Didn’t It Rain
It would be so much easier if this album was really good or almost necessary – but it is neither. It’s well-intentioned, in fact it’s positively bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and the playing is slick (probably too slick), the arrangements are precise, the song selection is smart. So ducks are all in a row at that point.
And then Hugh Laurie, comedian, dramatic actor and musician don’t you know (of course you know – it’s been part of his act since the pre-Blackadder days) steps up. And his voice is so hammy, so overly filled with dramaturgy, clinical and ultimately – the biggest sin for an actor I should think – utterly unconvincing.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Because, two albums knocked out in just over a couple of years, it’s clear that Hugh Laurie is convinced. And with eight seasons of House done and dusted and a new movie on the way you can see how it was easy for the suits at Warner Bros to nod and almost-smile and shake hands enthusiastically while ink was assisted in its drying by the flapping of sycophantic lips.
There are lovely shades on the album – instrumentally. Yawns and moans and gospel hollers, a museum-like dedication to representations of Dixieland and New Orleans jazz and blues. But these tunes only ever stand up like wax statues do. There’s no give. And you can only take what you get from them on first reading; first time you hear them you’ve got all the secrets (if any) that these versions could hope to hold.
So – the formula is simple. Just as I’d no sooner want to watch Mac Rebennack play a crotchety medical misanthrope I don’t really want to hear Hugh Laurie doing his attempt at acting out songs that allegedly mean so much to him. He has chops (in a rudimentary-meets-perfunctory-let’s-fuck-awkwardly kind of way). He has clout (probably the biggest undoing here is that he does in fact have clout). He has good intentions (but who really cares about that, right?). What he lacks is soul. And we know this because we can hear it – or rather you can’t hear it at all. And we know if he didn’t sell it a long time ago the TV and movie world just flat out stole it.
So: for medical dramas that are absurd but entertaining it’s Dr House. For a reminder of the blues and jazz shapes of the past bent to suit the white-man thrill it’s Dr John.