Boys Don't CryAlbum | Rumer By Stewart Mason
Intimate, warm covers of '70s soft-pop classics.
Rumer's debut album, Seasons of My Soul, was rightfully praised for the young British singer's devotion to the sounds of 1970s soft pop: creamy string arrangements, muted horns, occasional touches of electric piano and wah-wah guitars, all topped with her period-perfect voice, which at times sounds uncannily like vintage Karen Carpenter with just a hint of Carly Simon. That album's closing track, an affectionate cover of Bread songwriter David Gates' 1978 solo hit "Goodbye Girl," was a tip of the hat to Rumer's favorite era, but on her follow-up, the erstwhile singer-songwriter chooses to go all in: the entire album consists of languid covers of '70s MOR pop classics.
On this kind of all-covers record, song selection is of paramount importance, and Boys Don't Cry gets it just about right. A handful of familiar hits -- Daryl Hall and John Oates' "Sara Smile," Neil Young's "A Man Needs A Maid," a lullaby-tempo, conga-led take on Bob Marley's "Soul Rebel" and, on the US edition only, John Sebastian's "Welcome Back" -- mix nicely with slightly more obscure choices like Jimmy Webb's "P.F. Sloan," Todd Rundgren's "Be Nice To Me" and Terry Reid's "Brave Awakening." Rumer dips further into the deep tracks file with an admirable lack of interest in what's cool: pop-geek-approved songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Isaac Hayes and Leon Russell nestle against bubblegummy hitmakers like Paul Williams, Gilbert O'Sullivan and Stephen Bishop. Creative partner Steve Brown's warm, intimate arrangements exist primarily to support Rumer's burnished-mahogany voice, which dominates the entire album, as it should. Boys Don't Cry -- and no, she doesn't tackle The Cure's song of the same title -- is a must-listen for soft pop fans of any generation, but I'd like to hear Rumer get back to her own material next time out.