John Owen-Jones’ fourth solo album Spotlight doesn’t demonstrate the boldest choice of material but the quality of his voice remains peerless
“Now I know what they’re saying in the music of the parade”
In all honesty, a quick glance at the track-listing for John Owen-Jones’ new album Spotlight doesn’t exactly inspire huge excitement for me. The emphasis seems to be on the tried and tested, the less charitably inclined might say ‘Mother’s Day audience’ as stalwarts like Les Mis (‘I Dreamed A Dream’), Andrew Lloyd Webber (‘Love Never Dies’) and The Greatest Showman (‘From Now On’) pop up once again, alongside such inspirational ever-presents as ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘The Prayer’.
Admittedly, this comes from someone who does get a little jaded from the number of albums I am privileged to get to review, but there’s also something about that lack of adventurousness that is inescapable. There’s nothing particularly individual about the arrangements here so, as well sung as they are, the likes of ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘From Now On’ sound pretty much like too many other versions that have been recorded. Where he does deviate from the norm, on ‘Climb Every Mountain’, the results are…mixed.
But credit where credit is due, Owen-Jones is at least approaching these familiar sources from a new angle. His take on Fantine’s showstopper (curiously gender-swapped, gotta protect those Tesco mums…) is rather compelling, although Christine’s title track from the Phantom sequel is perhaps a little too austere. And a brief diversion into the softest of rock on Spandau Ballet’s ‘Through The Barricades’ begins with an unexpected and appreciated tenderness.
For myself, it’s the suppleness with which he dances through ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and the subtleness in how he builds the power in ‘Evermore’ (from the recent live-action Beauty and the Beast) that shows off this talented singer at his best. Similarly, the contemporary sound and phrasing of ‘Goodbye’ from Catch Me If You Can demonstrates Owen-Jones is so much more than a singer who belt magnificently. An album to dip in and out of I think.