In an age when his contemporaries take three, five even seven years between studio projects, Paul Carrack is already back with another blend of blue-eyed soul originals and choice covers — a trio of which pay direct tribute to Ray Charles.
I’m not sure Carrack has ever sung better, even during his hitmaking years with Mike And The Mechanics, even if the follow up to Good Feeling took just a matter of months.
The opening one-two punch of “Stepping Stone” and “That’s All That Matters to Me,” a lead single fraught with a very adult parental worry, showcase his 10-track album’s signature sound: An active string accompaniment not unlike those that fired soul classics by the likes of Al Green and, yes, Charles. In fact, they were recorded in Los Angeles with arranger Richard Niles, who contributed to some late-period triumphs with Brother Ray. His charts, which also include some brassy brawn later in, give Rain or Shine a timeless feel — very in keeping with Carrack’s honeyed approach at the mic.
Carrack, who included an overt tribute to Charles called “I Can Hear Ray” on Good Feeling, then faces his hero’s towering legacy head on with his version of “You Don’t Know Me.” There’s a bravery to that, or else a recklessness, depending on your point of view — but I’m happy to report that Carrack comports himself admirably, adding his own grace notes to a song that will, nevertheless, always belong to his hero. Carrack also provides the mid-tempo cadence, playing all of the instruments himself.