With Billy Joel continuing his self-imposed recording hiatus and Elton John abandoning his trademark sound in favor of pursuing an alt-country direction, New York-born, London-based crooner Julian Velard stakes his claim to take over the ivory-tinkling singer/songwriter mantle with his fifth studio album, Mr. Saturday Night. The former Parisian street sweeper may have been discovered through very modern means (he was signed to EMI after being spotted on MySpace), but his follow-up to The Planeteer is very much an old-school affair, with only the John Mayer-esque, radio-friendly, guitar pop of "No Wrong" and the funky disco grooves of "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" deviating from the theatrical, '70s-inspired, piano-led rock formula. While the plodding Leo Sayer-styled ballad "Still in Love" and the dreary closing number "Another Guy's Song," may drift into mediocre cabaret territory, Velard's theatrical charms, lyrical quips, and smooth, Rat Pack-inspired crooning ensure the album is far from your bog-standard Broadway pop affair. Performed under the guise of a fictional, bow tie-wearing character (named Mr. Saturday Night), his story-telling capabilities are just as effective when tackling matters of the heart, such as the lush, twinkling soft rock of "Sentimental" and the driving AOR of "Love Again for the First Time," as they are when showcasing his sarcastic and satirical tendencies, as on the jaunty Cockney-ish singalong of opener "Me and My Mirror on a Saturday Night" and the brass-fused bluesy stomp of "Fellow Americans," while producers Jerry Abbott and Grant Black (Craig David) and Steve Power (Robbie Williams) showcase their odd box of tricks with the oompah-band riffs of "Take the Money and Run," the quirky, spacy synths of "Soundtrack of My Life," and the handclapping, folky rhythms of "The Guy Who." Comparisons with Rufus Wainwright will ensue, but Mr. Saturday Night is more crowd-pleasing show-stopper than avant-garde revue, and while it doesn't bring anything new to the pop-showtune table, it's an uplifting and engaging effort which deserves be Velard's much-needed breakthrough.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien