Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Ricky Comeaux’s first solo release “If I Ruled the World”

Featuring a wide range of songs hailing from songwriters and performers such as Stephen Sondheim, Roy Orbison, David Gates, and Leonard Cohen, Houston vocalist Ricky Comeaux’s first solo release If I Ruled the World establishes him as one of the leading interpreters of popular song. The eleven songs included on the release represent a natural progression from Comeaux’s work in the 80’s and 90’s with his former creative partner Jerry Atwood, and the dual-production talents of Barry Coffing and Mark Holden frames Comeaux’s talents in an ideal musical light. It’s a timely reminder of his still prodigious singing talents and the choice of material is uniformly superb.

“Theme from Kiss of the Spider Woman” might seem like an improbable choice for a cover, but Comeaux makes it his own with a robust and palpably emotional reading. The musical backing is choice, as well, to my ears; there’s a strong South American texture to the arrangement, but Comeaux and his collaborators never overplay their musical hand. His bold move revisiting Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” pays off with one of the more memorable musical and vocal moments part of this release. So many have covered this classic, unlike other tracks included on the release, there’s a certain amount of boldness present in his attempt to own a piece of the song’s history, but Comeaux has the talent necessary for carrying it off. The arrangement is faithful to Cohen’s original and Comeaux’s vocal hues closely to the original as well, though he is a far more capable singer than Cohen ever was.

His version of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over”, however, ventures far afield from the original while retaining much of its inherent spirit. The music, while atmospheric, is no match for the stylish simplicity of Orbison’s take on the performance but Comeaux’s voice is up to the challenge, albeit with a much different sonic character. Barbara Streisand’s “Not While I’m Around” gets a similar treatment as other performances on the album – orchestral accompaniment working alongside Comeaux’s voice. His singing hits pyrotechnics heights late in the track without ever striking a shallow note – his voice is rife with emotion throughout the entirety of the performance and blends well with the musical backing.

“If I Ruled the World” has Comeaux tackling a popular Tony Bennett number with memorable results. It has a pleasing and comfortable musical texture, but the selling point is another emotional Comeaux vocal that doesn’t attempt matching or imitating Bennett’s singing, but rather pays it a measure of deference before going its own way. His romping cover of “Don Quixote” from the popular theatrical production Man of La Mancha is one of the more energetic tracks included on If I Ruled the World and it elicits a full-on vocal tour de force from Comeaux brimming with character but never overwrought. It’s one of the album’s rousing moments and sure to be a favorite for many. There’s a great mix of performances fueling If I Ruled the World; Ricky Comeaux is never content following one line of attack but, instead, mixes things up for listeners in an entertaining and satisfying way.

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