Riding the coattails of the '60s soul-pop revival kick-started by Amy Winehouse, Texas' frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri managed to reverse the declining fortunes of her previous multi-million-selling band, reaching number three with her debut album, Melody, in 2007. A winning combination of simple Dusty Springfield-style tunes and Spiteri's effortlessly soulful vocals, it indicated that unlike other '90s MOR acts' lead singers-gone-solo Heather Small and Andrea Corr, a fruitful solo career lay ahead. Three years later, she returns with a collection of her favorite film soundtrack songs, suggesting that the time away hasn't been creatively well spent. Indeed, The Movie Songbook falls firmly into the lazy and uninspired category that's usually reserved for housewife favorites' John Barrowman and Michael Ball, not an artist who has previously worked with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Roger Sanchez, and Xenomania. While some covers albums offer a different take on the source material, or introduce audiences to undiscovered tracks, The Movie Songbook very rarely does either. Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" and Tom Jones' "What's New Pussycat?" are nothing more than unimaginative karaoke renditions; disco favorites "If I Can't Have You" and "Xanadu" sound half-hearted, joyless, and the complete antithesis to the originals; while the whole album is given the same pleasant but bland, acoustic string-laden production that sits somewhere between the lounge-pop of her debut and the guitar-driven pop of Texas. In small doses, the album can be a pleasant listen. The lesser-known addition, "Between the Bars," is a subtle version of the late Elliott Smith's Good Will Hunting soundtrack favorite, while "Many Rivers to Cross" is an impassioned take on the gospel classic that showcases Spiteri's unquestionable singing talents. But even with legendary soundtrack producer Phil Ramone on board, The Movie Songbook undoubtedly draws more parallels with a straight-to-DVD B-movie than a critically acclaimed Oscar winner.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien