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.
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