ALBUM REVIEW: Songs from the Stage by Leading Ladies
Three of the most lauded leading ladies of the London stage united in friendship when they all appeared in the West End at the same time, as the friendship blossomed they decided to team up to produce an album of theatre classics.
That album Songs from the Stage, is available on 17 November 2017.
Every track means something to the singers, Amber Riley, Beverley Knight, and Cassidy Janson – some of the material chosen from shows they have appeared in or a musical they personally love.
The problem with many theatre performer’s albums is the poor production values, however, the calibre of the singers has been recognised here, Songs From The Stage is produced by Grammy Award-winning British producer Brian Rawling, who has worked with Cher, Tina Turner and Lionel Richie. The album’s sound is rich and befitting performers of this quality, with lush arrangements and full orchestral backing.
Songs From The Stage track by track review:
1. One Night Only (Dreamgirls)
The musical that cemented Leading Lady Amber Riley’s reputation as a theatre star. The three singers feature on lead vocals – a short, snappy, high energy 1970s disco influenced opener to the album.
2. Seasons of Love (Rent)
For fans of musical theatre this really is a song you mess with at your peril. The vocals are a bit thin and nasal in parts and the backing vocals synthesised. The production detracts from one of the best-loved modern musical songs.
3. I’m Every Woman (The Bodyguard)
Off to a fantastic start with Britain’s Queen of Soul Beverley Knight leading the vocals, this builds into a fantastic, feel-good dancefloor-filler. Arguably the best track on the album.
4. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman (Beautiful)
The music stays true to Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s original but Janson’s country-tinged vocals, lend it a different dimension.
5. Wind Beneath My Wings (Beaches)
This is probably the weakest track on the album. It’s neither original nor powerful, which a song covered this many times has to be to make any impact.
6. Helpless (Hamilton)
The inevitable track from Lin Manuel Miranda’s theatre juggernaut Hamilton. This is an upbeat R n B track that doesn’t deviate from the original. A good fit for the trio.
7. Memory (Cats)
The trio tackle Cats’ big tear-jerker. Pleasant, if nothing spectacular.
8. Somebody to Love (“We Will Rock You”)
Another pleasant cover with all three singers sharing the lead.
9. Falling Slowly (“Once”)
This is a beautiful song, but the voices and arrangement left me cold. It has a heavy country tinge that strips away the emotional impact of the original.
10. Love Will Stand (“Memphis”)
Knight is undoubtedly the stand-out vocalist. This allows her powerhouse voice to soar.
11. Raise The Roof (“The Wild Party”)
An odd choice, this Latin number is a bit of a filler. There are better songs out there to showcase the talent here.
12. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (“Beautiful”)
The trio harmonise on a pared-back, slowed down of Goffin and King’s spectacular classic.
13. Don’t Rain On My Parade (“Funny Girl”)
Janson delivers a true to the original, good old fashioned, roof-raising version of the Funny Girl show-stopper. There’s more than a touch of the Streisand about it.
14. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (“Meet Me in St. Louis”)
Just in time for the festive season, the album ends with Meet Me in St. Louis’ enduring Christmas classic.
The sheer quality of the vocalists, instrumentation and production elevate Songs From The Stage above its peers. The clever choice of tracks, that includes some pop and rock big-hitters that have appeared in theatre shows is clever and gives the album wider appeal. There are some show-stoppers, some interesting new arrangements and a few less successful choices, but this is a work of quality from these stars of the stage and an ideal stocking-filler for the musical theatre fan in your life.