As good as Matthew Morrison’s self-titled debut is, it’s hard to imagine it would ever have been released if Morrison didn’t star as dreamy Mr. Schue on “Glee.” An appealingly dorky, commercially dubious, family-friendly pop offering, it recalls a long-lost Robbie Williams disc or a Justin Timberlake album without the electro-R&B. Or the sex: “Matthew Morrison” is as well-scrubbed a mainstream release as you’re likely to hear all year.
Morrison started out on Broadway, and the bigger and more belty the songs get, the more comfortable he seems. His solo numbers are fine, such as the wages-of-fame lament “My Name” (“I didn’t mean to disappoint / But I’m not who you think I am”), but he’s better with company.
Sting, whose career Morrison would have been wise to emulate, if careers like Sting’s still existed, shows up for a great retake of the former Police frontman’s “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot.” Elsewhere, Morrison duets with frequent “Glee” guest star Gwyneth Paltrow (who sounds just fine) on a cheery, calypso-fied, Disney-cartoon version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and with Elton John on “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters/Rocket Man.”
The latter is a strange animal: More than a song but less than a medley, it’s an unwieldy, in-between . . . thing. But it’s evidence that Morrison can hold his own next to John, whose upper register isn’t what it used to be.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “My Name”