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  Listen Up! 3/18/04 Listen Up!

Thursday, Mar. 18

Toussaint McCall, “Nothing Takes the Place of You,” Fuel 2000 Records. McCall isn’t exactly the most celebrated of soul singers, but he was darn good nonetheless. You may recognize his gorgeous big hit, “Nothing Takes the Place of You,” a simmering slow burn of a ballad with his rich vocals surrounded by a haze of organ. This CD adds 24 cuts I’ve never heard before, and while a few of them suffer from the same kind of flaws that made Tom Jones seem kind of cheesy, the vast majority are very cool. McCall has a deep soulful feel in his voice, and when he gets a good love song, you believe he is as miserable or as happy as he professes to be.

David Byrne, “Grown Backwards,” Nonesuch Records. On the one hand, this is a middle-aged man making music that’s nowhere near as edgy as he made twenty-plus years ago in the Talking Heads. On the other hand, this is a middle-aged man with a wicked sense of humor and no fear of seeming ridiculous. Take for example the lovely pleasure of hearing him sing a duet with Rufus Wainwright on Bizet’s “Au Fond du Temple Street.” Now, I’m no expert on opera, but I know these two are singing this as if it’s a pop song, and thus the exquisite melody gets a whole new life for my ears. I’ll admit, I haven’t paid attention to Byrne for about ten years, but I’m quite enjoying this low-key path down the middle of the middle-aged road.

--Steve Pick


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