The question that must have been uppermost in the minds of many of those involved in this project, Heal The World a tribute to Michael Jackson, must surely have been: “How do you top the King of Pop…?” Or, at least: “How do we pull this one off without fawning?” As it happens, producer and drummer Harvey Mason need never have worried too much as he could not have picked a finer musician to front the project than the vocalist extraordinaire Charito. Moreover there are several other laudable aspects of this heartfelt homage. But first there is Charito…
The Filipino-born, Japan-based singer has brought a slow, sensual, swing to the music that Michael Jackson first made famous. Charito has one of the most delicious contralto voices in the business. Having been blessed with a range that is given to a natural penchant for sensuality, the husky-voiced vocalist has turned her skills to interpretive singing. With her beckoning contralto and her ability to dally almost achingly on key words and phrases she creates mesmerising whorls of song, wrapped like glistening necklaces around the songs narratives. With occasional whoops and streaking dashes into a higher register, but mostly with just a soulful “Oooh” or an aching “Aaah” Charito can bring the most intense emotion to two simple words, “We remember…” for instance, in the song, “Remember The Time”. Of course there are numerous other examples of how Charito can wrench emotion out of words that might otherwise have sounded quite trite. It seems that Charito was born for this homage. With the passing of Michael Jackson and the heartbreaking facts of his life that have emerged since then, this is a most appropriate homage. Charito sings with feeling, phrasing exquisitely and telling what seems to be a seamless, unbroken story of pathos throughout the album. Also appropriately, the singer turns the project from sadness into joy with a triumphant version of Jackson’s torch song, “Heal The World”.
No less a reason for the artistic success of this album are the arrangements of songs already made classic by such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Steve Porcaro and Stevie Wonder. For this, much credit must go to Jeff Babko and Michael Ruff. In re-arranging such classics as the Quincy Jones arrangement of Rod Temperton’s beautiful “Rock With You,” Porcaro’s “Human Nature”, “Man In The Mirror”… slowing down these powerful charts and swinging them with a great deal of sexy swagger, Babko and Ruff together with Charito of course, have turned Jackson’s music into the rightful realm of elevation that it deserves. Moreover these arrangements shine a new light on the maturity of the music, as well as its enduring quality.
Finally there is the absolute mastery of Harvey Mason’s production that makes this a flagship recording. Mason has brought awesome talent together for a project that certainly deserved this level of importance. Bassist Brian Bromberg, trombonist Nils Langren and the uncredited tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence as well as the duo of Babko and Ruff, and Mason’s own superbly crafted rhythms, have given this project a polished appeal. And this is truly in keeping of something to honour someone as worthy as Michael Jackson with—music that will surely go towards healing the world.
Track Listing: Rock with You; Man in the Mirror; Human Nature; Remember the Time; He’s Out of my Life; I Can’t Help It; I’ll Be There; Never Say Goodbye; Ease On Down The Road; Heal The World.
Personnel: Charito: vocals; Jeff Babko: keyboards (1, 9); Michael Ruff: keyboards, synths, synth and keyboard bass, background vocals (2 – 8, 10), clavinet (1); Hubert Laws: flute (6); Chuck Manning: tenor saxophone (2, 3); Nils Langren: trombone (6); Brian Bromberg: acoustic bass (1, 3, 7, 9); Jimmy Johnson: bass (2, 10); Abe Laboriel: bass (4, 6); Harvey Mason: drums, vibes (1), percussion (2, 4, 6, 8); background vocals (9); Walter Rodriguez (6); Jeff Caldwell: background vocals (3, 6).
Charito on the web: www.charito.com/
Review written by: Raul da Gama