He’s a soul singer one minute, a pop star the next and a funky, larger-than-life character throughout. On an album filled with oddball arrangements and guest appearances, though, “River” is a rare moment of tenderness, a reminder that Mr. Green can truly, truly sing. He puts a soulful spin on the Joni Mitchell original, but he doesn’t show off, a move that keeps the song’s melancholy tone intact.
Unfortunately, “River” is followed by a saccharine version of “Merry Christmas, Baby,” featuring vocals by a weathered, rusty-throated Rod Stewart. It’s glitzy and over-the-top, much like Mr. Green himself, and it keeps “Cee Lo’s Magic Moment” from delivering much more than manic Christmas cheer.
Hands of Glory
A companion piece to the recent “Break It Yourself,” this EP was recorded in Andrew Bird’s barn, with the entire band crowded around one microphone.
There’s an organic, homespun feel to these eight songs, several of which are revived versions of old country staples. “Railroad Bill” is performed with old-timey pizazz, and you can hear the musicians shouting their approval during the spunky fiddle solo. Later, on the Townes Van Zandt song “If I Needed You,” the guys pile their voices into thick globs of harmony, relying on a simple combination of guitar, mandolin and violin to drive the tune forward.
“Hands of Glory” is simple and straightforward, two adjectives rarely used in describing his music, but it’s enchanting, too, proof that good performances can emerge from the simplest of recording situations.
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