MercuryCarter is no stranger to massive balladeering - but the ambition behind his latest offering "Mercury Sings…" is still impressive. Releasing a cover EP had the potential to be slightly risky, especially given the caliber of the artists whose work is brought to life here, but it presents Carter as a devotee of his craft. A lover of soul and blues who can seemingly transform any classic track into his own seductive, melancholy siren’s call. To compare the artist’s extraordinary vocal abilities to those that he pays homage to on "Sings…" would be highly reductive, but it’s safe to say that the quality of these iconic originals are well met on this 26 minute roller coaster ride through these musical arrangements presented.
The first of these, ‘Four Women’, is the most faithful to the source material - in that it recites the tales of racial suffering first told in Nina Simone’s work with the same tender, mournful tone. Carter’s voice here is husky, rasping most tangibly on the name reveals to emphasize the importance of the character quartet.
It was always the intention that each figure depicted in the song was a not so thinly-veiled metaphor for a unique brand of suffering, the singer’s hushed approach reflects the gravity of these decades-old yet still frighteningly relevant tales.
‘Four Women’ was never a piece to be sang with any dramatic flair, and it’s evident that Carter understands this as his performance is spattered with ghostly wails and stirring string segments that complement the dusky social landscape painted so expertly by this interpretation. When Carter does exercise the full spectrum of his vocal talent, it’s to launch the song into the same explosive piano finale that defined the original.
Of any of the songs molded by Carter’s gentle vocal caress, ‘Daydreamer’ was always going to be the biggest challenge. The most modern ballad of the five, the slower take on Adele’s acoustic guitar-led 19 opener is a true thrill for fans of either artist, with Carter’s soul sound fitting the starry-eyed third person narrative like a glove. Instrumentally, this song has a flamboyant emotive flair to it that makes it the most fleshed-out on the EP. Like the project as a whole, the vocal expressions on this song are unlike those of any singer, let alone one that has been practicing their craft for such a short time.
When Carter tackles music outside of the traditional soul spectrum, such as Queen's massive arena ballad ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’, his voice retains the tenderness found in much of his discography, but the angelic extremities reached on this song are unlike anything he has offered prior. The singer’s flawless high notes rank him in the echelon of vocalists that receive international praise, it only takes one listen to his live version of ‘With Every Breath I Take’ to discover that he is as natural a talent as they come. Although all songs on the EP were all one takes in a "live performance" fashion - this track, which closes out the EP in a soft, morose fashion, is arguably the best fit for Carter’s sound. His low notes are exceptional, and the aforementioned track was the perfect opportunity to display them. The adaptation of a bold yet vulnerable musical number into something even more sensual and human is impressive, and something only someone as masterful and well-practiced as Carter could execute with justice to the original work.
From the eerie, harmonized chanting of ‘Temple’, to the synth-propelled Neo-R&B of ‘Broken Birds’, Mercury is a fantastic introduction to MercuryCarter. Covering a plethora of genres, the EP utilizes the strongest and most relevant aspects of jazz, soul and contemporary R&B in the formation of its own unique sound. These tracks primarily focus on Carter’s vocal talents, the instrumentation often looms ominously in the background as his soaring melodies usurp all attention. A mysterious and isolated experience indeed.
‘Belladonna’ is the strongest piece on the project, taking on a mystical, seductive vibe. Here, Carter’s voice is almost otherworldly, his mastery of operatic drama is key to the success of this song, which becomes increasingly inhuman and angelic as it evolves. Taking cues from the songwriting greats, Carter places this, the longest track on the EP, as the centerpiece for the project. A true representation to the beginnings of a very fruitful journey for the singer, and a cornerstone in a fusion genre that MercuryCarter may have single-handedly spearheaded - or better yet, created.