Irit Dekel’s life story is almost as colourful as her music. The Tel Aviv native has been an Israeli Army sniper, actress, TV host, film-maker and comedian and is in Glasgow with her three-piece band to showcase her debut solo album Happy.
Her sun-soaked sound transports, instead of sub-zero Scotland, it’s the sound of Parisian pavements, middle eastern rhythms, Astrid Gilberto, Buena Vista Social Club, and a dash of Piaf.
There’s a bite to the lyrics behind the catchy melodies, and Dekel describes some of the life experiences that have influenced the songs, one particularly affecting is based on her military service and the paralysing of her bunk mate in a freak gun accident. That said, the over-riding feeling is one of joy. The rhythms infectious. There’s also an original take on R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People.
Irit Dekel is offering up something original with this east-west hybrid of influences. An antidote to the grey world outside the doors. Highly recommended.
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.
Astonishingly, it’s a decade since Dalkeith native Keith Jack was runner up in the BBC’s search for a ‘Joseph’ in Any Dream Will Do. Only 19 years old at the time, much has happened in the ensuing years, with Jack eventually donning the technicolour coat on the tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Currently on tour to promote his third and latest album, Movie Nights, Jack returns to Glasgow with an up-close and personal show at Glasgow’s Wild Cabaret. Sitting at tables, under twinkling candlelight, it’s a hark back to the golden days of cabaret.
Eschewing any of the musical theatre tunes that have made him famous, the entire set comprises Jack’s personal movie favourites. There’s no doubt that Jack possesses a voice that would blow a set of barn doors off, but there’s a sense of holding back in this small venue. The sound levels are also a tad imbalanced, the three piece band (drums/keys/guitar) headed by MD Scott Morgan, often overpower Jack – and that’s no mean feat.
The songs in the two-hour set are treated to some new and unusual arrangements from Morgan, the most successful of which are the ballads, especially She’s Like the Wind from the much-loved Dirty Dancing, accompanied only by the piano, Jack’s voice gets to shine fully. A particularly nice touch is the inclusion of children’s choir Vivace who provide depth and colour to I Believe I Can Fly and the title song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Less successful are Jack’s backing singers who are almost inaudible. The set list as a whole is eclectic, and there really is something for every taste.
Jack’s bubbly personality shines through, and he manages to gee the crowd into life as the night progresses. This is a lovely, small venue and the chance to see a performer of Jack’s calibre and interact with him in such an intimate setting, is a rare treat – it is a great way to spend a Sunday evening – you just can’t help pine for some of those big musical theatre belters to let Jack’s phenomenal voice soar…maybe next time.
Keith Jack: Movie Nights at Wild Cabaret, Glasgow, Set List:
Queen’s Brian May and musical theatre stalwart Kerry Ellis have forged a strong, if unexpected, musical partnership over the past few years.
In their newest collaboration the pair have delved into their live back catalogue, deliver their own versions of some well-known classics, as well as penning a series of original songs. The result is an eclectic mix of styles and genres, doubtless to appeal to their diverse fan base.
Track by Track:
Love In A Rainbow (Brian May, Kerry Ellis)
Billed as “retro-psychedelic”, it’s a gentle poppy ballad and low-key start to the album.
Roll With You (Brian May, Kerry Ellis)
Written to illustrate Ellis’ favourite sayings, attitudes and philosophies on life. Despite the classic rock guitar riff, it’s more a cheerful middle of the road high energy pop tune.
Golden Days (Brian May)
A lushly produced power ballad.
It’s Gonna Be All Right (The Panic Attack Song) (Brian May)
Very much in the same vein as the other recently-penned songs on the album, this is another middle of the road pop-rock number.
Amazing Grace (John Newton, Trad. Arr, Brian May)
Accompanied by May on acoustic guitar, this is a simple, but beautiful rendition of the traditional hymn.
One Voice (Ruth Moody)
This choir favourite has been given a fresh vocal arrangement.
If I Loved You (Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers)
One of the musical Carousel’s most-loved songs, Ellis delivers an ear-pleasing version, gentle and less strident than the musical theatre original.
Born Free (John Barry, Don Black)
Billed as a “rock re-arrangement” of the classic movie theme this is very richly produced, and includes a guitar solo with May sounding his most Queen-like.
Parisienne Walkways (Phil Lynott, Gary Moore)
Gary Moore’s signature guitar song is given a female vocal, but it is May’s superlative guitar skills that shine through.
I Who Have Nothing (Carlo Donida, Mogol, Jerry Leiber, Mike
One of the world’s most covered songs. This is an odd, synth heavy, 80s-sounding Bond theme-imitating version with dated sound and production.
The Kissing Me Song (Brian May, Kerry Ellis)
Another 80s style pop-rock number.
Story Of A Heart (Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson)
Written by Abba’s world-famous song writing duo and originally the title track on The Benny Andersson Band’s compilation album, this sounds like late-era Abba after their glory days were over.
Can’t Help Falling In Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George
A nicely judged version of the much-loved and much-covered song.
The album is a pleasant offering that isn’t going to break any new ground or win a legion of new fans. Stylistically and in its production style it sounds of another era, somewhat over-produced and the song choices, considering the talent of the two individuals involved is ultimately uninspiring, but the diverse selection will undoubtedly keep the duo’s fan base happy.
Released on Sony Music the album is available to purchase/download now.