If you’re looking for a last minute Christmas gift, you could do a lot worse than buy a loved one a bit of Sheridan Smith’s irresistible Northern Soul.
“You bring the music and I’ll bring the songs and we’ll sing them”
The music industry being as it is, it is impressive that anyone can make a breakthrough impact with an album but Sheridan Smith managed just that last with with her debut record Sheridan – the second best selling UK female debut. That collection explored her theatrical background as much as her love of music but on her second album A Northern Soul, released last month, she presents nothing but original songs.
It’s a bold move but one that pays off handsomely with this confident and characterful suite of songs. From the bright and perky energy of the opening title track to the modern twist on the torch song that is ‘The One’ to the slinky purr of ‘Don’t Beg For Love’, there’s a soulful warmth that is hard to resist, recalling the likes of Dusty Springfield with its nostalgic sheen. But even with that, you never lose sight of Smith in the music, she puts herself first and foremost. Continue reading “Album Review: Sheridan Smith – A Northern Soul”
Building on the success of The Greatest Showman, Keala Settle releases her debut EP Chapter One
“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long”
One of the breakout stars of runaway success film The Greatest Showman was rightly Keala Settle. As bearded lady Lettie Lutz, her rendition of the anthemic ‘This Is Me’ provided a real standout moment and it was no surprise to see the song be nominated for an Academy Award and to win a Golden Globe.
But to Broadway nerds, she’s no newbie. A Tony nominee (for Hands on a Hardbody), she shone in the original cast of Waitress and so you can certainly say she has paid her dues. And now Settle is taking the opportunity to release music with the EP Chapter One, which features four self-penned original songs and a cover for good measure. Continue reading “Album Review: Keala Settle – Chapter One”
Natasha Barnes really impresses with debut album Real, a shining example of contemporary pop done well
“Leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream”
The world of musical theatre is no stranger to the talents of Natasha Barnes, her story is such a lesson who would ever underestimate an understudy. And as is often the case following such stage success, the announcement of a debut album was not too far behind. What might surprise you though is that Real is no skip through your usual musical theatre standards, it is a seriously impressive contemporary pop.
A mixture of original songs and covers that suggest a fascinatingly diverse record collection (Paramore to Motown group Porgy and the Monarchs to Northern Soul’s Towanda Barnes), the overall vibe emerges as something relaxed and retro – a chilled out Paloma Faith if you need a more direct comparison. You really feel her influence on lead single ‘Supermodel’, irresistible in its driving groove.
Continue reading “Album Review: Natasha Barnes – Real”
In all its variety, The Norm Lewis Christmas Album proves an eclectic but beguiling confection
“Man it doesn’t show signs of stoppin'”
I’m not sure who we apply to for these things but I really would like to see Norm Lewis return to the West End stage – I didn’t catch him in Les Mis but I did get the briefest taste of him at a Lance Horne concert so Santa if you’re listening… In the meantime, we have to make do with the many pleasures of The Norm Lewis Christmas Album.
And my are they plentiful. Lewis is certainly generous, offering up a Christmas stocking packed full with 18 tracks and as much variety as a family-sized bag of Revels. Produced by Lewis with Richard Jay-Alexander and Lewis and accompanied by MD Joseph Joubert, with band members George Farmer and Perry Cavari, it makes for an eclectic but beguiling confection. Continue reading “Album Review: The Norm Lewis Christmas Album”
Alfie Boe shines on As Time Goes By, his first solo record in four years featuring the music of the 30s and 40s
“Now you’re singin’ with a swing”
As Time Goes By is Alfie Boe’s tenth studio album and his first solo disc in four years, having hit a sweet spot with his recent collaborations with Michael Ball which saw them take home two Classic BRIT Awards this year. But he moves here to reclaim the solo spotlight with a record that celebrates the music of the 30s and 40s.
That it does remarkably well, as Boe reins in much of the booming power of his powerful tenor to allow colour and character into his vocal performance. And with Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band providing sensational musical accompaniment throughout, this is a music lover’s tribute to an era which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Continue reading “Album Review: Alfie Boe – As Time Goes By”
Casting my eye over some recent musical theatre album releases: Audra McDonald’s live album Sing Happy, Louise Dearman’s latest collection For You, For Me and the long-awaited cast recording for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
There are few things as well-designed as Audra McDonald’s thrilling soprano to make you happy, so the title of her new album Sing Happy is apt indeed. Her first live album and her first backed by an orchestra (the New York Philharmonic). the gig was recorded just a few days ago on 1st May and no wonder they were so quick to turn it around.
