Review Summary: A desperate karaoke LP which may sign, seal & deliver the end of a career.
Even those at the front of the queue to mock Craig David are likely to feel a little sorry for the soulful English pop singer. After taking the world by storm with his commercially successful and critically acclaimed debut LP ‘Born To Do It’ in 2000, the man with the perfectly pruned facial hair has chosen – or been made – to make one wrong decision after another. From the American wooing ‘Slicker Than Your Average’ to the outright dreary ‘The Story Goes…’, it had all gone pear-shaped for David by the time the perfectly competent contemporary R&B of 2007’s ‘Trust Me’ had arrived. He had become a singer that was cool to make fun of, and nothing he could record would change that. “What to do next"” must have been the question he and his management were asking themselves… And the answer they came up with was to change his target demographic and release a covers album of soul and Motown era classics.
Technically speaking, not all of ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’ is a covers album. Opener and lead single ‘One More Lie (Standing in the Shadows)’ is an updating of The Four Tops original which heavily samples its chorus, while ‘All Alone Tonight (Stop, Look, Listen)’ does the same to the well-known Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye duet. Both re-workings are moderately catchy at best, but fairly forgettable due to stock-standard backing music and unimaginative arrangements. The only wholly original song to be included is closer ‘This Could Be Love’; a likeable enough ditty, but one which is both dated and predictable… Two words which could be used to describe the album as a whole.
The main problem is that David is taking on genuine classics, with next to no chance of even getting close to bettering the originals. Arguably the most successful cover here is the most recent; Curtis Stiger’s sappy 1991 ballad ‘I Wonder Why’, a track which allows his silky smooth voice a chance to shine. Alternately, the most well-known cuts - ‘I Heard It through the Grapevine’, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’ & ‘Let’s Stay Together’ – fare the worst, since David is unable to pull off the necessary emotion of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding & Al Green, which made them classics in the first place. He fares little better with other tracks made famous by The Temptations and Stevie Wonder, which are upbeat but extremely karaoke-like. Furthermore, David is far too respectful, failing to make the songs his own, and thus failing to make this album sufficiently relevant to anyone other than the Mother’s Day crowd.
In truth, familiarity may make this release an initially better listen than David’s predominantly boring third LP ‘The Story Goes…’. However, while competent, ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’ is so misguided, uninspiring and desperate, that it is difficult to rate comparatively higher. Quite possibly the biggest indictment of the LP is how much the descriptions contained within this review echo comments that would usually be delivered by a judge on a reality television series such as Idol or X-Factor. That may be fine for an up-and-coming youngster yet to release their debut, but for an artist who once recorded an album which sold 8 million copies, it just does not cut it. By choosing to make this LP, Craig David may have just signed, sealed and delivered the end of his career.
Recommended Tracks: One More Lie (Standing in the Shadows) & I Wonder Why.