The songs of Michael Jackson really do defy musical genre and vocalist Charito sets out to prove it with Heal the World, an album of some of the icon’s biggest hits.
Charito is coming off a collaboration with French composer and pianist Michel Legrand on 2009’s Watch What Happens, so the direction to covering the King of Pop’s hits seems unlikely. Still, the singer’s command over the songs is unquestionable and it seems like a logical transition.
Working with producer Harvey Mason, Charito takes to an assortment of hits that really do lend themselves to a jazz interpretation. Perhaps that’s the album’s key weakness, as the selections overly lend to transition in the jazz style.
Another issue is that most of these numbers aren’t really Jackson’s songs per se. The majority come from songwriting giants like Stevie Wonder, Clifton Davis, Bernard Belle, Glen Ballard, and so on. The opportunity to work solely with songs Jackson wrote himself would have opened the door to interesting numbers like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” or “Dirty Diana.” As it is, only the title track and “Remember the Time” feature Jackson as a songwriter.
Heal the World opens with “Rock With You,” a song written for Jackson by Rod Temperton. The track, originally from my personal favourite Off the Wall, is taken down in tempo slightly by arranger Jeff Babko. Brian Bromberg’s acoustic bass offers soulful underpinning, while Charito slides easily into the vocal pattern and sways with the cool vibe. It’s a smooth introduction to the record.
Tracks like “Human Nature,” “Man in the Mirror” and “I’ll Be There” make great use of Charito’s sophisticated vocals, but they fall too close to the originals in arrangement and don’t add much by way of innovation.
As good as Charito may be as a singer, Heal the World doesn’t offer her much of a showcase to work with. The songs of Michael Jackson are tremendous works of art, without question, but this record could have used more meat on its bones. As it is, it feels like a series of covers of covers. It offers very little by way of newness to the equation and, as such, sinks to mediocrity when it could have soared to some pretty remarkable territory.