5 out of 10: A good collection of covers, but why bother when the better originals are so freely available?
You can’t sing rock or pop as you do soul, and you can’t sing soul as you do rock or pop: the many awkward interpretations of Beatles songs by soul singers looking for a wider audience and Jimmy Barnes’s bombastic collection of covers on Soul Deep are proof of that.
Although also a member of Cold Chisel, Ian Moss always sang silkily, lilting effortlessly through the melodies on such Oz rock classics as Bow River and When the War is Over in a manner reminiscent of soul music’s finest. Nevertheless, it took a stint on TV’s abysmal It Takes Two for anyone to realise that Ian Moss is the real soul singer of the rocking world, not his former frontman.
On Soul on West 53rd, Moss covers thirteen soul standards with an American band of session musicians. The slower, more graceful numbers such as Let’s Stay Together and Hummingbird are a natural fit for Moss’s natural vocal clarity and restrained expressiveness. What Becomes of the Broken Heart, upon which Jimmy Barnes and — oddly enough — Joan Osborne make an appearance, is also a highlight, gaining as it does from the contrast in vocal styles.
Unfortunately, Moss sings from too many people’s songbooks. He falters without the requisite grit on the funkier, rowdier numbers such as Shake and Use Me, the kind of songs that even Al Green – a singer whose style Moss’s vocals most resemble – rightly never attempted to sing. Making matters worse, the seasoned soul veterans backing Moss sound as harmless as the It Takes Two band when trying to dirty things up.
Most problematically, though, there’s no reason why anyone would listen to these covers over the originals. Other than some needless guitar solos, Moss’s covers don’t diverge enough from the classics, and despite his comfort in the genre, you can’t help asking yourself: why bother?