Whether shimmering through Porgy and Bess‘ timeless ‘Summertime’, proudly getting her life in La Cage aux Folles’ ‘I Am What I Am’ or absolutely nailing She Loves Me’s ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’, McDonald’s velvety textured voice is always so exciting to listen to. And the drama of songs like ‘Never Will I Marry’ sound glorious with the richness of the orchestral backing (conducted by Andy Einhorn).
An affinity for Sondheim comes into play twice, a medley of ‘Children Will Listen’ with South Pacific’s ‘You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught’ and in a showstopping take on ‘Being Alive’, still manages to surprise with the heights to which she lifts the song. An unalloyed, absolute pleasure. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Audra McDonald – Sing Happy / Louise Dearman – For You, For Me / Everybody’s Talking About Jamie cast recording”
Something of an undersung talent in this country (all his top gigs have taken place in Paris, or Kilworth), Dan Burton is nevertheless leading man material, and his debut album Broadway Melodies is proof thereof. Short and sweet at ten concise tracks, Burton swoons and slides effortlessly through the Great American Songbook.
Highlights include the happiest of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’s, a most elegant sway through Camelot’s ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’, and a chirpy duet on ‘Well, Did You Evah?’ with Lee Mead, a palpable warmth of friendship apparent throughout. Also good is The Pajama Game‘s ‘Hey There’, perfectly crooned and symptomatic of the good feeling suffused through this record. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Dan Burton – Broadway Melodies / Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey With Broadway / Kyle Riabko – Richard Rodgers Reimagined”
Featuring a pleasing amount of new musical theatre writing, Carrie Hope Fletcher releases her debut album When The Curtain Falls
“Who you are is how you’re feeling”
Fresh from winning her second What’s On Stage Award, racking up her third novel, vlogging regularly and quite possibly plotting world domination, Carrie Hope Fletcher has now released her debut album When The Curtain Falls. A pleasingly varied tracklisting sees her cover as much new musical theatre writing (shoutout for the brilliant Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) as age-old classics, combined with a few family favourites to make an engaging collection.
There’s a innate prettiness to Fletcher’s voice that makes it extremely easy to listen to. And it is an over-riding characteristic across the album, which is fine when it comes to the likes of the sweetly lovely ‘Times Are Hard For Dreamers’ from the short-lived Amélie or the Disney tracks here, or smoothing the edges off of Jason Robert Brown’s ‘What It Means To Be A Friend’. Continue reading “Album Review: Carrie Hope Fletcher – When The Curtain Falls”
I make my own suggestions about interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that could have been included on his new compilation album Unmasked
“They must have excitement, and so must I”
In a world of Spotify and iTunes and other online music services, compilation albums ought to have died a death. But the enduring success of the Now That’s What I Call Music series puts the lie to that, showing that while the idea of curating your own content is tempting, many of us prefer to let someone else do it for us.
So Andrew Lloyd Webber’s decision to release new anthology Unmasked is a canny one in that respect (read my review here), tapping into the desire to have a nicely pleasant set of musical theatre tunes to pop on in the car. And as with any compilation, it’s as much about what hasn’t been included as what has, that stands out. Continue reading “How to solve a problem like a compilation – my alternative Unmasked”
Andrew Lloyd Webber marks his 70th birthday with a new musical anthology – Unmasked: The Platinum Collection – taking in shows new and old with some surprises along the way (Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Duncan from Blue )
“Oh what a circus, oh what a show”
Upon reaching 70 this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly in a reflective mood and hot on the heels of his autobiography Unmasked released last week, comes this new compilation album Unmasked: The Platinum Collection. Available physically as a 2CD or 4CD version (the latter with a 40 page book of liner notes and tributes), this collection looks back on a career spanning nearly 50 years and features some new twists on the material as well as reminding us of the old favourites.
Over the four discs, 17 of Lloyd Webber’s shows are represented here (Jesus Christ Superstar tops the list with 8 tracks, Evita and Phantom just behind), alongside assorted one-off songs (such as ‘Amigos Para Siempre’ from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Gary Barlow co-write ‘Sing’ from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). But for ALW fans it will be the unreleased stuff that makes the mouth water – five new orchestral suites and a smattering of new recordings featuring the likes of Lana del Rey (a winsome ‘You Must Love Me’ and Gregory Porter (a spirited ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’. Continue reading “Album Review: Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection”