How ’bout we go with LEMj…

No disrespect intended here, but “Landau Eugene Murphy Jr” just does NOT roll off the tongue (or the keyboard) so I’m offering “LEMj” (pronounced “lim-jay”) as a nick-name … may or may not catch on but it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to type!

LEMj’s debut album — That’s Life — is a top notch, high quality release from Columbia.  The production quality and wonderful arrangements come as no great surprise given the collaboration of Grammy Award winner Steve Tyrell as the album’s producer.

Tyrell mentioned in his Halloween weekend concert I caught in Houston that he spent quality time working on standards vocal styling with LEMj before they jumped in the studio to record That’s Life and you can certainly hear the “fruit” of that effort in the final product.

LEMj Refined…

Steve T definitely seems to have honed LEMj’s standards style with both classic “Sinatra-esk” and Tyrellian vocal entries/exits demonstrated throughout the track list.  It doesn’t always work, but for the most part the result of ST’s coaching is a significant upgrade from LEMj’s America’s Got Talent performances — which were strong enough for him to win the AGT gig.

Beyond the vocals, you can hear “the Tyrell” in the arrangements throughout this album. I kept expecting to hear Steve dive in with his distinctive vocals … particularly on the title track, “Witchcraft”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “I’ve Got The World On A String” where the superb arrangements clearly come at the hand of  the award winning producer.

Running down the track list…

My favorite track on the album is well timed for the holiday season … LEMj teams up with Judith Hill and renders an outstanding version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Sweet ST arrangements and clean production lay the foundation and the combo of LEMj and Ms Hill is really very nice. Their duet “weave” comes off beautifully and the net result is definitely greater than the sum — not always the case with some of the combos that have attempted this song.

Judith also joins LEMj on “Something Stupid” … though somewhat less successfully this time. Again their vocal weave is nice but this song just doesn’t set up as well for them individually or together. The fact that this has never been one of my favorite songs might be coloring my opinion … it’s not bad but also not great.

Right behind “Baby…” LEMj drops a great rendition of “I Got The World On A String” on us … This song lays perfectly for Landau’s vocal style and he hit’s it out of the park. The title track (“That’s Life”) is also a winner and rounds out the highlight tracks off this release.

LEMj’s version of “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and “My Way” are solid performances just a bit behind the top rung titles but still very well done. “Night and Day” would fall into this category or even in the “Baby it’s Cold…” class except for a really weak lead-in to the main song … once he get’s into it, LEMj does a superb job but that lead is not his best work. Similar significant struggles with vocal range are evident on “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “Fly Me To The Moon”.

Taken all together…

That’s Life is a solid debut album for Mr. Murphy Jr — and at $8 it’s a good deal. Landau does a good-to-great job on the majority of the songs and two or three of them are outstanding.

Then there’s the outstanding musical performance and arrangements of another fine Steve Tyrell production. There are occasional rough spots with vocal range, but at the end of the day LEMj is still sussing out what material best suits his vocal style and that’s OK.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr is putting himself out there and bringing the attention of a new and younger audience to bear on the standards and Rat Pack era music … and that’s a really good thing.

 

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  • John Klawiter

    My own abilities don’t allow me to be as critical, but I appreciate the honest and integrity of this review. I am a huge fan, but no that well-constructed, insightful, and fair criticism is always in order and in the best interest of the artist. I totally agree with the take on “Something Stupid” (my least favorite trace). I also agree that Mr. Tyrell deserves credit for some very good coaching as the CD versions of songs performed on AGT were a significant upgrade (not that they were bad on the show). In spite of apparent difficulties on “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Under My Skin”, though, I really enjoy his renditions. The intro to “Day and Night”, while different, has actually grown on me, as well. Overall, I think most who are looking for this kind of music and even a few who are not, will find this CD quite enjoyable. Thanks for a very good professional grade review of it.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for visiting VocalStandards John!

      I try not to be too critical of the Fresh Face talent — it’s almost not fair to compare them to the classic performers like Sinatra, Sammy Davis or Ella Fitzgerald, or even todays established artists like Bublé and Steve Tyrell … but that’s the crowd the newbies like LEMj, Bwarie, Jonny Blu, Yanofsky and the gang of great new talent are trying to shoulder into.

      In the end I try to hold the super stars up as the ultimate target for the newbies to aspire to, but also temper expectations, be realistic and show real enthusiasm for these great new artists and the excitement they are bringing to the vocal standards genre.

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your opinions on the “That’s Life” review.