Review: Dwight Townsend, Finale: Omega to Alpha

Dwight Townsend, Finale: Omega to Alpha

08 Oct, 2014 Dan MacIntosh

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Dwight Townsend’s Finale: Omega to Alpha, is categorized as ‘Music of Yesteryear’ on CDbaby.com because it is a collection of old songs. Townsend is recommended if you like guys like Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Robert Goulet, all of whom are no longer singing – at least not on this earth anymore.

At a whopping 38 songs in length, this is an album that presents a fairly comprehensive overview of yesteryear’s music. Accompanied by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Townsend sings each of these familiar songs with his powerful baritone voice. Although he may like to be compared with cats like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Townsend – to put it bluntly – doesn’t swing. This is not such a negative, however. It just is what it is. Unlike guys like Sinatra, and to a lesser degree Martin, Townsend sings these jazz and pop songs as though, perhaps, an opera singer might take them on. On the other hand, Sinatra and Martin were guys that loved swinging rhythms just as much as fine lyrics and memorable melodies. Granted, Sinatra played it fairly straight when he sang ballads backed by Nelson Riddle orchestrations. However, if you’ve ever seen any of the video footage of Sinatra, Martin and Sammy Davis doing their thing as the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, you’ve witnessed these performers in their natural element. About the only factor Townsend shares in common with his vocal heroes is a deep love for many of the same songs.

The downside to hearing Townsend singing these songs is the fact that he sometimes comes off just a little uptight stylistically. By singing them so straight, they end up sounding dated. Granted, he probably shouldn’t have given them pop or R&B arrangements; however, he could have very easily taken a few more liberties with the arrangements. The listener ends up thinking to him or herself, ‘Well, that was a nice little tune,’ without much of a driving desire to listen to it again and again.

In some cases, there are songs that are so identified with great artists of the past; they shouldn’t really be covered again. This is particularly true with “What A Wonderful World.” Perhaps it was the movie Good Morning Vietnam, starring the late Robin Williams, which re-popularized Louis Armstrong’s singing of “What A Wonderful World.” To many ears, this song is forever identified with Armstrong’s soulful offering of its lyrics. Adding to the problem, Townsend takes a few of this song’s lyrics as spoken word segments for added drama. The tactic doesn’t work, though, and only slows down the tune’s momentum. This one should have been left in Armstrong’s court. Unless somebody thinks of a wholly original way to reinterpret it, it should forever remain associated with Louie.

Townsend has a fine singing voice. Nevertheless, it does weaken at times when he tries too hard to reach low notes he cannot comfortably hit. Townsend is a good singer, but not the kind of singer – as they used to say – that could sing the phonebook – back when folks still used phonebooks to look up phone numbers, of course. He stays on key most of the time, but he doesn’t have the vocal tone one might easily get lost in.

The verdict on this release is that it’s a good, but not a great effort. Dwight Townsend certainly doesn’t embarrass himself with his readings of these songs. At the same time, though, he never makes us forget other better versions of these songs, such as the Louis Armstrong version of “What A Wonderful World.” When the trumpet solo comes in during “Long Before I Knew You,” it may make the listener wish this project had taken a little more liberty in the instrumental coloring.

While there are more definitive versions of these standards available, Townsend’s album would make a fine additional to any collection.

Review By: Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)