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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Music Review: The Futurist

My favorite Spaniard, Miguel, gave me Robert Downey Jr.'s album, The Futurist, the other day. Given my infatuation with both RDJ and jazz, it's only appropriate that I review it here.

RDJ is not what one would consider a smooth singer. But then again, neither was Armstrong. That's the beauty of jazz/blues. It's not about the sound, but the soul of the music. It is only appropriate that his voice is raw and gritty, because he sings of life's raw and gritty quandaries.

Listening to RDJ's album is like reading his personal diary. He mourns lost love, but then finds it again. There are refrains that harken to the Serenity Prayer (surely a reflection upon his drug rehabilitation efforts). Most of the songs are written in stream-of-consciousness, adding yet another dimension to the lyrical prose he is trying to achieve.

The songs are not preachy, but more like therapy and reflection. It's widely known that this man has his demons. In fact, we all have our own demons in life. Unlike most of us, he doesn't try to hide the skeletons. On the contrary, they're out of the closet and staring us in the face. I give him a tremendous amount of credit for owning up to life's predicaments and all that follow.

I leave you with the lyrics to the last song on the album, the only which RDJ did not write. The song was originally composed by Charlie Chaplin, and is one of my personal favorites. (Aside - The best cover of Smile, personally, is Lyle Lovett's rendition.)


Smile though your heart is aching.
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by,
if you smile through your fear and sorrow.
Smile and maybe tomorrow
you’ll see the sun come shining through for you.
Light up your face with gladness.
Hide every trace of sadness,
although a tear may be ever so near.
That’s the time you must keep on trying.
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
if you just smile.


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