Vocal group The Songsmiths’ Tenors of the West End offers up some fascinating harmonies on some classic pop tunes
“Everybody needs a little time away…from each other”
Simon Gordon, Benjamin Purkiss and Patrick Sullivan can boast 30 years experience in the West End and beyond and all spent some time in Obsidian as part of Bat Out Of Hell, so their teaming up together to form vocal group The Songsmiths makes sense. Their album Tenors of the West End, now available to download, draws on a wider range than Shaftesbury Avenue though – the mention of Chicago more likely to refer to soft-rock than Kander & Ebb.
This focus on pop-rock staples over musical theatre yields some fascinating results. There are no real surprises in terms of song choices but there’s no denying the exhilaration of hearing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ receive such a full-bodied treatment as this, so too with their meatier rendition of A-Ha’s classic ‘Take On Me’. The arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’ wisely keeps it out of mawkishness and some interesting harmonies emerge out of ‘Somebody To Love’. Continue reading “Album Review: The Songsmiths – Tenors of the West End”
One of the best Sondheim albums you could ever hope for, and not a sniff of musical theatre about it. Cyrille Aimée’s Move On: A Sondheim Adventure a work of musical genius.
“Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new”
I first came across the voice of Cyrille Aimée when reviewing the Encores cast recording for The New Yorkers, her rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’ making hit the repeat button again and again, such is its gorgeous effortless musicality. So I quickly bookmarked her on Spotfy, knowing that when I had the chance, I would give her 2019 album Move On: A Sondheim Adventure a spin.
Along with co-arranger Assaf Gleizner, Aimée brings a wide range of musical influences to bear here, lifting Sondheim right out of the musical theatre and slap bang into the middle of somewhere exciting fresh and new. The piano trio of ‘Loving You’ brings a delicious, deceptive lightness to this tale of obsessive love, the gentle guitar thrumming through the string-laden ‘Marry Me A Little’ mirrors something of the uncertainty at the heart of the song, real instrumental drama explodes out of ‘Not While I’m Around’. Continue reading “Lockdown album review: Cyrille Aimée – Move On: A Sondheim Adventure”
A re-release of Melissa Errico’s album Legrand Affair further deepens her exceptional relationship to Michel Legrand’s songbook
“The time will come when all the waiting’s done”
I can’t pretend to be anywhere near objective about the music of Michel Legrand, it just touches my soul in the most intimate, indescribable way, so naturally the news of his death at the beginning of the year was devastating. And it is apparent that he inspires such devotion from many others too, most notably US Tony nominee Melissa Errico.
Her 2011 album Legrand Affair was a real labour of love, recorded over a number of years with Legrand and the Brussels Philharmonic. And it deservedly established her as such a first-rate interpreter of his material that she has been called upon to participate many of the memorials that have celebrated his legacy this year. Continue reading “Album Review: Melissa Errico – Legrand Affair (Deluxe Edition)”
John Barrowman release his festive album A Fabulous Christmas and like Christmas dinner, there’s bits I love (everything apart from the sprouts) and bits I really don’t (the sprouts)
“Well I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow”
A relatively late entry into the festive album market (Idina Menzel released back in October!), John Barrowman’s A Fabulous Christmas burst onto the scene last week, complete with a neck injury that jeopardised the opening nights of its accompanying tour. Intensive rehabilitation seems to have got him back on the road but how is the album? Can Barrowman convince me that spoken adlibs are ever a good thing on record…?
As it often the case with Barrowman as a performer, for me at least, there are moments of pure loveliness and others when it is all just a bit too much. When he turns down the power in his voice and allows its character to shine through, you understand why he is such a popular singer. The tender restraint of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, the gently swinging fun of ‘Happy Holidays’ with The Puppini Sisters, the hushed beauty of the medley of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ and ‘Away in a Manger’, these are seasonal classics in the making. Continue reading “Album Review: John Barrowman – A Fabulous Christmas”
Crikey, how I loved Heather Headley’s Broadway My Way, one of the best showtunes albums of recent years
“I know that everything I need is in here”
I was unreasonably peeved at Heather Headley for a little while, taking her casting in the West End debut of The Bodyguard as a slight on UK talent, for which I was rewarded her not appearing when I saw the show! But on seeing this clip of her smashing ‘Memory’ out of the park, I realised I’d played myself in not trying to see the show again to witness her talent live.
The next best thing is her 2018 album Broadway My Way, which I’ve belatedly got round to listening to. And once again more fool me, as it is probably one of the best musical theatre albums I’ve had the privilege of hearing. A collection of songs both old and new, it is an absolute masterclass in reinterpreting material to make it so closely fit a voice as to suggest it was written just for it. Continue reading “Album Review: Heather Headley – Broadway My Way”
Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is full of emphatic pop covers and his powerful voice at full stretch, not always a winning combination
“No one can tell us we’re wrong”
Luke Evans’ debut album At Last is a collection of mainly pop covers that range across the ages, with a focus on songs best known for being sung by female artists. As a budding actor, Evans starred in musicals such as Avenue Q and Piaf but upon establishing himself as a Hollywood movie star, has somewhat turned his back on the world of musical theatre (to the point where many were surprised at the revelation he could sing in the remake of Beauty and the Beast). But we remember…and he can really sing.
Album opener ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ is drenched in orchestral and choral bombast which does eventually wear you down with its forceful determination. But Evans’ tendency to open out his voice to a powerful belt means that his interpretative skills as a singer tend to get left by the wayside, reduced to the opening and closing 30 seconds once the booster button has been released. As such, his version of Ewan McColl’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ opens, and closes, with a beautiful subtlety that is missed in much of the middle. Continue reading “Album Review: Luke Evans – At Last”
West End chanteuse Emma Lindars channels some seriously impressive vocal power on album As We Grow Older
“You were the one who said forever from the start”
Anyone who was in Made in Dagenham scores points with me, so spotting that Emma Lindars had released an album earlier this year – As We Grow Older – which features a mixture of musical theatre and contemporary pop. Lindars’ resume takes in all sorts of West End credits over the last decade or so, but I do remember being particularly impressed with her in cabaret act The IDolls.
And that impassioned power I remember is on fine display throughout,. whether a gorgeous take on ‘With Every Breath I Take’ from City of Angels, or Céline-esque power ballads ‘Before I Fall’ and ‘As We Grow Older’. There’s a beautiful pairing with Alice Fearn on ‘When You Believe’ from The Prince of Egypt (though as ever, it’s the delicate interplay of that middle chorus rather than the epic finale that really captures the heart). Continue reading “Album Review: Emma Lindars – As We Grow Older”
A musical theatre album with a difference, RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow is refreshingly bold
“I’ve been changed, yes really changed”
Nick Barstow is a multi-hyphenate of a different order – musical director, arranger, and composer, a behind-the-scenes triple threat if you will. And having made a success of his cabaret series RE:arrangement, he’s now released an album RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow which showcases his gift for reinventing musical theatre standards by the likes of Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Kander & Ebb, with the help of some guest stars including Faye from actual Steps.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the name of the album, some of these arrangements really are quite radical and really serve the purpose of making you look at these songs anew. So I can admire the decision to transpose the elegiac beauty of Ivor Novello’s ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’ into full-on Jason Robert Brown territory (or is it more Jonathan Larson…?), delivered with real commitment by Noel Sullivan, whilst still craving the crystalline harmonies of Muriel Barron and Olive Gilbert.It’s just different is all. Continue reading “Album Review: RE:arrangement – An Album by Nick Barstow”