Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The End is Near

There are bad ideas, there are really bad ideas, and then there’s “who in their right mind allowed this to happen” ideas. The three most frightening words in the English language are no longer “starring Carrot Top”. They’ve been replaced – and believe me, I wish I was kidding – by Bolton Sings Sinatra. Yes, Michael Bolton has made an album of Sinatra songs. Ladies and gentlemen, the 7th seal has been opened; Armageddon is upon us. And not a moment too soon.

This is the second time Bolton has done an album of remakes. The first one was called The Classics and found him destroying most of the great soul songs, included Dock of the Bay and When a Man Loves a Woman. Below the fold, I’ll copy in my favorite review of that album, from Joe Queenan’s book Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon:

For years, I’d been vaguely aware of Michael Bolton’s existence, just as I’d been vaguely aware that there was an ebola virus plague in Africa. Horrible tragedies, yes, but they had nothing to do with me. All that changed when I purchased a copy of The Classics. When you work up the gumption to put a record like The Classics on your CD player, it’s not much different from deliberately inoculating yourself with rabies. With his heart-on-my-sleeve appeals to every emotion no decent human being should even dream of possessing, Michael Bolton is the only person in history who has figured out a way to make “Yesterday” sound worse than the original. He’s Mandy Patinkin squared. His sacrilegious version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” is a premeditated act of cultural ghoulism, a crime of musical genocide tantamount to a Jerry Vale rerecording of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” And having to sit there, and listen while this Kmart Joe Cocker mutilates “You Send Me” is like sitting through a performance of King Lear with Don Knotts in the title role. Which leads to the inevitable question: If it’s a crime to deface the Statue of Liberty or to spraypaint swastikas on Mount Rushmore or to burn the American flag, why isn’t it a crime for Michael Bolton to butcher Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”?

Good question.


  1. #1 Orac
    June 12, 2006

    You’re a bit behind the times. This album was released three weeks ago. I’m sure they lowered the flag to half staff all around Hoboken on that dark day.

  2. #2 Raging Bee
    June 12, 2006

    Coming up next: “Michael Bolton Sings Carrot-Top.”

    Somewhat OT, did you see that movie where Carrot-Top played a Vietnam vet going back to rescue some MIAs? The most honest bit of dialogue comes after Carrot-Top narrowly escapes certain death, and says to his comrades: “Wow, they’re right…your whole life really does flash before your eyes…I can’t believe I’m such a loser.”

    Safety tip: Never give a gun to Carrot-Top!

  3. #3 Andrew T.
    June 12, 2006

    Fun fact: In 1985, Michael Bolton, fresh off of the breakup of his erstwhile hair metal band, actually *toured with Robert Plant* as his opening act.

  4. #4 wheatdogg
    June 12, 2006

    Can it be any worse than Brittany Spears covering “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)?”

    Bolton joins a long line of contemporary pop singers that have “discovered” the classics, and butchered them. Brittany, Xtina, that Duff girl, are part of the same crowd. They just don’t “get” the songs, or they don’t have the chops to handle the material. Robbie Williams may be an exception. He does an OK job with Bobby Darin’s book and some of Sinatra’s.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    June 12, 2006

    Things can always get worse: f’rinstance, after reading the first three sentences here, I’d thought that John Bolton had released an album…

  6. #6 Matt
    June 12, 2006

    This is worse.

    “But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis’s tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture – something that we all should be totally embarrassed about – and afraid of. we ignore this, let it slide, at our own peril.”

    -Pat Metheny on Kenny G’s dubbing of himself over Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World”

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    June 12, 2006

    Three cheers for Pat Metheny. Don’t even get me started on Kenny G, it makes my blood pressure go up. About 15 years ago, Rolling Stone actually named him jazz musician of the year, prompting someone to write a letter to the editor telling them that Kenny G is to jazz what a mud puddle is to fine wine.

  8. #8 ArtK
    June 12, 2006

    Matt — now I need brain-bleach. The auditory image that the Metheny quote gave me just won’t leave. I’ve got all my Satchmo queued up to try and flush it out.

    I play sop-sax, so Kenny G holds a special place in my version of hell. Sadly, there are going to be “soft jazz” hacks for every generation. When I was in college, the catch phrase was “I like jazz — yeah, I like Chuck Mangione.”

    Ed — the only thing that flushed the thought of Michael Bolton mangling Sinatra was the thought of Kenny G dissing Louis.

    Ick… I’m going to be ill all over again.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    June 12, 2006

    I don’t mind soft jazz, jazz fusion, smooth jazz, or whatever name it’s going by these days. There are some perfectly good musicians making that kind of music and some if it is quite good. I don’t think Kenny G even comes close to qualifying for those categories. He’s not jazz, he’s anti-jazz: atonal noodling on an instrument being fed through sythesizers to insure that the tone never varies from note to note. Just vile stuff.

  10. #10 Mephisto Stormbane
    June 13, 2006

    Point number 1 is pedantic but I feel like I need to make it: jazz fusion ≠ smooth jazz, as jazz fusion has some rock in it and smooth jazz doesn’t have much of anything in it (besides smooooooothness). Weather Report, Steely Dan, and Chick Corea are all jazz fusion.

    Point number 2 is much more important: who cares if someone butchers an Irving Berlin song, and is it possible to make White Christmas more bland or uninteresting?

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