Veteran heartthrob finds new freedom in handling unexpected, yet fitting, material.
Germany has always had a special place in David Hasselhoff’s heart, so in 1989, on New Year’s Eve, he was hoisted above The Wall that still divided East and West of the country’s capital to sing to ecstatic crowds on both sides, and now, three decades later, he’s celebrating its historic reunification with a rather strange, if surprisingly strong, offering. Although the artist seemed to have become a caricature of himself in the recent years – something he hilariously highlighted in “Hoff The Record” – “Open Your Eyes” is where David locates the glossy Hasselhoff of yesterday and gives a few classic songs a shine his old aficionados will revel in. The album might be another entry in the Cleopatra line of covers collections which feed incongruous repertoire to unlikely coupling of players, but the “Baywatch” star pulled it off with envious aplomb.
While David’s deadpan delivery may jar, this is what keeps nostalgic pathos at bay – even on the omnipresent “Heroes” whose provenance and half-Deutsch lyrics stress the Berlin theme – and there’s also humor to help tie the assorted strands into a narrative, with the Todd Rundgren-assisted return to “Jump In My Car” referring to “Knight Rider” and “Mit 66 Jahren” that has Patrick Moraz‘s ivories sprinkled all over marking The Hoff’s age. Still, it’s not about the singer’s guests; it’s about turning shoegaze inside out and letting MINISTRY electrify “Sweet Caroline” or Elliot Easton flick licks on “Head On” from THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN’s cache. Of course, Steve Cropper’s twang on “Sugar, Sugar” and James Williamson’s on the deliciously dramatic, and danceable, title track should enable Hasselhoff to fully embrace both THE ARCHIES’ effervescence and the gloom patented by THE LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH, yet his booming vocals dominate the dream pop landscape and keep the listener transfixed no matter what their current mood is.
Excelling in balladry on “If You Could Read My Mind” or performing a Sinatra tune, The Hoff could make the histrionic “Here I Go Again” the record’s finest moment, if only producer Jürgen Engler refrained from dipping the hard-rock hit in familiar riffs, courtesy of Tracii Guns, and omitting the resolution awarded to “Rhinestone Cowboy” wherein Charlie Daniels’ fiddle resounds. Still, “Open Your Eyes” will be, well, an eye-opener for those who wrote David off as creative force: he’s back to guard duty and riding high again.