Picks and Pans Review: Take It to Heart
Talk about getting off on the wrong foot. This album begins with the synthesized trampoline beat of "All We Got." No matter what the chart trends dictate, casting McDonald as dance master is a miscalculation. (Leave that to his pale imitator. Rick Astley.) The singer's métier and potatoes is pop romance, a style for which he is uniquely equipped, with his smoothly straining, emotion-drenched voice. In his solo career, he has too often neglected that strength.
Not this time. After that poky start, McDonald puts himself smack onto the most pleasing path he's trod since his Doobie Brothers days. The second song, "Get the Word Started" (which McDonald wrote with David Pack and produced with Don Was), is a crisp, soulful glide reminiscent of Marvin Gaye. That's followed by the McDonald-Paul Carrack tune "Love Can Break Your Heart," the saddest, prettiest pop track McDonald has done since "What a Fool Believes." "Break Your Heart" is about a lover entering a relationship knowing he's likely to get clobbered in the end. But with his remarkable voice and its heart-on-sleeve timbre, McDonald makes the bitter taste like butterscotch. It's a trick he pulls off back-to-back, giving the misty-eyed title track the same torchy treatment.
Other highlights include "Tear It Up" by Gardner Cole and Seth Swirsky, which boasts an infectious chorus right out of the Motown songbook, and "You Show Me," a lustrous southern California samba by McDonald and Harry Garfield.
Bypass that first entry and dig deep into a collection on which the songs perfectly suit the singer. (Reprise)