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Landau's debut album stays faithful to his favorite crooners

"That's Life"

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.

Columbia Records

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 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.'s fans can breathe a little easier. The Logan native and "America's Got Talent" winner released his debut album, "That's Life," on Monday. His first outing is a collection of the kinds of songs that made the 37-year-old a talent show champion.

Released by Columbia Records, "That's Life" is a victory lap for the car-wash attendant-turned-singer as well as a valentine to the music that catapulted him to fame. There's plenty of swagger and swing to songs made nearly immortal by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

It's an upbeat record, sticking to the feel-good sunny side of the street. Most of the songs are about falling in love, being in love and doing things "My Way." All of the songs Murphy sang during the competition are represented here.

Some of the bright spots on the 11-track disc include a burly take on "That's Life," a fun pass at "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Something Stupid," one of two duets with singer Judith Hill.

Murphy's voice is warm and as familiar as an old friend but, unfortunately, he never really rises above sounding like someone trying to sing like Sinatra or Martin. For a lot of people, that's going to be fine.

Sounding a lot like a member in good standing of the Rat Pack is partly how he won "America's Got Talent," after all. But while it's good to hear those old songs again and maybe put them with a new face, Murphy also won by being himself, by standing out as an individual above a slate of interesting and unusual performers.

 Aside from the novelty of a braid-sporting black man from West Virginia singing old pop standards, Murphy charmed America with his style, his story and his sense of humor. He was funny and he had heart, but the humor and heart don't always come through with this album.

It doesn't help that the backing music on the record sounds a little generic. There's just nothing special about it. More often than not, the music is just a bland background to frame Murphy's faithful vocals. The Logan County resident could be singing along, karaoke style, to a stack of dusty 45s instead of whatever studio musicians were assembled to get the record out in time for Christmas

That's kind of a shame. It would have been nice if everybody on the record cut loose a little, instead of just sticking to coloring inside the lines.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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