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The Futurist

4.3 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 23, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Oscar nominated & Emmy winning actor Robert Downey Jr. reveals a new side to his talent with the release of The Futurist, his first recording as singer and songwriter. With eight original songs and a pair of covers of a classic Yes song and Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile'. Downey also plays piano on a number of the songs.

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The actor-turned-recording-artist oeuvre has long been ripe for ridicule -- Sebastian Cabot does Dylan, anyone? -- and short on surprises, but this warm, low-key effort by Downey offers up a few intriguing ones. Though he's toyed with music previously, the actor's commitment here is a total one, his troubadour guise carried via an earthy voice with echoes of Dave Matthews' and informed by lyrics with more than a little personal, if lyrically opaque, truth. The wistful "Broken" may be carried on the album's most lilting melody, but its repeated AA-creed refrain is a bittersweet reminder of Downey's personal demons. Spare, jazzy arrangements help keep the focus on Downey's voice throughout, a brave tack that sometimes overplays his novice songwriting skills. But while songs like the Wonder Boys-inspired "Hannah" may amble, the forceful "Man Like Me" and stately grace of "Kimberly Glide" are better showcases for Downey's musical promise. His eight originals are supplemented by two covers: an expected, if overly smoky jazz trio cover of Chaplin's "Smile" and a quaintly confident cover of Yes' "Your Move" sweetened by Jon Anderson himself on backing vocals. -- Jerry McCulley
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 23, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00064AFK0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,398 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
It begins with the pleasing musical simplicity of a solo piano. I hold my breath. Then his sensual, sumptuous voice washes over me -- "This is the night I've been dreaming of forever, the mirror takes a look at my face" -- and I smile. At first, I search for signposts in his words that will help me to connect the songs with the stark headline details of his life we all know. But then I let go and sink into the complexities that lie at the heart of his music. When it ends, and there is only the tap of rain on my window, I feel as if I have visited with Downey for a while in his own beautifully human universe.

For some of us who have been Downey fans since Less Than Zero and before, the wait for his first CD has been a long one. "The Futurist" is worth the wait. I'm old fashioned in that I think albums should be a whole experience: an interesting cover, liner notes, designed to be listened to from start to finish without interruption. After listening to "Futurist" for the last few hours, I can say that in my view it is a proper album, with a beginning, a middle and an end. It's direct and warm, emotionally and musically honest. The production doesn't disappoint. Each listen brings something new to my attention. But, it's a Robert Downey Jr. album, so along with the beauty and the genius, there are intriguing, subtle kinks and oddities.

Musically, Downey's clearly adept at genre skipping, at laying down his own richly textured path of musical expression. It is pop, but pop inspired with delicate jazz and blues flavours, and a sprinkle of classy soulful moments. Downey's vocal performances are a mix of fragility and strength, and they captivate. His voice moves comfortably between smooth as suede on the ballads, to a rock edginess, to a delicious smoky blues tone.
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Format: Audio CD
When I ran across this album my first thought was, "Robert Downey Jr.?" Surely not the Robert Downey Jr. who's a brilliant actor but noted drug addict? But, sure enough, it is. After listening to the sample clips off this album, I was intrigued enough to buy the album. And I'm pleasantly surprised: It's very good if you like (as I do) slow, introspective, lyric-driven, rock (somewhere between Sting and John Mayer?). Downey's bluesy voice is full and soulful and the result is surprisingly pure, honest and mature. Downey's piano-playing on ocassion reveals a slight echo of a Billy Joel-Elton John early 80s lick, but like his voice, songwriting and interpretation, his performance on the piano also is solid. His songwriting is honest and self-revelatory: he's a poet with more than rhyming skills. And spending time strung-out and in jail provides plenty of grist for him to work with. What a surpirse. Now I know.
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Format: Audio CD
The first thing that hits you while listening to this cd is the unique qualities of Downey's voice. If you could mix up Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker, Tom Petty and a bit of Steely Dan you would have only the beginning. You need to add to this mix his own deep slightly raspy voice that is full of soul and raw emotion and you have what makes listening to this cd so compelling. His voice tells us right away that this a man who has gone through way too much life for someone his age. There is no hiding it and why should he. It is a voice that ranges from tenderness, to wistfulness, to anger, to hope and hopelessness and back again with all of the emotional terrain in between these stops. The lyrics are jazzy and remind me of the best of Beat Poetry. I keep changing my mind over my favorite song. There is a sense of remorse,loss, and nostalgia to "Kimberly Glide" that touches me over and over. The images are arresting and new such as "Cactus Angels". "Little Clownz" is fascinating with every listen. And "Hannah" just surprises me over and over with it's chord changes and harmonies. I love the title of this cd...The Futurist. There is a feeling of hope and optimism rising above the ashes of a difficult past. I can imagine sitting in a small club and listening to Downey singing these songs from his heart. Now that would be heaven.
Comment 36 of 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
I first must identify and seperate myself from many of those writing excessively positive reviews about this CD. I am not a Robert Downey Jr. fan and have very little past experience with his music or acting. Therefore, this is unbiased and not influenced by the man's looks or past experiences.

I initially caught a Downey interview and performance on the Ellen Degeneres show. His voice, even live, is solid. Given, it isn't amazing but the easy listening or soft rock genres do not require vocals with amazing range. It only requires that a voice is relaxing, smooth, something that catches your ear and makes you want to hear more. His fits this description and, after further investigation on his website, I purchased a copy.

The album is entrancing, although its depth appeared to me gradually. Initially the lyrics seem shallow, and that may be the greatest downfall of the CD: It has little shock value. As you continue to listen though, the art comes out in the music; the piano work is beautiful at times and his voice keeps you listening. I don't want to compare Downey too closely to a legend, but as a huge Billy Joel fan, this music keeps my mind moving much the way his does. It flows the way a Joel CD does also, somewhat methodically.

The negative side of the album is limited but some, quite understandably, may not be able to see past it. As I said, the lyrics have there momentary lapses. This can be traced to Downey's writing. I suspect he isn't amazingly experienced, or atleast not at this level. Initially, as i also said, the first listen might not move you. Give it another chance though; if it doesn't do anything for you it's no surprise, no album's perfect.

Overall, the CD is a good effort.
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