Michael Rault | Michael Rault | (Wick)
4 out of 5 stars
At one point not that long ago, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/pop auteur Michael Rault might have been considered Canada’s best-kept secret. But since a move to California, he’s become America’s best-kept secret. Hopefully, after the release of this beautifully crafted batch of 10 alternately shimmering and frisky gems, that will no longer be the case.
Following the artistic, if not commercial, success of the sumptuous It’s a New Day Tonight (2018), Rault shifts even further into idiosyncratic, nearly solo performer mode. Where he once channeled Badfinger-styled melodic rock, he now dives straight into early Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, Harry Nilsson, Stevie Wonder, and Emitt Rhodes territory. It’s not entirely a one-man band situation since he employs a rhythm section in addition to occasional assistance with horns, guitars, and strings. But these tightly constructed songs feel like the music of one extremely creative musician’s mind, especially since he is also credited as producer and arranger.
Rault’s honeyed, high-pitched voice, which sometimes slides into falsetto is, like many of the instruments, often overdubbed. That creates a multi-layered Beach Boys feel, in particular on the frothy “When I’m Back in Town Again,” a deceptively upbeat song about how the narrator returns to the old haunts where he met his ex after being dumped. On the lovely, acoustic guitar and string enhanced 10cc-styled ballad “Whoever Comes Around,” Rault tugs at the heart with And who am I even giving my love to now?/Whoever comes around will have to do. It’s sad, yet exquisite, and bittersweet.
Each track is immaculately produced and arranged with pedal steel, horns, and synths added tastefully and when appropriate. Every instrument is in service of the song and each floats and glistens in a concise pop haze that’s gracefully effortless. The McCartney effect is perhaps a little too pronounced on cuts such as the charming “Who Will You Call On” and, along with the aforementioned influences, some strains of ’70s E.L.O. at their most radio-ready flash by too.
There is so much to absorb that even though you can sing each catchy chorus after a single play, slapping on a good pair of headphones to wallow in the sheer musicality and meticulous construction of each selection makes everything more immediate. His care and attention to the final product is impressive and often remarkable.
Will the self-titled set finally bring the multi-talented Rault to a larger audience after over 15 years of being on the fringes? It surely deserves to since this time he coalesces all his strengths in one compact, strikingly tuneful, 35-minute package.
Photo by Alice Baxley