Cullum still searching in new release – album review

With all the talent and charisma that defines him as both a Grammy and Golden Globe-nominated performer, English singer/songwriter Jamie Cullum has reemerged with the long awaited U.S. release of his third album under Verve Records, “The Pursuit.”

Following a four-year absence, the album possesses a familiar sound that is carried by Cullum’s distinct vocal resonance and interpretive instrumental approach that are apparent in his first and second albums; 2003’s “Twenty Something” and 2006’s “Catching Tales.”

“The Pursuit” boasts eight original works by Cullum, and four cover songs that contain a bit of his own new-age-jazzy flavor but not every cover blended well in the mixture.

His own compositions include an upbeat proclamation of independence; “I’m All Over It” is a song that could have been enjoyable had it not been for the misplaced choir-like refrain. Also, “I Think, I Love” is an appreciable crooner tune where his steady vocals pleasantly reign over his typically overpowering piano.

A shift begins to take place midway, when Cullum’s interpretation of Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music” makes a poor attempt to fit in with not only the rest of the album, but also within his history of successful covers such as Pharrell Williams’ “Frontin’,” and Robert Knight’s classic “Everlasting Love.”

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He picks up the slack a bit from a crowd pleasing standpoint with his rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around,” which was featured in Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

While his vocal and instrumental talents are maintained in “The Pursuit,” there is little allusion to any sort of evolution from his earlier albums. Current Cullum fans might acknowledge his consistency and unique style but in terms of attracting a new following for his big band sound and jazzy influence, only a few select tracks will suffice to ignite a moderate appreciation.

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