Raul Malo

You're Only Lonely

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Raul Malo's voice is one of the great natural resources of American music, and anyone familiar with his work with the Mavericks or as a solo act is already aware that the man can seemingly sing anything he puts his mind to and make it sound wonderful. However, in many ways You're Only Lonely feels like a concerted effort to present him in a new light to a new audience. Produced by Peter Asher, best known for his work with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor, You're Only Lonely dials down the country and Latin accents that have long been a large part of Malo's music in favor of smooth and elaborate MOR-style arrangements (complete with a shimmering string section) and a set list dotted with such familiar classics as "At Last," "Tomorrow Night," and "Games That Lover's Play." (Malo does get to tear into a solid Cuban-style number here, "For You," and covers Willie Nelson's wonderful "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," but there's no arguing that both numbers boast significantly more polish than they would have received on Malo's earlier projects.) Much as Linda Ronstadt's albums with arranger Nelson Riddle in the '80s (produced by Peter Asher) seemed designed to convince an older and more musically sophisticated audience that she was a "real" singer rather than just another rock & roll belter, You're Only Lonely plays as Malo's calling card to people wary of his country background, demonstrating he can sing supper club blues, standards and jazz-leaning ballads as well as anyone. Malo certainly handles this material with seasoned panache, his vocal chops are as solid as ever, and there are a few idiosyncratic but inspired song selections, including Harry Nilsson's nostalgic "Remember" and the early Bee Gees' hit "Run to Me." But for all the superlative craft displayed on You're Only Lonely, Asher's production has buffed most of the texture out of this music, and there's a sadly noticeable lack of passion in most of the performances; it's a collection of glorious surfaces that ring just a bit hollow, something you can't usually say about an album featuring Raul Malo.

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