Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mayer hawthorne: Soulful Arrangements

The legacy of Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and other Motown favorites are alive and well in the heart of Mayer Hawthorne. His sound so emulates that of classic Motown, you can almost picture him with a form-fitting sequent gown and a bee-hive hair do, almost.

A Strange Arrangement doesn’t sound like Motown 2010, it sounds like it was released in Motown’s ’60s heyday. Motown purists will see this more as a fun homage, but new fans can discover the fun of Motown pop for the first time.

The fact that Hawthorne is a young, white man doesn’t hurt the album at all. It only proves that the truly good music of Motown, from “Love Child” to “What’s Going on?” transcends all race boundaries.It’s no surprise the singer is from the Detroit area when you think of the man’s dedication to the Motor City sound. Songs like “Shiny and New” and the title track make for a diverse Motown-esque album.

It’s like Hawthorne took the best of the best Motown songs and emulated them as perfectly as one could. Hawthorne funkifys things on “Maybe So, Maybe No” and “Green Eyed Love,” and slides down the soulful-ballad road on “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” I’m tempted to say the guy can do The Temptations almost as good as they did. “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin” follows the footprints of The Supremes classic “You Can’t Hurry Love,” but perhaps he does such a good job at matching them, you can’t help but want the original listening to this. Luckily, Hawthorne only goes into Diana Ross mode a few times.

Truth is he does much better when he takes on the role of Marvin, The Four Tops and others. Had this record been released in 1968, it would’ve been a chart-topping classic. There is a thin line between homage and novelty, but Hawthorne knows his stuff well enough to back up this disc with fun times and infectious beats. Good as it may be, let’s not forget, ain’t nothing like the real thing.

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