Whenever Jonathan Butler releases new music, it is an event. On the surface that may sound like an exaggeration, but it is really not. He had recorded many great songs over the years, and there are a lot of people that look forward to his offerings.
His style is so unique that whenever one of his songs is playing, you automatically know it is him.
It is that South African style, and he should have a patent on that groove. Not only is he a master guitarist, but he is also great singer. For me, George Benson started the musician/singer combo, and Jonathan Butler has taken that style and made it his own. He flows effortlessly through both the vocal and the instrumental tracks, making him one of the best live performers in recent memory.
His latest effort, Close To You is a sort of a theme album. There are 11 tracks, and all but one are compositions from one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Burt Bacharach. You might not know the name right away, but when you hear these songs, you will probably recognize most of them.
Review – Jonathan Butler “Close To You”
The album kicks off with the Dionne Warwick classic, Do You Know The Way To San Jose. This is an uptempo groove, and Butler’s guitar just skates on top of the song. This is an instrumental track with some background vocals sprinkled in. Even if you know the original, you will probably do a double take before you realize what you are listening to. This is a great way to get into the album, as it has a happy vibe to it. I also love the horns, they are not obtrusive, but they add a little seasoning to the track.
Up next is I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. This is another Dionne Warwick song, and Butler provides vocals on this one. Even though he keeps the sensibility of the original song, he definitely makes it a Jonathan Butler track. It is another uptempo groove and once again, there is just the right amount of horns with some stellar percussion played here.
Butler covers a Herb Alpert song with This Guy’s In Love With You. I was immediately drawn to the beat. It reminds me of those 90’s new jack beats. So, just imagine contemporary jazz with a 90’s feel. Not too bad if you ask me.
Alfie is up next. This song was recorded several times over the years, with mostly female voices. Butler does the song justice. I do find the song choice interesting, as it is a song from a 1966 film of the same name.
Butler’s South African style is on full display with I Say A Little Prayer. Actually this is a song that you would listen to while sitting on a beach somewhere, with your favorite adult beverage in hand. This is a straight instrumental track with some ad libs performed toward the end. This is one of my favorites on the album.
Walk On By is next. You know about the Dionne Warwick version. Do you remember the one by Sybil? Butler’s version is truly a slow jam, and this would be a good candidate for an unplugged performance. This track is organic to it’s core.
I have been a Carpenters fan for many years, so I was happy to know that (They Long to Be) Close to You is represented here. This is perhaps the most beautiful song ever written.
“On the day that you were born the angels got together,
And decided to create a dream come true.
So, they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold
And star light in your eyes of blue.”
And the background vocals are totally on point here. Man, talk about putting your style on a remake. This is Butler at his best.
Another classic that you will certainly recognize. The Look Of Love. This is not your grandmother’s version though. I always had admiration for those who can play an instrument while they were singing, and Butler knocks it out of the park here. i also have to point out the arrangement of the background vocals, as it really enhances the overall feel of the track.
Up next is the lone original song on the album. You listen to Cape Town and I promise you will be grooving in your seat. Of course we are talking about Cape Town, South Africa. I have never been there, but this is the kind of track that will make you want to visit.
Another all-time favorite is next. What The World Needs Now Is Love has a simple arrangement and tight instrumentation. A well written song does not need a lot of filler. Butler gives a command performance, and I will bet that the track will be a part of the soundtrack at your next dinner party.
The set concludes with a Luther Vandross classic. Butler’s A House Is Not A Home is more of a lullaby, something you would listen to after a long day at work. Grab that glass of wine, close your eyes and feel that vibe.
I really like the songs that Butler chose to cover. Several of these songs have not been recorded in many years, and these updated versions will allow you to reminisce about days gone by.