With his rockin’ covers of R&B tunes like Lionel Richie‘s “Hello,” Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean,” and Mariah Carey‘s “Always Be My Baby,” his versatility exemplified in taking on The Phantom of the Opera‘s “Music of the Night” straight-up, and his Kansas City-bred humility, it’s easy to see why David Cook won the votes of America in 2008 as the winner of American Idol‘s seventh season. His self-titled post-Idol debut released that fall was pretty darn respectable, boasting the hit singles “Light On” and “Come Back to Me,” the ESPN montage favorite “Heroes,” the tear-jerking tribute to his late brother Adam “Permanent,” amongst others. Over two years later comes an even stronger, more solid David Cook with his sophomore album This Loud Morning, released in late June.
This Loud Morning combines the mainstream friendliness of Cook’s first post-Idol record with the lyrical complexity of his pre-Idol independent release Analog Heart. But above all, there are new elements that give the latest album a differing, soothing vibe. Overall, it’s more even, finely turned, and suited to Cook, who’s a consummate performer, but is more about the meaning of his lyrics and music rather than delivering head-banging tunes (I mean, just because he has a guitar and a bit of a rasp in his voice doesn’t mean he’s one of those rock stars. There are different types that exist). The songs can sound repetitive—in fact, the opening and closing tracks were written to come full-circle—which is the only beef I personally have this album. However, on a good day, it’s simply just one lovely symphony.
With all of the tracks written or co-written by Cook himself and collaborators in the forms of Ryan Tedder, Johnny Rzeznik, David Hodges, Ryan Star, and Cook’s own bandmates Neal Tiemann and Andy Skib, This Loud Morning is a stellar display of substantial songwriting and musicality. The debut single “The Last Goodbye,” penned by Cook and Tedder, lands in the middle of the album and is a great mid-tempo track that demonstrates the artist’s fit into top 40 radio. However, it’s all the tracks that come before and after that lift the album up to its higher ground: The trifecta of “Fade Into Me,” “Hard to Believe,” and “Take Me as I Am” showcase Cook’s romantic and vulnerable side. “Goodbye to the Girl” does an even better job at shedding him down to his rawest form, with this bittersweet soft rock track. He shows he can go the inspirational route with a U2-esque anthem, “We Believe,” without the sentimental, Idol-obligatory cheese of magic rainbows sung about in “The Time of My Life” (Although us longtime Cook fans have quite a penchance for that anyway). And those first and last tracks, the artistically-titled “Circadian” and “Rapid Eye Movement,” brilliantly hold all of This Loud Morning together with their haunting melodies and choirs singing “Somebody save me now.” The deluxe edition includes two additional tracks, the uplifting “This is Not the Last Time” and another song for the lovestruck “Let Me Fall for You,” which might as well have made its way into the standard edition since they’re worthy of it and integrate with the rest of the track list so nicely.
Although it would have been nice to hear more songs reminiscent to the slinky “Bar-ba-sol” or the fast-paced, super brutally honest “Kiss on the Neck” from his debut album, it’s hardly anything to lament about. Cook’s post-Idol sophomore album is a special achievement in its own right. With its overall soul-searing tone, filled with remarkable rock ballads and mid-tempos, it seems as if this rock star of a former American Idol has found a calling—and that’s definitely something to curtsy to.
KAREN RECOMMENDS: “Paper Heart” — Having premiered this song almost a year prior to the album release, the studio version of this song is authentic, timeless Cook, heartwrenching and with the perfect balance of a great melody, instrumentals, tight production, and that unmistakable voice.