An Album from an 'Idol'

Taylor Hicks won last year's season of American Idol, the Fox television show where the audience chooses the singer they like best. The Birmingham, Ala., native got more than 63 million votes. But it's one thing to win a nationwide talent contest. It's quite another to launch a singing career, which Hicks has done on his self-titled debut.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

"American Idol" begins its 6th TV Season this evening. Part karaoke, part game show, part vocal audition, the show sucked in 36 million viewers last season, and those "Idol" fans chose Taylor Hicks as the winner.

Hicks has now launched his recording career with a self-titled CD. Music critic Meredith Ochs has this review.

MEREDITH OCHS: On his debut CD, Taylor Hicks pays tribute to his American idol, Ray Charles, with the song that Charles co-wrote.

(Soundbite of song, "Heaven Knows")

Mr. TAYLOR HICKS (Singer): (Singing) You took my heart, baby, and you broke it in a thousand pieces. I may not have been much to you, but every man still needs a reason.

OCHS: Slightly paunchy and pre-maturely gray, Taylor Hicks is the unlikeliest of the American Idols. The 30-year-old was slogging it out in bars for more than a decade when the "Idol" title put him on the fast track to pop stardom. The fact that Hicks looks like Jay Leno's lovechild and dances like a frat boy didn't matter one bit. America loved his rendering of R&B classics, punctuated by his trademark cry of Soul Patrol, a nickname for his loyal fans.

(Soundbite of song, "Heaven Knows")

Mr. HICKS: (Singing) Heaven knows I did everything you asked me to. Gave you all my love, but nothing was enough for you. I got down on my knees, prayed for you to come around. But my prayers went unanswered 'cause you always let me down. Heaven knows I tried. Heaven knows I tried.

OCHS: On his debut CD, Taylor Hicks leads the Soul Patrol down on a surprisingly smooth path. The scrappy rhythm and blues that temporarily made him the country's most popular singer gives way a little too easily to radio-ready pop. Hicks offers more balladry than belting, drawing material from pop songwriting juggernauts like infamous hit machine Diane Warren, who's written songs for the likes of Celine Dion.

(Soundbite of song, "Places I've Been")

Mr. HICKS: (Singing) All the places I've been meant nothing. They were nowhere 'cause you were not there. Everything I've been through, everything before you was just time moving on with no meaning. You're what was missing.

OCHS: The finest moments on this Taylor Hicks CD are the songs he wrote himself, like this one, embellished by steal guitarist extraordinaire Greg Leisz. Here you get a sense not only at Hicks' vocal talent, but of his heart, and yes, his soul.

(Soundbite of song, "Soul Thing")

Mr. HICKS: (Singing) When the tough get going, the muses visit me. Yet in soft, low tones, they always say to me, say to me. It ain't no groove thing, it ain't no country twang. It's a simple refrain. It's a soul thang. It ain't no groove thing, it ain't no country twang. It's a simple refrain. It's a soul thang.

OCHS: I wish that Taylor Hicks had recorded more of his own material instead of relying on pop hit makers and big arrangements that drown out his voice. Given the ephemeral nature of fame earned on reality TV shows like "American Idol," I don't blame Hicks for wanting a hit song and wanting one fast. But listen up, Taylor. America chose you to be its idol, so let's hear more of what you got.

(Soundbite of song, "Soul Thing")

BLOCK: Taylor Hicks is the name of the singer and the CD. Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

(Soundbite of song, "Soul Thing")

Mr. HICKS: (Singing) - wire. These days getting lonelier by the mile by the mile, by the mile. It ain't no groove thing, it ain't no country twang. It's just a simple refrain. It's a soul thang. It ain't no groove thing. It ain't no country twang. It's just a simple refrain, yeah. It's just soul thang.

It ain't no groove thing, it ain't no country twang. It's a simple refrain, yeah. It's a soul thang.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Your're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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