Tituss Burgess - Comfortable (2013)

Tituss Burgess
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Young singers will perform a classic song as a way to validate their artistic bona fides. That’s the perception at least. Nailing something from the Great American Songbook is the talk-to-the-hand moment to anyone questioning the vocal chops of a performer such as Tituss Burgess.

Burgess didn’t need to make the statement. He could always shut any perspective hater up by playing the musical theater card. Burgess played the role of Sebastian when the stage version of The Little Mermaid was first mounted in 2007. Burgess also appeared in other productions including Jersey Boys, Good Vibrations and Guys and Dolls. Burgess also had a recurring role in the sit-com 30 Rock.

Young singers will perform a classic song as a way to validate their artistic bona fides. That’s the perception at least. Nailing something from the Great American Songbook is the talk-to-the-hand moment to anyone questioning the vocal chops of a performer such as Tituss Burgess.

Burgess didn’t need to make the statement. He could always shut any perspective hater up by playing the musical theater card. Burgess played the role of Sebastian when the stage version of The Little Mermaid was first mounted in 2007. Burgess also appeared in other productions including Jersey Boys, Good Vibrations and Guys and Dolls. Burgess also had a recurring role in the sit-com 30 Rock.

Burgess includes a live version of Donny Hathaway’s arrangement of “For All We Know” on his new album Comfortable, and he nails it. The range Burgess displays after the violin solo stands as a goose bump moment. Burgess won’t make listeners forget Donny’s version because it’s darn near impossible to overshadow Hathaway. Still, Burgess’s does not suffer from the comparison.  The cover is the last of the 11 tracks on Comfortable, and by the time the listener reaches that point it becomes obvious that Burgess possesses sing-the-phone-book type talent. Burgess’ musical theater training endows him with the ability to handle up-tempo and rock tinged numbers, blues influenced tracks and the power ballad.

He adds theatrical spice and more than a little rebelliousness to “Stop Calling,” a tune where he tells his creditors that they’ll get paid when he gets paid. The rock inspired number “It’s Over” finds Burgess telling a lover that their relationship has run its course. This is Burgess at his theatrical best as he fits every emotion a person feels at the end of a relationship into a power packed three and a half minutes.

Burgess does intimacy as good as – if not better – than any male R&B singer. He shares his simple desires on the piano ballad “All I Need.” Burgess’s range moves from conversational to crescendo on track with lyrics that openly showcase the kind of vulnerability and honesty currently lacking in a genre brimming with swagger and artifice but so often bereft of substance and sincerity.

Burgess’s sincerity comes through on “I’ll Be Alright,” another number where the vocalist rips off the bandage and scab to expose his broken heart and defiance to the world. This song brims with pathos and pugnaciousness as Burgess confronts the painful realization that the dream of a storybook romance will not come to pass and then embraces a steely determination to get over it.

A reviewer can highlight five or six tracks from Comfortable and come away feeling bad about the cuts that didn’t get a mention. I could have easily focused on the title track that tells the story of a man coming of age or the blues infused torch song “Pick Up. That speaks to the quality of this album. There is nary a throwaway track on Comfortable, making it one of the truly enjoyable finds of 2013. Highly Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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