When You're Smiling

Regis Philbin

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When You're Smiling Review

by David Jeffries

What makes Regis Philbin such a great "everyman" on television is his ability to bounce between professional and spontaneous. If he's confused he wears it on his sleeve; if he's frustrated you'll know it. Philbin takes a totally different attitude when it comes to singing. His first album in over 30 years finds him being more agreeable than expected and doing very little of that great ad-libbing, which is a shame. That doesn't keep When You're Smiling from being a pleasant listen, but it's more pleasant than fun and if there's one thing Regis does right, it's fun. He refers to producer Steve Tyrell as a perfectionist in the liner notes, and he's right. There isn't a bum note on When You're Smiling, but there isn't an off-the-cuff moment, either. Regis keeps it simple and still has his voice, the small jazz combo and string orchestra backing him are lush, and trumpeter Warren Vaché's presence makes the collection all the richer. Now just imagine the lively studio banter that must have been going on or what one or two irreverent, uptempo numbers could have done for the album. The standard-filled set does satisfy with a collection of songs that mean a lot to Philbin; his desire to bring out every last drop of sentimentality in the tunes is up-front and charming. Tyrell's production is both elegant and cool and Philbin's duet with Irish tenor Ronan Tynan on "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" will put a tear in the corner of Mother's eye. Not playing to his strengths is a strange move for Philbin, one that might be explained by his lifelong ambition to be a "serious" singer. You'll miss the glib Regis and his lust for life, but a huge heart, reverence for the music, and warm voice keep When You're Smiling from being just another celebrity disaster.

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