Piece of My Soul

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Something of a protégé of Celine Dion (he's managed by her husband and manager, René Angélil, and made his commercial breakthrough with a 2000 duet with Dion, "Sous le Vent"), Quebecois adult contemporary singer Garou (born Pierre Garand) has until now stuck to the French-language market. Piece of My Soul is his first English-language album, and it follows a similar formula to Dion's push into the Anglophone market a little over a decade before, featuring songs by Dion's core stable of songwriters (including 1980s one-hit wonder Aldo Nova, who co-wrote the title track and "Coming Home") as well as tracks by bigger names. Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas wrote the first single, the cookie-cutter pop/rocker "Stand Up" (not, unfortunately, a cover of the Ludacris single of the same name, which would have been as much a hoot as Dion's ill-advised take on AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long"), and the dramatic ballad "First Day of My Life" (already a 2006 hit for ex-Spice Girl Melanie C) was written by Enrique Iglesias. Unfortunately, the album seems so calculated toward the American adult contemporary market that the things that made Garou's French-language albums unique -- particularly an appealingly rough-edged and at times almost bluesy voice that often made him sound like Quebec's equivalent of prime '70s vintage Neil Diamond -- are all but absent here. The pleasant but forgettable songs have so little personality either in the glossy radio-ready arrangements or in Garou's newly anodyne vocal style that the album title starts to sound cruelly ironic: soul is the one thing this album is almost entirely lacking.

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