Taylor Hicks Label: Arista/19
Yes, he is 30 years old and has gray hair. But now that America has shown Simon Cowell and the rest of the narrow-minded suits of the music industry that appearance isn’t everything by voting Taylor Hicks as its fifth “American Idol,” Hicks is ready to get on with the rest of his career. His self-titled debut serves as a reminder of why we voted for him in the first place. The dude sings his ass off, and delivers his songs with an enthusiastic, emotional punch. And he does it with a soulful, bluesy flair that brings to mind guys like Michael McDonald, Huey Lewis, Joe Cocker; or even the late, great Ray Charles.
Right off the bat, Hicks and his label get points right off the bat for not including the awful song, “Do I Make You Proud?” that was released as a single soon after he won the competition. Instead, Hicks had a ton of say in the song selection (I know this because he told me in an interview) and he went with songs that gave him the best chance for success, including two that he released as an unsigned artist pre-“Idol.”
This album is loaded with hooky pop songs, all tailored (no pun intended) for the soulful style of Mr. Hicks. And while tracks like “Runaround” and “Heaven Knows” are solid, it’s later on where Hicks flexes his muscles and delivers some of the best material. “Give Me Tonight” is a funky number that brings to mind ‘80s soulsters like Billy Ocean and Jeffrey Osborne, and “The Maze” has a chorus reminiscent of ‘60 pop music – and one that might just give you goose bumps. “Places I’ve Been” is a beautiful and reflective ballad on which Hicks really wails, and though the two previously released tracks that he wrote are not bad, the best songs on here are the ones the pros wrote. Witness the brilliant closer, “The Right Place,” written by rocker Bryan Adams and originally intended for Ray Charles.
Taylor Hicks has had a whirlwind year, but today is the beginning of the rest of his life. And dude is at the age where he has been around the block a few times, and knows he has to continue working hard to stay on top. But for the moment, Hicks’ major label debut is a work of art that could launch him into long, fine career.