparation, but just decided to wing it, since he doesn't know where to breathe or how to phrase; indeed, he often doesn't seem too clear on the lyrics or melodies of the songs. He adopts a breathy tenor of uncertain pitch throughout, always struggling just to get through. The result is a hopeless muddle, and a considerable embarrassment. Singing standards may be harder than Rod Stewart thinks it is, but for Mark Lindsay, it seems to be virtually impossible.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Mark Lewis