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To say that Michael McDonald's "interpretation" of soulful, classic pop songs is lacking in authenticity is a bit of a harsh reality. Though the constant problem with cover albums is gaining the authenticity that the original performer(s) had. On SOUL SPEAK, the exceptionally talented blue-eyed soul/soft-rock star never accomplishes the feat of trumping the originals (though he comes close on opener "I Knew You Were Waiting"), but then that was the same issue present on both MOTOWN and MOTOWN II. What the soul brother does do is cover most tracks convincingly. Those that are less convincing aren't less convincing solely because McDonald isn't the given artist who performed the tracks, but often because some productions on this album are the slightest bit too slick for their own good. SOUL SPEAK is definitely flawed, but it isn't flawed so much that it ruins McDonald's intended effect. Overall, it is a generally likeable album with hits and misses.

"I Knew You Were Waiting" is a brilliant cover by McDonald. The original was a duet between Aretha Franklin and George Michael. McDonalds vocal affectations are much better than Michael could've hoped to have been (not discounting the original by any means, but Franklin outsang him). Sure the production is a bit over slicked, but it works well for McDonald, just as it has on McDonald's previous covers albums. "Living For The City" isn't bad either, but it is Stevie and only Stevie Wonder does Stevie the best. "Love T.K.O." is enjoyable as well, but Teddy Pendergrass shouldn't be fearful of McDonald's fine performance ever trumping his original, "orgasmic" take. "Walk On By" features soulful production, but it doesn't stand out like its predecessors making it McDonald's first miss. It's solid, but not exceptional. "Still Not Over You (Getting Over Me)" is an excellent original from McDonald (the first we've seen for a while!) "Still Not Over Your (Getting Over Me)" makes up for any lost momentum after "Walk On By" while McDonald does fine covering Stevie's version of "For Once In My Life" (still not as strong as Stevie of course!).

The Van Morrison cover "Into The Mystic" isn't bad, though not the very best of SOUL SPEAK. "Hallelujah" is strong enough, though everyone will agree Jeff Buckley's cover of the Leonard Cohen classic is perhaps the very best (aside from the original). It is a strong soulful take though. "Enemy Within" (another original) is solid at best while "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" restores any lost momentum up to that point. "Only God Can Help Me Now" is yet another fine original from McDonald, written solely by him. It stands up strongly against the covers without feeling like fluff. "Baby Can I Change My Mind" and "Redemption Song" are solid, though not great while "You Don't Know Me" is a fine, though not fantastic ending to an overall good covers album.

In some ways, SOUL SPEAK is stronger than some portions of McDonald's other two MOTOWN albums. There are some originals (all except for one being exceptional) and an overall strong selection of covers. What most McDonald fans would like to see, however, is a completely "new" McDonald album with originals that tap back into McDonalds "roots" such as the likes of "I Keep Forgetting" or "Yah-Mo Bee There". With three worthy originals here (even "Enemy Within"), McDonald could easily release a fine solo disc of originals. SOUL SPEAK, is a solid album, despite miniscule flaws. 3 ½ Stars.
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on April 2, 2008
I'm not going to lie to you, I'm biased. Michael McDonald is an all time favorite of mine. From the days when I would lug that Doobie Brothers 8-Track tape into the Mustang on my way to high school and play it as loud as the dial would allow on all six of those car speakers to each and every solo CD to date. Michael McDonald is a divine conduit of soul... he's one of kind... the essence of pure, raw, soulful energy. The gift is the voice, but it's really so much more than that. There are singers and then there are singers. This artist allows himself to be open and from that place he gives... so you're not just hearing a pop singer deliver a pop song. You're experiencing a soulful human being bringing all that depth to the microphone and that my friend is where it all starts. Soul it is and soul it must be on SOUL SPEAK. Fourteen tracks featuring some of the best songs ever written with the only common thread being that they are yes, soulful... selections from Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley and originals as well that actually are on par with the above inspired composers. Produced by Simon Climie, long time Eric Clapton collaborator, Climie brings a genuine yet polished intention to SOUL SPEAK providing an extremely satisfying, contemporary experience. This is stellar work... a must have for spring/summer listening... and for me, personally, on continual repeat on my iPod.
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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2008
I love the voice of Michael McDonald. His voice still has the same soulful quality from the 70s. Most of these tracks are classics like "For Once In My Life" and "Walk On By". The back up singers on Walk On By" are so good on this song. My favorite track is "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher". This song makes me good every time I listen to it. "Love TKO" is another standout here. This is the kind of song that can help a person unwind after a busy day. Mike performs "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me" and "Living for the City" with such spirit. These are songs I can tap my feet to and enjoy. "You Don't Know Me" is a beautiful song. The piano playing is great here. "Redemption Song" is a excellent tune about peace. It is interesting to hear the arrangement of this song in a soulful way. The best new track is "Still Not Over You Getting Over Me". This is a lovely love gone wrong song. I like the tempo of the song "Enemy Within". This song is about how everyone has their own demons in life. This disc contains really good soul music.
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on March 13, 2008
I've read the reviews here and elsewhere, and after buying to this CD and listening to it almost constantly since I bought it, here's my 10 cents worth of thoughts on SoulSpeak.

