Reviews and Suggestions

Imitation May Be The sincerest Form of Flattery, But To My Ears It’s Assault and Battery!

erickearnsEric Kearns – Voices of Legends: Love Songs
Self released

While listening to Eric Kearns’ new album, I was sort of reminded of Las Vegas, the city of glitz and glamour, and the places where fortunes are made and lost on an hourly basis. If you’ve ever been in a casino there, you know about those lounges off to the sides of the main gambling rooms where you can take a breather to count what’s left of your money or cry about the money you’ve lost. Every casino has one, and there’s always an entertainer there, singing the songs of yesteryear and trying to make people forget about how much money they’ve just lost. I was lucky enough to go to Vegas a few years ago when the Vegas power-brokers were just starting to abandon their ideas about Vegas being this great family destination. In fact, it was just about the time that “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas” started to take hold as a catchphrase to commemorate the fact that sin was back in and family values had been told to go back to wherever they came from as they were no longer welcome in Vegas. Not sure why they wanted to become some sort of Disneyland anyway. Vegas is inherently designed for adults. The city’s casinos are open all night long, the entertainment can be okay for kids but is primarily focused on adults and Kearns is the perfect example. More an impersonator than an artist, Kearns’ act is to sing the songs of legendary singers while impersonating their voices and singing styles. Think Rich Little singing Frank Sinatra and you get the idea of what Kearns is doing. I mean, let’s face it, there ain’t gonna be any White Stripes or My Morning Jacket songs on this CD, okay?

Kearns himself is a mystery to me as I do not know much about his musical background. From this album, it is plain to hear he would be perfect for Vegas. His look and his sound are geared towards an older demographic and his choice of cover songs on this record range from Tommy Edwards to Rod Stewart. Not exactly artists the kids are listening to, for sure, though middle-aged adults are sure to be familiar with most of the artists Kearns impersonates and their songs, which is fine except for the fact I am sort of puzzled by this CD project as I will mention below.

Kearns first has go at singer Tommy Edwards and covers Edward’s hit It’s All In The Game which must be a favorite with Kearns as I doubt few remember Edwards or his hit. It is probably the most inspired choice of this set, which means it’s all down hill from here folks, in many ways. I must say the music is top notch and the production is near flawless, with a great string arrangement and guitar work to die for. Kearns notes do say he uses professionally made backing tracks which may mean they are not made under his purview, but they still sound good so I am willing to overlook that aspect. Next up for Keans is Neil Diamond and Diamond’s early 80’s hit Love On The Rocks. Decent Diamond impersonation, though a little histrionic in spots. Bobby Vinton is next on Kearn’s hit list and I Love How You Love Me may have been Vinton’s biggest hit but only those over fifty will remember the name, or those who frequent Vegas lounges where Kearns and his ilk likely ply their trade. It may be a good impersonation – I’m not sure as it has been many years since I’ve heard Vinton – but my grandfather gives it the thumbs up so I can live with it. Kearns’ next target is Perry Como and Como’s hit And I Love You So, and once again, he may be doing a great job as it somewhat sounds like Perry Como, but since it’s been many, many years since anyone has heard Como, so who knows for sure? Next is Kearns’ impersonation of Johnny Mathis doing Chances Are, His impersonation of Mathis off a little as Kearns can’t quite capture Mathis’ distinctive vibrato and sometimes overdoes it. Mathis’ vocal quaver was actually very subtle and most impersonators, like the “artists” who do characatures at Myrtle Beach, accentuate the distinctive features of who they impersonate instead of being more understated about their work which means the impersonation comnes off as sort of clumsy or ham-handed here. One of my personal favorites gets Kearns’ treatment next – Rod Stewart – as Kearns turns in a version of Stewart’s version of Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately. Wow, this impersonation wouldn’t fool anyone. Stewart is just too distinctive and Kearns’ sings the song as if an English gentleman were trying to cover Stewart at a karaoke party. Not sure if Kearns’ object of this project is trying to be laugh out loud funny, but he is here. Kearn next attempts Barry Manilow’s Looks Like We Made It next and his version sounds like a Bronx kid trying to sing the song while serenading someone under a street lamp. Never knew Manilow had a New York accent! Louis Armstrong’s A Kiss To Build A Dream On is next and surprisingly, Kearns is not bad here although it sometimes sounds like one of Jim Henson’s Muppets trying out the song on Sesame Street somewhere. Okay, Kearns is an imitator and impressionist so you know he had a version of Elvis Presley just waiting to show up. Kearns attempts Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love and it’s not bad but doesn’t sound anything like Presley, but more like Pat Boone trying to imitate Presley. The last (and probably least) of Kearns’ singing impressions is on Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed where he takes one of the Fab Four’s songs and gives a performance no better than three on a scale of one to ten. If Kearns goal was to just sing the song as himself, he would’ve got a six or seven. The fact he’s trying to imitate McCartney and sounds very little like him makes me give the performance a ranking of third from the bottom.

Though Kearns does have a decent amount of talent for mimickry and a decent voice, as I am supposed to review this as an album project, I must say that I am disappointed in both concept and execution. Can Kearns actually think the public wants this sort of pale imitation passed off to them as some sort of commodity on which they actually have to spend their hard-earned money? I mean, are not recordings by the artists Kearns imitates not widely available? Am I somehow supposed to like Rod Stewart so much that I would rather be more interested in someone else doing the song like him instead of purchasing an album with my supposed hero Rod Stewart doing the very same song? It’s a weird idea to say the least. And the ironic thing is that if Kearns were to just pick some of these songs and cover them in his own voice, it would be a viable project. I get that there’s a place in the entertainment biz for someone who can sing just good enough to copy a bunch of stylists and it’s usually to entertain a bunch of old people who are satisfied with facsimilies of the favorites of their youth but this, this is just a sad exrcise in ego. Kearns may be great at what he does, but what Kearns does is not translatable to an album project, It is undoubtedly best for the stage where people can experience of the show and try to guess which artists Kearns will impersonate next etc. Though interesting to listen to once, I would never think of giving this a second listen. This seems to be more viable as something to give to prospective employers and people interested in booking them than to the public at large.