That Robert Downey Jr.? I was visiting the iTunes store to download the new Alison Kraus & Union Station album (as usual, it is beautiful) and clicked on the “Top 100” album list and noticed something called
The Futurist by Robert Downey Jr. Wait a minute. Robert Downey Jr.? Surely not the Robert Downey Jr. who’s a brilliant actor but noted drug addict? But, sure enough, it is. And sampling the clips of his album on iTunes intrigued me enough to buy the album. And guess what? It’s very good if you like 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. Even on a standard such as the oft-recorded “Smile,” Downey brings something new: both painfully sad and soaring — like his performance in Chaplin, a movie about the actor who also was a musician of note: for example, he co-wrote the oft-recorded song, Smile).
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. On some origianl songs, his writing 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.