If you like Michael McDonald, you'll like it. If you don't care for his musical style, (and if you don't, why are you even listening to the cd?) you won't like it.

Let's be honest here. Often, hardcore fans are buying their favorite artists's music not only for the hope of hearing something completely different from previous offerings, but because it hits a musical comfort zone. You liked them then, you like them now because, well, you liked them.

When I buy a MM CD, I want that voice, that soulful approach to a song he brings. I enjoy his own compositions, I'm interested to hear his take on another singers work.

As a musician in his 50's, coming with the musical pedigree he has, he needs to prove nothing. He's been a hit machine, added depth to other's work in duets and as a backup singer, put his own spin on classics. This CD reflects that. Some new work of his own, some interpretations of other's.

I've got Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic," and liked McDonald's twist on it here. Likewise, "Love TKO."

Will this CD win him new fans? Maybe. More likely, it rewards those listeners who have enjoyed him in the past and are happy as hell he's still singing, arranging and writing. We are past looking to the Top 40 for the music we want in our lives (although we enjoyed the Top 40 stuff in our day) and are glad to have opportunities to share the journey of musicians we revere.
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on March 6, 2008
I must be hearing something different than some of the other reviewers... i think this is a high quality cd...covers or not ... it has a lot of energy to it... the opening track is one of the strongest imo,, I knew you were waiting for me...Higher and Higher is quite fun andis a good first single for Michael...I think Michael's voice is particularly good on this cd.. Hallelujah has been done numerous times but md's version is one of the strongest ive heard...other tracks i like are Still not over you, into the mystic, and you don't know me.. oh well to each his own,, but i think md has done a great job here..
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on March 7, 2008
I myself is wondering what are people listening to. I know when I hear soul and feeling is put into music. It seems like we have a few bitter M.McD. fans writing reviews. The majority of you ( who wrote negative reviews)claim to say how great his voice is, but how bad this CD is, clean your ears. Everyone is entittled to their opinion. But must we be so harsh on a man who has earned the right to record what makes him tick musically. This CD is awsome, Mike's vocals are outstanding and the new tracks send a powerful message. I wonder if the current music industry warped our minds of the image assembley line of muisc that is of today. Britney, Beyonce. No tallent in the case of music, only marketing image. Music of old you had to be good, write your own music , play instruments, sing it live in the studio or on the road. 75% of music today would not even survive one song in the 60's, 70's and early 8o's. How anyone could not feel the quality of this CD makes me wonder. I know many want M.McD. to do a complete CD of origonal material. Michael McDonald is doing want he wants and has proven he has the right by the longevity of his carieer, that he can do what ever he wants at this stage of his carieer. I know I got of the subject a bit. But it earks me to think how anyone could blast a man that sings with such heart and power that you can feel in the pit of your stomache. Just listen to Livin For The City and Hallelujah. Or Enemy Within or You Don't Know Me. Mike plays a dam good piano. Soul Speak is just a great CD from begining to end. Rock on Michael......Mike Sippie Costa Mesa CA.
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on February 23, 2013
Michael McDonald is a composer and a singer. it does not matter if all the songs are written by himself or not, as long as he delivers great songs and a great album. This one is. 8/10. The song "Hallelujah" is worth buying this album. Highly recommended specially to the fans of this great artist.
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on April 28, 2008
Thank Goodness for singers like Michael McDonald and the late Luther Vandross. These are singers who truly appreciate well-written songs and both artists produce extremely well arranged works. In this era of sampled and studio produced work, listeners need to be reminded that there is still good music to listen to.

