Ok, criticism is not my forte, but with all the recent movement in Taylor Hicks' career, I have had some thoughts that will not silence themselves, even though I've waited a week since I first had them. Feel free to agree or disagree with me at will, since this is simply my opinion, and has no influence on anybody anyway.
Rehearsals.com is a great forum for artists who want to get their music out there asap, and I think Taylor is a smart and savvy businessman for keeping himself in the public eye in this way. Whether or not it was his decision, it was a good one. Now, as for what's on there, currently there are three, and I'd just like to jot down my impressions of each. Like I said, you may or may not agree with my opinion. But honestly, who's going to read them here, anyway? A few of my friends, maybe a couple of random people. That's it.
Ok, gonna tackle my favorite of the three first: a cover of a Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On". Saying this is my favorite is actually a bit misleading, since there's plenty about this clip that I didn't like. At the beginning, there's a bit of joking around between Taylor and the musicians, which actually makes this even better when Taylor really starts to sing, because the velvety tone that comes out in the intro is OUTSTANDING. I literally get chills up my spine every time I listen to it. Those long notes at the beginning, with just a hint of vibrato, showcase the characteristic "Taylor" that captivated so many of us throughout season five of American Idol. That man has incredible pipes, I'm telling you, and this intro is riveting with its stamp of Taylor's musicality! Unfortunately, the remainder of the clip isn't so great. My main complaint is that that once the tempo picks up, Taylor's vocal becomes so fragmented that you lose all sense of both the melody and the lyrics which become, for the most part, unrecognizable. He even loses it for a few notes (right after he says "escalate it"), and is so far off the melody, he's not even in tune with the band. Don't try and tell me this is Taylor's take on the piece, either, because he bails on it a couple measures later until he gets it back together (listen for the little roll of his tongue for the end of that mess). Another unfortunate decision in this arrangement was placing two admittedly excellent solo parts (keyboard, then alto sax) back to back, thus reducing Taylor's vocal part to almost a background role for the remainder of the piece. I thought that a harmonica solo would've been a better fit than the sax solo, anyway, and it would've served to keep the focus where it belonged - on Taylor. Hey, Taylor, don't get me wrong. I think this song has real potential and is a great fit for your voice but I think that, in your attempts at individualizing the song, you have taken it a bit too far and need to bring back the melodic sense and the lyrics as they were meant to be heard.
Now for "Hell Of A Day". Ok, given that Taylor wrote this song, it surprises me that I didn't think it was a better fit for his vocal abilities. The range of notes is too limiting for a man who has as great a voice as Taylor's. He does perform the song well, other than the annoying habit he has developped of cutting off the last word in each phrase by backing away from the microphone but, all in all, I found this clip to be a bit boring and predictable. I think Taylor needs to approach this song in the way he did the Marvin Gaye cover, and look for a fresher way of presenting it.
"Hollywood Nights" ... I've listened to this one fewer times than the others, because it hasn't been up as long, but that just means my impressions are newer. First, this one is where I was the most impressed with the band. Loved the sax intro and the electric guitar solo near the end. Neither is overpowering, as the solos tended to be in the other two selections. Major problem with this clip is that Taylor oversings through most of it, to the point that his voice cracks a couple of times. Hey, Taylor, I want you to have a long and rewarding career, but if you abuse your voice, you're gonna lose it, man, so be careful, ok? I again noticed his annoying habit of cutting off phrases by withdrawing from the mic, too. That's going to be a real teeth-grinder for me, I can tell. Another issue is going to be a bit touchy for some of the people that might read this, but it's one I feel I need to address. Notice on rehearsals.com that the clip comes with an "explicit" label? That's from Taylor uttering the F-bomb twice in the song. I'm not arguing his right to self-express, but I don't want to see Taylor's potential audience being reduced by the appearance of "explicit" labels on his cd's. It's ok for live performances, but being as it's not part of the original lyrics anyway, perhaps he should've edited himself when being recorded.
Just my humble opinion, folks.