Why would Rita Wilson do a cover album of some of the most famous songs of the 1960s and ’70s?
Because she can?
The actress and film producer (and wife of Tom Hanks) has the clout to do anything she wants — and a voice to bring legitimacy to “AM/FM,” even if it’s ultimately just a vanity project/publicity stunt.
In fact, her vocals are gorgeous enough to make you wonder why it took the 55-year-old so long to put out her debut.
“AM/FM” opens strongly, as Wilson captivates with a richly textured performance on opener “All I Have To Do Is Dream” (popularized by the Everly Brothers), with Chris Cornell chipping in supple harmonies. She imbues the subsequent “Never My Love” (The Association) with sweet tenderness.
However, the law of diminishing returns comes into play all too soon on “AM/FM.” This serene adult-contemporary checklist for Baby Boomers is too antiseptic for its own good, Wilson’s voice too unwavering in its gloss, creating a cloying backlash to “Cherish” (The Association) and failing to add depth to tracks such as Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston.”
Meanwhile, her guest “background” singers could have done more help in the foreground, including Faith Hill (“Love Has No Pride”), Sheryl Crow (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) and Vince Gill (“Faithless Love”).
There are other fair to good songs — Wilson applying her pretty voice to the pretty melodies of “Wichita Lineman” (featuring the songs’s writer, Jimmy Webb, on piano) and adding needed energy to “You Were on My Mind” — but overall the 14-track release trudges to its conclusion in a sterile haze.
Wilson proves she has a strong voice with “AM/FM,” yet she doesn’t convey a well-rounded singer’s sensitivity.
So though she’d be fine singing in a hotel lounge, she’s a long way from Carnegie Hall.
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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