That said, Micheal McDonald's Soul Speak is a fine album, full of great songs, arranged beautifully. I love his voice, but it's beginning to show its age. No matter though because I'm happy to see this nearly 60 year old man still in the game.

A long time lover of anything by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, this version of Walk on By is superb; subtle and thoughtful. His homage to Stevie Wonder in For Once in My LIfe and Living for the City are great. Let's face it though, covers seldom outdo the originals (although James Taylor's A Woman's Got to Have It (Bobby Womack) and Luther Vandross's Creepin' (Stevie Wonder) do give the originals a run for the money.

The best song on this album for me is Only God Can Help Me Now. Soul music purists know that this is really an Issac Hayes song; it would have been at home on his Black Moses or To Be Continued albums (just as D'Angelo's How Does It Feel was really a Prince song). All it needed was an intro rap, five more minutes and it's Issac all over again. What I love about this album is that I can share the beauty of good song writing, great arrangements and a great voice with my 14 year-old son, an aspiring vocalist. In the midst of Linkin Park and Kayne West, I can point him back to the masters.

Again, this is a fine album, but not a great one. For MM lovers, it's a must add to your collection. Like many of the other reviewers, I anxiously await an album of new and original work. But in the meantime, I can still listen to Soul Speak and be satisfied.

(Catch MM and Kenny Loggins on Youtube doing What a Fool Believes--they should record this version!).
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on March 11, 2008
I anxiously waited for this cd after ordering it months ago. Since I received it I have hardly play anything else. Michael McDonald to me is the ultimate performer. I love every song....old and new. The title is perfect because Michael McDonald does speak to my soul. Michael has been producing such beautiful music for so long he deserves respect and admiration.
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on March 9, 2008
I have been waiting anxiously for the release of this CD and I was not dissappointed! There is something for everyone on this and each song is done so magnificently. There is not a bad song on this CD but there may be some songs that you gravitate to more than others depending on what you are listening for. Even if you aren't gravitating to one of the 14 songs, you will still love it! "Like" is not part of the vocabulary here when I think about the songlist. The words, "Love", and "Really Love!" will come to mind.

I've been waiting to hear the full version of "Walk on By" after hearing the sample and I "really love" the way this song was arranged and sung. It's the same song yet it has a different flavor to it. Very nice!

But...the filet mignon of this CD for me are three songs, "Into the Mystic", "Hallelujuah", and Michael's original tune, "Only God Can Help Me Now". Whew!!! "Into the Mystic" is done so beautifully with accordion floating in the background that it is mesmerizing. "Hallelujuah" is approached with a bit of gospel flavor that only Michael can pull off. You'll be shaking your head while listening to it. These are two great songs that Michael steps up to the plate and hits a home run on. "Only God Can Help Me Now" is a mellow, smooth and heartfelt broken heart song.

Again, every song is fantastic, but I believe you will find something particular to your heart as you listen. It appeals to a wide audience which is wonderful! I really believe this CD is in contention for a Grammy! Please order it here cause it's hard to find anywhere else!
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