Daniel Powter Label: Warner Brothers Records
Reg, is that you? At first listen, unknown French-Canadian Daniel Powter’s self-titled debut will have you thinking early ‘70s Elton John. While masterpieces like Honky Chateau and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player rarely draw deserving comparisons in the modern music scene, Powter has nailed it here. Yes, the same piano/bass/drum formula that EJ and Bernie Taupin used to build classics like “Rocket Man” and “Daniel” serve Powter well nearly 35 years later.
With Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Elvis Costello) behind the dials, Powter hunkers in for a sugary stroll along ten original compositions about addiction, love, longing, and the life of a 35-year-old singer/songwriter still waiting to catch his first hand-up. Or so he says! On the groove-heavy “Hollywood”, Powter tells, “You could be my star for weekends, how do you like your Hollywood? As far as I’m concerned the lesson’s been learned, at least that’s what I’ve understood.” The gentle “Jimmy Gets High” is really a rose with thorns, as a close friend’s struggle is told, “Jimmy you lied, I wonder if you’ll ever get yourself back here alive.”
When this starving piano player feels the need to kick it up a notch, rest assured, he is more than capable. “Suspect” is a slam dancing trip, propped up with a recurring piano line and a nifty guitar, but dominated by big enough drum loops to be tagged hip-hop. Powter also manages his best Aretha Franklin-meets-Brian Johnson vocal on this one, and surprisingly enough, succeeds against Vegas odds. The real achievement on this record is that, while the songs share a common, likeable thread, they each seem to assume a different space. No two tracks are enough alike to bog the greater album down with boring repetition.
With the first single, “Bad Day”, garnering weekly exposure on American Idol, Daniel Powter couldn’t ask for more in the way of national marketing efforts. In fact, this song, maybe the instantly catchiest of its kind since Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” is more than enough to single-handedly propel the record and Powter to Grammy status. What more could you ask for out of a debut, even if it is 15 years in the making?